Aidan O’Brien has said it is “very possible” that Saturday’s Epsom hero Auguste Rodin will try to double up in next month’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.
The Deep Impact colt, described by his trainer as the most important horse he’s had through his hands, is a 4-6 favourite with some firms for the Curragh classic.
Other factors, such as an extra €250,000 in prize money for Ireland’s premier classic, and an extra week between Epsom and the Curragh this year, are encouraging hopes at Irish racing’s HQ for a potentially exceptional renewal of the race.
However, it is the likely presence of the Epsom winner that’s likely to prove the biggest fillip of all in boosting a race that has been under pressure in recent years.
The last horse to complete the Epsom-Curragh Derby double was Harzand in 2016. He was the 18th to accomplish the feat. However, what once was a near automatic classic route has become much less certain recently.
Neither Adayar (2021) or Desert Crown last year subsequently lined up for the Irish Derby. Masar in 2018 also skipped it. Anthony Van Dyck did attempt the double a year later but was beaten by Sovereign. The 2020 Irish Derby took place before Epsom due to the pandemic.
Previously the race had been dogged by competition fears due to some prohibitively short-priced favourites and O’Brien dominance that has yielded him a record 14 wins in the race to date.
That supremacy might now work in the race’s favour by helping to produce a landmark element to this year’s Irish Derby mix.
O’Brien has 99 European classic wins on the back of Auguste Rodin’s Epsom victory. He could hit a ‘century’ at the Curragh, providing he doesn’t reach it prior to that in the French Oaks later this month.
“At the moment, it’s very possible he [Auguste Rodin] could run in the Irish Derby,” O’Brien said on Monday.
That is both positive and timely news for Curragh officials eager to spur the €1.25 million classic’s prestige.
“You’re always looking to get the Epsom winner to come over,” the Curragh’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh acknowledged on Monday.
His team has quickly been in contact with connections of horses that lined up at Epsom as well as in Sunday’s Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly. Ace Impact was an impressive winner of that French Derby but is unlikely to make the trip to Ireland.
However, local stars White Birch and Sprewell (third and fourth at Epsom) are likely to line up at the Curragh, while the beaten Epsom favourite Arrest is also set to line up.
His trainer John Gosden confirmed that plan on Monday and the said the Curragh’s configuration will suit Arrest much better than Epsom’s undulations.
Roger Varian said on Monday he will chose between the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris a fortnight afterwards for King Of Steel who belied 66-1 odds at Epsom to finish a half-length runner up to Auguste Rodin. He is 11-2 in some lists to reverse those placings at the Curragh.
“In fairness to all the trainers, we will let the dust settle and engage with them and look to get them here,” Kavanagh said.
“The value of the race has gone up again, thanks to the sponsors, and it’s a four-week gap this because of the way the calendar falls so there’s the extra bit of time.
“But you’d love the see all the principals at Epsom come over to the Curragh,” he added before insisting “never say never” about potential French participation.
The Curragh’s ‘win and you’re in’ scheme, designed to boost participation in the Derby, is in force again although the first four home at Epsom are already entered.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s Derby, the White Birch camp indicated the Curragh is firmly on their radar. The grey colt didn’t help his chance with some recalcitrant behaviour at the gate but finished notably strong under Colin Keane.
“I’d say it will be the Irish Derby next, Colin gave him a great ride considering how it played out early on and he galloped all the way to the line, so all going well it’ll probably be the Irish Derby next,” said trainer John Murphy’s son and assistant, George Murphy.
The Derby takes place this year on July 2nd and Brian Kavanagh commented: “It’s just the way the calendar has fallen. A lot of our races this year are as late as they can be. Our Guineas was the same, at the end of May.
“Generally, we’re three weeks after Epsom. This year it’s four as we move into July. I’m sure that will be no harm for trainers coming out of Saturday’s race.”
It will be the first time the Irish Derby has been run on a Sunday since 2011. The final leg of a three-day Derby festival will also feature on the lucrative Tote World Pool programme.