Racing: Asmussen back in hunt: Richard Edmondson reports from The Curragh

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The Independent Online
A RETURN to an audience as difficult to please as the north's working men's club circuit today for Cash Asmussen when the American jockey partners Hernando in the Irish Derby.

It was in 1987 that Asmussen polarised Irish opinion as he rode for a season as retained rider to Vincent O'Brien.

'Are you trying to get the radio on that?' punters used to ask as the American's whip was carried in antenna fashion in losing photo finishes, while one critical journalist felt the accoutrement around his zipper at The Curragh one day. 'It's a pity you guys can't write as well as I ran ride,' Asmussen said at the time. Six years on, Asmussen nevertheless looks back fondly on his sojourn.

Success on Hernando this afternoon may further soothe his memory, though Francois Boutin's colt has a stark statistic against him. All four previous French winners of the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) that have run here have been beaten.

In what many perceive to be a match here, Hernando's rival, Commander In Chief, has no such demons to overcome. Henry Cecil's colt will be the 12th to go on from Epsom Derby glory to success in Ireland if he wins.

The most recent to complete that double was Generous, who beat Prix du Jockey Club winner Suave Dancer two years ago. Now, as then, it appears Commander In Chief has to burn off what appears to be the superior acceleration of the French challenger. As there was little rain during the day here yesterday it appears Hernando may be granted the solid platform he needs to produce his speed and he looks capable of going where no French horse has gone before.

Ireland's eight-strong representation is not given much chance, but the home side at least kept a good prize yesterday when Tarakana won the Group Two Pretty Polly Stakes.

The Aga Khan's filly is such a scatty character that she has to have the calming agent of a polo pony, which accompanies her everywhere.

The Irish Oaks is on the agenda now Tarakana has begun to phase out the tantrums following Irish warmth. Cash Asmussen will hope for similar treatment today.