Racing: Alriffa seeks supplementary benefit: Ireland's latest fortunes at The Curragh may match those on the football field. Greg Wood reports

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IRELAND'S football team is performing heroically in America, but closer to home there is rather less for the country's sports fans to cheer about in the Irish Derby at The Curragh tomorrow afternoon. An excellent nine-runner field will go to post (Peter Chapple-Hyam's Pencader was withdrawn yesterday), of which two are home-trained. The shortest price about either, though, is 50-1.

British-based animals have won six of the last seven Irish Derbys, and the only runners with a serious chance of bucking the trend tomorrow are trained in France (Tikkanen) and, technically at least, Dubai (Balanchine).

Neither of the two colts who filled the frame in the Epsom equivalent has attracted strong support in recent days. King's Theatre, an 11-10 chance on Tuesday, is now available at 6-4, while Colonel Collins, a length and a half adrift of Henry Cecil's colt when the pair chased home Erhaab, is 11-2 from 4-1. The money has instead highlighted the chances of the two runners supplemented for the race earlier this week, Alriffa and Balanchine. Alriffa, trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by his breeder, Pat Eddery, is 5-1 after opening at 8-1, while Balanchine, the Oaks winner, is at the same price from a first show of 7-1.

Balanchine is attempting to follow the example of Salsabil, the 1991 Oaks winner, who followed up at The Curragh in little more than a canter. The also-rans that day included the Derby winner, Quest For Fame, but the evidence to date suggests the relative merits of this year's Epsom Classics are rather different. To date, the evidence suggests that the Derby was a race of real quality, the Oaks probably not.

The standard of the French Derby, in which Alriffa and Tikkanen were third and fourth, is also difficult to assess, but the value about both colts has now disappeared. The best advice for punters is to watch and digest a fascinating contest without the blinkers of financial interest - and have a fiver on Ireland for the World Cup instead.

Perversely, a punt may prove harder to avoid in today's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, although all but a couple of the 20 runners are in with a chance. The future of Newcastle racecourse is far from secure, and backers who have tried to find the winner of the 'Pitmen's Derby' for decades without success will not want to miss what might be their last chance.

Many will look no further than Hasten To Add, who was a 5-1 chance on Tuesday afternoon but is now no better than 7-2 after sustained support throughout the week. This would suggest that P T Barnum's famous dictum, 'there's one born every minute', was a wild underestimate. Mark Prescott's runner is unproven at the trip and the form of his neck defeat by Master Charlie in the Bessborough Stakes at Ascot was hardly paid a compliment when the latter animal finished last of four at Salisbury on Wednesday.

Even though excuses were made for Master Charlie's dismal performance, it was yet another example of a horse that has run well at the Royal meeting failing to reproduce the form a short time later. A good show at Ascot clearly takes some getting over, and for this reason Cuff Link and Sweet Glow should also be treated with caution today (though the latter's victory in the Ascot Handicap was just an extended exercise gallop).

A more reasonable each- way bet is Paul Cole's Tioman Island, the winner of a Group Three race in Italy last month. Cole's strike-rate is close to 25 per cent at present, and the 16-1 available about his runner this morning is worth tracking down.

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