The Irish Derby often provides consolation for horses that contested the Epsom equivalent earlier in the month, but this year features the first, second, eighth, tenth, twelfth and last at Epsom (5.30pm, Curragh, Saturday).
Indeed, Ponfeigh, trained by John Oxx (pictured), is the only one of the seven runners that didn’t take his chance three weeks ago.
The Derby winner, Australia (4/11), is the overwhelming favourite to once again take care of those that finished behind him at Epsom and, on the prevailing good to firm going, he is difficult to oppose. The Galileo colt has yet to prove Aidan O’Brien’s assertion that he is the best horse he has ever trained, but took a significant step in the right direction with a smooth, 1¼-length victory over Kingston Hill in the Derby, with Fascinating Rock, Kingfisher, Orchestra and Geoffrey Chaucer 10¼ lengths, or further, behind.
Kingston Hill (4/1) has plenty of stamina in the bottom half of his pedigree and finished much closer to Australia in the Derby than he had in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket five weeks earlier. However, he was always held at Epsom and, having done all his winning on good to soft, or softer, going, he seems unlikely to fare any better this time around. The Curragh authorities put 4mm of water on the track on Tuesday to maintain the good to firm going, but weather organisations cannot agree on the forecast for the rest of the week and his best hope is significant rainfall between now and Saturday afternoon. His trainer, Roger Varian, has said that he will not run if ‘firm’ appears in the going description on Saturday.
The fact that the bookmakers bet 20/1 bar the front pair bears testament to the fact that the Irish Derby lacks any real strength in depth this year. Fascinating Rock (20/1) has twice finished ahead of Geoffrey Chaucer (20/1) this season but, even so, it’s hard to envisage him improving enough to close the gap on Kingston Hill and Australia, even if rain does arrive.
The other two O’Brien entries, Orchestra (33/1) and Kingfisher (66/1), were both beaten miles in the Derby, but to be fair to Orchestra, he was repeatedly hampered in the early stages of the race and patently failed to handle the undulations of Epsom, so his run is best forgotten.
He had previously beaten the eventual Derby third, Romsdal, in the Chester Vase, over 1 mile 4½ furlongs, on soft going, despite running green in the closing stages. Even at face value, that form only gives him about 4½ lengths to find with Australia, but he should strip fitter this time and, in a small field on a more testing track, he can reasonably be expected to improve. If he does, his could make his current odds look extremely generous.
Australia has an obvious chance of becoming Aidan O’Brien’s eleventh Irish Derby winner, but we won’t get rich by backing long odds-on chances, so our betting advice is to have a small each-way bet on Orchestra at best odds of 33/1 with Bet365, Betfred or BetVictor. He doesn’t have too much to find on the form book, won’t mind any rain that falls and appears to have been seriously underestimated by the bookmakers.