Blood half-brothers

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The Independent Online
Today's running of the 131st Irish Derby will bring a sense of deja vu to The Curragh. Three years ago Commander In Chief strode to victory and this afternoon his half-brother Dushyantor, representing the same team - owner Khalid Abdullah, trainer Henry Cecil, jockey Pat Eddery and even lad Dave Goodwin - will start favourite to follow in the family hoofprints.

Horses know nothing of the pressures that having a famous relative can sometimes bring to human sportsmen, but comparisons are inevitable and, having failed to emulate Commander In Chief's Derby win at Epsom, Dushyantor is still in his older sibling's shadow.

The pair are physically unalike though they have similar qualities as runners: Commander In Chief, a son of Dancing Brave, was a tall, rangy horse; Dushyantor, by Sadler's Wells, is smaller and neater, a true scion of the Northern Dancer clan. On the gallops, Commander In Chief would do his work more readily than Dushyantor, a lazier individual. Willie Ryan, who has ridden both at home, said: "You have to pick Dushyantor up and ask him, whereas on 'the Commander' it seemed easier and he'd have been one to please you more, but once he gets going he is no less genuine. They were, and are, both impeccably well-mannered in the way they behave; lovely horses to have been around, real professionals.

"On the track Commander In Chief was a real galloper and lengthener, and I would say that Dushyantor has a better turn of foot. He quickened well off a slow pace when he was second in the Dante; he was beaten that day by greenness, but we realised then he was a serious horse."

Both horses arrived at the Derby as relatively inexperienced athletes: Commander In Chief had run only twice previously and Dushyantor three times. Dushyantor found all sorts of trouble in finishing second to Shaamit, and a rough ride at Epsom can often break a horse. But Ryan, who rode the colt in his last blow-out on Wednesday, said: "He looks physically better now than he did before the Derby, and he seems mentally stronger. Like it did with Commander In Chief, the race seems to have brought him on. Both of them learned from it."

Commander In Chief had a pacemaker to set a strong pace and draw the sting from Hernando at The Curragh, and the Juddmonte team will employ the same tactics this time round, having drafted in Private Song as hare. Pat Eddery believes that Dushyantor will be a different horse on the flatter track, and does not doubt his ability to lay up with the pace. He said: "At Epsom he never grabbed hold of his bridle, and I believe it was because it was the first time he had other horses around him. He's not very big, and when the others came over on top of him, he eased back.

"But like Commander In Chief, he stays very well and, once he'd found his balance, he was doing all his best work up the straight in the Derby. And there's nothing wrong with his courage. He's very genuine and tries hard. Like his brother, he's got a good heart, and I feel we're going there with as good a chance again."

Should Dushyantor prevail, his dam, Slightly Dangerous, will join a select band of mares, 10 so far, to have produced two Irish Derby winners. She would have done so already if another son, Deploy, had not been beaten less than a length by Salsabil six years ago.

Dushyantor is one of a record nine-strong challenge from Britain for the pounds 600,000 Group 1 race. Polaris Flight, from Peter Chapple-Hyam's yard and sold recently by Robert Sangster, represents the French Derby form (he was beaten a head at Chantilly by Ragmar, who contests the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud early this afternoon) and there are hopes that the idle Alhaarth can improve on his Derby fifth, with blinkers to sharpen him up. Michael Stoute's highly regarded Dr Massini, who had to miss the Derby because of injury, will be out to prove a point. But Dushyantor is taken to uphold his family's honour.