Happily for the England players waiting to meet the depleted Portuguese team, footballers cannot chose when to serve a ban. But jockeys can, and Kieren Fallon will be able to compete in Sunday's Irish Derby after yesterday succeeding in his application to transfer part of a red-card offence picked up at Royal Ascot to next week. Fallon was stood down for four days, originally Saturday to Tuesday, for careless riding as he veered Ad Valorem to victory in the Queen Anne Stakes. But because there are Group One races at the weekend, he will now sit out Monday to Thursday.
At this stage there are 16 runners for the 141st edition of Ireland's premier Classic and Fallon has five from Ballydoyle to mull over. The Aidan O'Brien-trained quintet are headed by the Derby third, Dylan Thomas, who led until the last 50 yards when ridden by Johnny Murtagh and was beaten a short-head and a head. His stablemates remaining from an original squad of 20 in the race at yesterday's penultimate entry stage are Derby eighth Mountain, Puerto Rico, Grafton Street and Road To Mandalay.
Last year, in his first season as Ballydoyle number one, Fallon won his first Irish Derby on Hurricane Run, Coolmore-owned but André Fabre-trained. The jockey's five previous attempts included one ride for O'Brien on Ghengis Khan, ninth of 10 behind Montjeu in 1999.
It is 10 years since O'Brien saddled his first Derby runners, His Excellence, who came in third to Zagreb at 50-1, and another outsider, Rainbow Blues. The Ballydoyle maestro won it the following season with Desert King, and has since added two more, with Galileo and High Chaparral in 2001 and 2002, and has not been unrepresented in the three in those 10 years, including Sholokov and Ballingarry providing the clean sweep behind High Chaparral.
Dylan Thomas, who will be trying to emulate Epsom thirds like Alamshar, Irish Ball, Prince Regent and Ragusa in going two better at the Curragh, has been installed second favourite for the £1m showpiece. The market leader, at 7-2, is the French raider Darsi, who was, as expected, supplemented yesterday at a cost of some £70,000.
Alain de Royer-Dupré's charge, winner of the Prix du Jockey-Club 24 days ago, was one of four extra entries. The other three are his compatriot Gentlewave, the Italian Derby winner trained by Fabre; the Epsom runner-up Dragon Dancer (Geoff Wragg) and Cougar Bay (David Wachman).
Darsi's owner, the Aga Khan, has an outstanding Irish Derby record, with wins from Shergar (1981), Shahrastani (1986), Kahyasi (1988), Sinndar (2000) and a one-two three years ago, when Alamshar beat Dalakhani. Darsi won the Chantilly contest on only his fourth public appearance, beating Best Name by less than a length.
The Polish Precedent colt dropped back in trip on that occasion, having previously scored over a mile and a half, and has progressed since in more than satisfactory style. "He is an easy-going horse," said George Rimaud, racing manager to the Aga Khan, yesterday. "Everything is in order and he is in very, very good form, and it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to run. He is not difficult to prepare, but he is such a quiet type he needs to be worked a couple of times a week just to keep him awake."
Best Name, trained by Robert Collet, will complete a three-pronged Gallic challenge. "He finished very strongly in the Jockey Club but none of the others must be underestimated either, as they are all very good horses," added Rimaud. "We respect everyone."
The sentiments were echoed by Wragg. "Dragon Dancer is in good form," he said, "and will probably travel over on Friday. But it is sure to be a most competitive race."
Best Name and Gentlewave, who has been beaten only once in five outings and won the Rome Classic by an easy four lengths, are vying for second favouritism with Dylan Thomas. Honours have been shared recently by the home side and France; the last winner trained in Britain was the filly Balanchine, for Godolphin 12 years ago.
As well as Dragon Dancer, Derby sixth Best Alibi, from Sir Michael Stoute's yard, and Windsor maiden winner Classic Punch, trained (like his half-brother Persian Punch) by David Elsworth are set to travel from Newmarket. Best Alibi's stablemate Papal Bull, who won the King Edward VII Stakes last week for the Coolmore partners, is less likely to make the journey.
One of the Ballydoyle runners, twice-raced maiden Grafton Street, is among the rank outsiders, but such beasts should not necessarily be despised. O'Brien has had one 200-1 shot, Sholokhov, and two at 150-1, Roosevelt and Tycoon, in the frame in the past four years.
BATH: 6.40 Ile Michel 7.10 Vaunt 7.40 Simplified 8.10 Border Artist 8.40 Reinstated 9.10 Louphole
Nap: Wigwam Willie
NB: Red Cape
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