'Winning the Irish Derby would give us one of our best days in racing'
Richard Hannon came close to a famous Derby triumph with the gallant Epsom runner-up Mojo Star but the Classic-winning trainer believes it would be one of his greatest achievements in racing if his colt goes one better in the Dubai Duty Free Irish version on Saturday.
Remarkably, Mojo Star is still a maiden, and Hannon described how he almost fell over in shock when the horse was beaten on his debut at Newbury.
Hannon, who believes the 2-1 favourite for the race High Definition will be hard to topple, also revealed that, from an early stage in the season, he felt Mojo Star could provide him with his best chance of winning a Derby.
Hannon said: "We're hardly synonymous with Derby horses and if we were to win the Irish Derby it would be up there with one of our best days in racing.
"To have one who we think is going over there with a very good chance of winning is a thrill. I think High Definition is the one to beat and he's a very worthy favourite."
Speaking on a Zoom call organised by Horse Racing Ireland, he added the general 5-1 chance: "You could have blown me over when he got beaten in a photo-finish on debut. Then he went to Newbury and I managed to get him and Sky Lantern beaten on the same day. I couldn't believe it. In hindsight, he's a very big horse and he's grown and done very well.
"Yes, it was a bit of a leap of faith running him in the Derby, but as soon as he pulled up in that Newbury maiden I said he's a Derby horse if ever I've seen one. He ran a super race in the Derby. It was a brave/stupid call to run him but it paid off and here we are – he looks like he could be a very good horse."
Johnny Murtagh, who rode the winner of the Irish Derby on four occasions, will bid to make a breakthrough in the race as a trainer when he pitches the improving Earlswood into battle.
Fresh from sending out his first Royal Ascot winner last week with Create Belief, who ran riot in the Sandringham, Murtagh explained why he sidestepped Epsom in favour of the Irish Derby with Earlswood.
The trainer, who will not be in attendance at the Curragh due to the new ten-day quarantine requirement for people returning from Britain, said: "John Oxx had entered him in the Derby so he obviously thought the horse had some ability. 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."
The son of Pivotal has been ridden on all three starts this season by Ben Coen and the 19-year-old, who won on Create Belief last week, will again be on board on Saturday.
Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby betting
Paddy Power: 2 High Definition, 4 Mojo Star, 5 Hurricane Lane, 7 Mac Swiney, 15-2 Lone Eagle, 12 Van Gogh, 14 Wordsworth, 16 Earlswood, 20 Fernando Vichi, 33 Arturo Toscanini, 66 Matchless
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