In the 136 years of their coexistence, just 14 horses have won both the Derby and its Irish equivalent. Orby, in 1907, was the first; Santa Claus, 57 years later, the second. The remaining dozen were initiated and completed by a pair from Co Tipperary, Nijinsky in 1970 and Galileo 12 months ago.
The reasons for the modern hegemony are not hard to fathom. The Irish Derby has metamorphosed several times in distance and conditions since its birth in 1866 as a mile and six handicap but it was the first sponsorship in 1962 that produced the sea change; at last, serious prize money was on offer and when Tambourine came over from France to beat local 2,000 Guineas winner Arctic Storm for reward of £50,027-10s (fourth-placed Larkspur had picked up £34,786 for his Epsom victory), it was the launchpad for Ireland onto the international scene.
Since then the Curragh has been the next port of call for Derby winners as often as not. And of those to have essayed the double since Larkspur, more have succeeded than failed, including the last two, Sinndar having preceded Galileo.
On Sunday the latest Epsom victor High Chaparral will start long odds-on to complete two rare enough hat-tricks. Only once before have three successive Derby winners followed up in Ireland, The Minstrel, Shirley Heights and Troy from 1977-79. And the last time three in a row Irish-trained horses kept their premier Classic at home was when Santa Claus was preceded by Ragusa and followed by Meadow Court.
High Chaparral is one of six declared at yesterday's five-day stage from Ballydoyle; his stablemates Ballingarry and Della Francesca are likely to join him, with Sholokhov a possible and Roar Of The Tiger and Hawk Wing the discards. That last name on the list is merely a precaution as the Epsom runner-up is heading for the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on Saturday week.
The French have won seven Irish Derbies since Tambourine, but not this year. The leading Gallic contender Act One is not only out of the race but of action permanently, having fractured a hind leg during his final gallop. The Prix du Jockey-Club runner-up has, though, come through surgery and been saved for stud. The son of In The Wings will be standing in Newmarket in accordance with his late owner Gerald Leigh's wishes, at a base yet to be finalised.
The challenge to Aidan O'Brien's legions on Sunday comes from just three sources. His compatriot Dermot Weld, who won with Zagreb six years ago, intends to run In Time's Eye and Jazz Beat; from Britain Michael Stoute, with Shergar (1981), Shareef Dancer (1983) and Shahrastani (1986) to his credit, has left in Balakheri, who won the King Edward VII Stakes five days ago, and Princely Venture, who broke his maiden at Haydock last month; and Richard Hannon, mindful of the prize money to tenth place, will rely on Chepstow Class C winner Nysaean.
Weld acknowledges the task facing the inexperienced In Time's Eye is a stern one. The colt will be running for only the third time in his life, has yet to win a race and was beaten a length by High Chaparral, in receipt of 7lb, in the Leopardstown Derby Trial six and a half weeks ago. But Moyglare Stud's son of Singspiel has long been the apple of his clever trainer's eye and he will by no means have his tail between his legs when he turns up in the parade ring. "It is a huge ask for a maiden," Weld said yesterday. "I am sure that High Chaparral has improved half a stone since Leopardstown so we've got to find not only seven, but another seven.
"For In Time's Eye, the Derby would have been the wrong race at the wrong time. The Curragh will be much better for him in every way. He has undoubtedly improved, not only physically but mentally as well. He is growing up, but we'll only know on Sunday whether he's a stone and a bit better than he was."
Weld's charges are in rude health – a rosy Royal Ascot yielded a Ribblesdale Stakes for Irresistible Jewel and the narrowest of defeats for Vinnie Roe and Pakhoes, plus an unlucky, close fifth place for Jazz Beat – and he is neither averse to taking on Ballydoyle nor overawed by its present dominance. "It is a wonderful team operation, a first class professional outfit," he said, "and you can either say you can't compete and roll over, or admire what they do and raise your own standards to match. I prefer to take the positive aspect."
Gyles Parkin was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary after a bad fall at Beverley yesterday. He was thrown from Ballard Connection around three furlongs from home and was briefly knocked out. The jockey's saddle had slipped forward in the early stages of the race.
But Parkin sustained no serious injuries in the fall and he was released from hospital after undergoing a number of precautionary checks.
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