Racing: Hala Bek in line for Irish Derby rematch

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The Independent Online

Irish bookmakers Cashmans make Saturday's Vodafone Derby fourth Hala Bek the 2-1 favourite for the Budweiser Irish Derby at the Curragh on 2 July. But Coral take a different view, and the Epsom winner, Sir Percy, is their 9-4 favourite with Hala Bek at 5-2.

Coral's David Stevens explained: "Hala Bek was undoubtedly incredibly unlucky not to win on Saturday, but we're taking nothing away from Sir Percy, and would narrowly favour him to confirm his Epsom success at the Curragh."

Darsi, winner of Sunday's Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, is a 6-1 chance with the Cork firm for the race, which could feature a rematch between the first four home at Epsom - Sir Percy, Dragon Dancer, Dylan Thomas and Hala Bek.

Michael Jarvis, who trains the fourth, said: "I would presume, and we've only briefly discussed this, that with the agreement of the owner [Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum], he would be supplemented for the Irish Derby. He genuinely stays a mile and a half and did well on that ground."

With less than a length separating the quartet a different finishing order would come as no great surprise given that the Curragh is right-handed and, though gently undulating, does not share the same quirks as Epsom's left-handed helter-skelter.

Darryll Holland, who rode the runner-up, believes the Irish course would suit Dragon Dancer much better than Epsom. The Geoff Wragg-trained colt was short-headed on the line by Sir Percy and Holland told At The Races yesterday: "He's very much a galloper. He's got that in his pedigree. The Curragh would suit him. It's a nice stiff track and he'd be able to get a good position there. I think ultimately he'd go a bit further and he could be a Leger horse."

Despite finishing second, Holland admitted he would have settled for the runner-up spot before the race. "I thought he'd won. He'd been contesting quite nice races and he's improved with every run. He's taken on good company and I knew he wouldn't disgrace himself. To be honest, if anybody had said would you take second I probably would. I thought he would finish in the first six and I knew he'd give me a good ride."

Darsi's connections are considering their options following the colt's win in France. The Grand Prix de Paris has also been nominated as a potential target for the progressive three-year-old, who gave the owner a seventh triumph in Sunday's French Derby.

Georges Rimaud, the Aga Khan's racing manager, said: "We're thinking about the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris, which seem the logical objectives, and we should know a bit more in a few days."

Chantilly trainer Alain de Royer-Dupré reported the Polish Precedent colt in good shape yesterday: "He came out of the race fine and ate up all his feed. He's sound, going well, and there are no problems."

The former trainer David Flood will have his appeal against a two-year ban heard by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority today. Flood was warned off after being found guilty in March of a variety of charges as a consequence of Mossmann Gorge being withdrawn by the stewards at Newmarket last July. His most serious breach was found to be that of Rule 200, that he deliberately administered a prohibited substance with the intention of affecting the gelding's performance.

Budweiser Irish Derby (Curragh, 2 July) Cashmans bet: 2-1 Hala Bek, 5-2 Sir Percy, 11-2 Dylan Thomas, 6-1 Darsi, 7-1 Dragon Dancer, 12-1 Best Alibi, 20-1 Art Deco; 7-2 Visindar (with a run). Coral: 9-4 Sir Percy, 5-2 Hala Bek, 9-2 Darsi, 7-1 Papal Bull, 8-1 Dylan Thomas, Best Name, Dragon Dancer, 10-1 Puerto Rico, 16-1 Best Alibi.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Twentytwosilver (Fontwell 8.10)

NB: Oporto (Windsor 9.00)

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