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'A big horse with a big stride' - High Definition heads Irish Derby contenders

High Definition (left), Hurricane Lane and Mojo Star: key Irish Derby fancies on Saturday
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3.45 Curragh
Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1) | 1m4f | 3yo | ITV/RTV

It was a rush to get High Definition to the Dante, but there has been no such hurry since York and Aidan O'Brien reports a perfect preparation ahead of his tilt at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

High Definition was a late absentee from Epsom with connections deciding to wait for the Curragh and allowing Bolshoi Ballet to fly solo instead. When he was supposed to be rounding Tattenham Corner, he was having a racecourse gallop at the track he won both his starts as a juvenile.

O'Brien reported that gallop went well and everything he has done since his Dante third to Hurricane Lane has impressed the team at Ballydoyle.

The trainer said: "High Definition is in good form and everything has gone well with him since York. He was nearly running at Epsom, but we decided to wait with him instead. Instead, we gave him a racecourse gallop at the Curragh around that time and he went well. Everything has gone smoothly with him."

When it was put to the master trainer that the Curragh is tailormade for High Definition, O'Brien replied: "I'm not sure the track makes too much difference to him. He obviously won twice last year at the Curragh but he's never really got the chance to run anywhere else apart from York and he ran well there. He's a big horse with a big stride and he's very athletic with everything he does at home."

O'Brien has five representatives as he seeks a record-extending 15th win in the Classic. Seamie Heffernan, successful on board Santiago and four times in all, is on Queen's Vase runner-up, Wordsworth.

O'Brien said: "I thought Wordsworth ran a very nice race at Ascot and he's telling us that he's a horse who is coming forward with every run."

To the naked eye, Van Gogh was slightly disappointing in the Prix du Jockey Club. He trailed in tenth behind stablemate St Mark's Basilica, but O'Brien was taking the positives from the display.

Van Gogh: tenth in the Prix du Jockey Club when last seen

He said: "Van Gogh was stepping up to a mile and a quarter but he was drawn wide in France, which certainly didn't help. I thought he actually ran a lovely race and Colin [Keane] was very happy with him. He thought he would be able to step up to a mile and a half, so we're looking forward to seeing how he gets on over the trip."

On his other two runners, O'Brien added: "Arturo Toscanini ran well in the Gallinule but he disappointed at Ascot when he was trapped back further than ideal in a slowly run race. Matchless ran well enough in the Gallinule and we think the extra few furlongs here will suit him."


'He's probably one of the nicest horses we've had in the yard for quite some time'

The Hannon stable has won the Irish 2,000 Guineas on three occasions so the family has fond memories of the Curragh, but an Irish Derby win would surely top the lot – especially given it would be with a maiden.

The last maiden to win the Classic was Sindon in 1958, but Mojo Star is no ordinary maiden. In fact, he is quite an extraordinary one judging by what he did at Epsom.

Adayar may have been a cut above in the Cazoo Derby, but Mojo Star beat the rest of the field handsomely and seems to be improvingly. 

Since Commander In Chief in 1993, the only British-trained winner of the Irish Derby was Jack Hobbs in 2015, but the challenge seems stronger than ever this year and Mojo Star leads the charge. 

Apart from the fact that he has yet to win a race, Richard Hannon believes there are plenty of things in Mojo Star's favour. 

Mojo Star: finished second in the Derby at Epsom

The trainer said: "He's probably one of the nicest horses we've had in the yard for quite some time, certainly over this sort of distance, and a reproduction of his excellent effort in the Derby at Epsom would obviously see him bang there.

"I shouldn't think there have been many maidens win a Derby but let's hope we can buck that trend because he's got lots in his favour, won't mind the ground and goes there with a very realistic chance."

The talented Rossa Ryan regains the ride from David Egan after missing Epsom through injury. Hannon heaped praise upon the young rider.

"I think Rossa is the real deal," Hannon said. "He came along quite quickly and is very ambitious. A lot of apprentices can rattle through their apprenticeships and not get the experience which is needed, but he is very meticulous and detailed and he's riding really well. I'm glad he's back to ride him.

"I think the youngsters have a self-belief. Like footballers, they have this self-belief because they are very talented and, if they are riding good horses, it all helps."


3.45 Curragh: 'There were plenty of pundits who filed him under the plodder category' (Members' Club)


'The Curragh could suit Hurricane Lane'

The Curragh and Epsom could not be more different and Charlie Appleby is convinced the Irish venue will play more to the strengths of Hurricane Lane. 

That's not to say Hurricane Lane did much wrong at Epsom. The durable Dante winner was always close to the pace and plugged on into third, beaten just less than eight lengths by stablemate Adayar.

Hurricane Lane: won the Dante on his seasonal reappearance

Perhaps that effort can be upgraded as it transpired afterwards that he lost both of his fore shoes. There could be more to come.

Appleby said: "We were pleased with Hurricane Lane's effort at Epsom and he has more experience under his belt going into this. He was an inexperienced horse going into the Derby and it may have found him out slightly, but he has definitely sharpened up for the run.

"The style of the track at the Curragh should suit him better and, if he can repeat his Derby effort, it will certainly make him very competitive."


What they say

Johnny Murtagh, trainer of Earlswood
He learned quite a bit at Chester and I thought he won the Gallinule Stakes well. He wasn't in the Irish Derby but, when he won the Gallinule, that was a win-and-you're-in race, so we had a free ticket to go for the race. I spoke to the owner and I explained that we could go to Epsom or we could wait the extra ten days for the Irish Derby. We just thought we could give him the extra time and train him for the Irish Derby. He always showed a bit at home. He has to find a bit of improvement but I'm hopeful the extra trip can bring about improvement. His brother was a good stayer.

Johnny Murtagh on Earlswood: "He has to find a bit of improvement but I'm hopeful the extra trip can bring about improvement"

Donnacha O'Brien, trainer of Fernando Vichi
He's in good form and everything has gone perfect with him. I couldn't be happier. It looks like we are going to get nice quick ground, which should suit. It looks a tough race but hopefully he can run well.

Martyn Meade, trainer of Lone Eagle
He's in fine form. He had a bit of mucus in his scope before Epsom, so we didn't run there, but that didn't come to anything and he's really well at home. I think the Irish Derby will be a better place for him anyway as it's a more conventional track and he's not a horse who's going to have a burst of speed like I think you need to win the Derby. The softer the ground the better for him, although he's versatile.


Saturday's big-race previews:

2.20 Newcastle: top all-weather sprinters clash in classy Chipchase Stakes

2.40 Newmarket: Tom Collins examines the credentials of Logician ahead of Fred Archer 'plan B'

3.05 Curragh: Castle Star, Cadamosto and Go Bears Go face off in high-class Railway Stakes

3.15 Newmarket: getting a handy position early could be the key to winning the Criterion Stakes

3.30 Newcastle: 'I've been winding him up for this race' – who may star in the Northumberland Plate?

4.20 Curragh: 'He can run a big race' – Cadillac out to confirm promise of juvenile campaign


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The style of the track at the Curragh should suit him better and, if he can repeat his Derby effort, it will certainly make him very competitive
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