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Down Royal hero Stellar out to make history in Derby glory bid

By Ron McKnight

Stellar Mass bids to complete a Derby double - Ulster and Irish - and make history at the Curragh.

The Jim Bolger-trained colt won the Magners Ulster Derby at Down Royal last weekend and is one of nine engaged in today's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained US Army Ranger was a defector in midweek when scoping badly and had been favourite following concern over original market leader Harzand, still being treated for the foot problem sustained when pulling off a shoe in advance of winning the Epsom Derby earlier this month. Harzand is now favourite for the £1.5m Classic.

Harzand's trainer Dermot Weld said: "My biggest worry is he is very tough but he had a very hard race at Epsom - it left it's mark on him and I'd love another week.

"He's well and at the moment he's been declared and we'll review it from there."

While Benton Boy completed an historic double in the Ulster and Irish Grand Nationals in 1984 for the Glengormley-based Rooney family - Ann Ferris (nee Rooney) partnering the horse to victory for her late father, and also trainer, Willie Rooney - no horse has won the Ulster Derby and gone on to success in the premier Irish Classic.

Several Ulster Derby winners have later registered high profile victories, with Media Puzzle - winner in 2000 - taking 'the race that stops a nation', the Melbourne Cup, in 2002; Highland Bud, winner of the 1988 renewal, becoming a dual winner of the Breeders Cup Steeplechase; while 1979 victor The Bart had an epic duel with the American legend John Henry in the inaugural running of the Arlington Million in 1981.

A bronze statue of John Henry and The Bart battling to the wire overlooks the beautiful Arlington paddock to this day.

Bolger's plan to run the Ulster Derby winner in the Irish Derby along with stablemate Moonlight Magic - which finished last in the Epsom Derby - is worth noting.

Stable jockey Kevin Manning, aboard at the Maze, switches to Moonlight Magic while Rory Cleary rides Stellar Mass.

Ed Dunlop, who supplied the runner-up in the Ulster Derby with Manjaam, has supplemented Red Verdon at a cost of £100,000.

Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien has four engaged with Idaho his best hope.

Stellar Mass each way is no forlorn hope - 66-1 in places - and Red Verdon also has a chance of being in the big-race frame.

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