Curragh preview: Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (18.30)
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has an incredible record in the Irish Derby, and Highland Reel looks decent value to get the better of red-hot favourite Jack Hobbs and provide him with another winner of the 1m 4f Curragh classic (18.30).
The Ballydoyle handler has won the race 11 time since 1997, including eight of the last nine renewals.
O’Brien saddles four runners in this year’s contest, and the fact that Ryan Moore has chosen to partner Highland Reel suggests he is the stable’s number one hope.
The colt won two of his three starts as a juvenile, and looked a top notch propsect in the last of those when running out the impressive winner of the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.
Highland Reel then disappointed slightly when sent of 11/8 favourite fod finishing sixth in the Group 1 Poule d’Eassai des Piulains at Longchamp, but the 1m trip looked on the sharp side and the son of Galileo duly put in an improved performance when stepped up to 1m 2f and finishing runner-up to New Bay in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.
The three-year-old was unable to match the pace of the winner but stayed on strongly to go down by 1 1/2 lengths and looks sure to relish the extra two furlongs in this.
Moore clearly believes he is better than Giovanni Canaletto whom he partnered to finish a decent fourth in Investec Derby at Epsom, and with the prospect of better to come Highland Reel can capture this valuable prize for the home team.
Jack Hobbs ran a cracker when a 3 1/2 length runner-up to stable companion Golden Horn in the Investec Derby, and that form sets the standard.
This John Gosden trained colt had previously finished runner-up to the same rival in the Dante Stakes at York and seems to be progressing with each outing.
The return to a flatter more galloping track seems sure to suit the son of Halling, and Jack Hobbs is officially the top rated in the line-up and has 5lb in-hand on Highland Reel.
However, Jack Hobbs had a hard race at Epsom and no English trained runner has won the race since Balanchine back in 1994.
Storm The Stars finished third in the Investec Derby, 4 1/2 lengths behind Jack Hobbs, but was rallying at the finish and it would be no surprise to see him get much closer this time.
Investec Oaks winner Qualify adds further spice to the contest, whilst Radanpour is unbeaten in three starts for trainer Dermot Weld and may well outrun his odds given connections.
Coral betting tip: Highland Reel looks a really good price to deliver Irish Derby glory for O’Brien here.