Racing: Roche switches camps

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THE NAME O'Brien, with assorted prefixes, has been gloriously associated with the Irish Derby for the past 45 years. Vincent of that ilk trained six winners between 1953 and 1985 (Chamier, Ballymoss, Nijinsky, The Minstrel, El Gran Senor and Law Society); his brother Phonsie sent out Chamour in 1960; his son David scored with Assert in 1982.

Aidan (no relation) kept the theme going last June, but it so nearly stayed in the original family when Dr Johnson, owned by Vincent and trained by another son, Charles, failed by only a length to catch Desert King. The pair will try again on Sunday with another similarly unexposed, progressive colt, Campo Catino, and yesterday their cause received a considerable boost when Christy Roche decided that the son of Woodman would be his final ride in the race.

The Irish champion, who retires at the end of the season, notched his third Irish Derby victory on Desert King, but on this occasion has deserted the three-strong Ballydoyle camp, citing the rain-softened ground as his reason. He had been offered Risk Material, now to be ridden by Seamus Heffernan, or Desert Fox (Kevin Manning), with Walter Swinburn confirmed on Saratoga Springs.

"We'd never be rigid about riding arrangements" O'Brien (A) said, "and it's Christy's view that our horses won't handle the ground as well as Charles's horse. And I would have to say that the ground will be of no help to our three."

Second Empire, who got Roche into hot water for a controversial ride when third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, is reported on the mend after his eighth in the Derby. "Second Empire is being kept in reserve for the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown," O'Brien said. "He's very well and seems on the way back."

O'Brien (C) was delighted to have Roche, who won on Campo Catino at Leopardstown 15 days ago, on his side. "He knows the horse and they suit each other well. He's a big, strong laid-back type, the sort that Christy can get down into. They do run for him."

Campo Catino has followed the Dr Johnson route to the Curragh with his game win in the same 12-furlong race at the Foxrock track. "In a lot of ways they are similar", O'Brien added. "They are both tough, lazy horses who thrive on work and Campo Catino might have had more races had there not been a bug in the yard earlier in the year.

"The ground at Leopardstown was bad that day, tacky and horrible, and they sensibly went slowly. But he should be just as effective with a fast pace as he can travel so well through a race. He'll go on any ground, but perhaps if it is soft it will disadvantage him less than others."

Campo Catino, though cut yesterday from 16-1 to 25-1 by William Hill, is one of the outsiders. And perhaps unusually in an Irish Classic these days, the leading local hope in the market is not an Aidan O'Brien candidate. Third favourite, behind Derby runner-up City Honours and drifting Prix du Jockey-Club winner Dream Well, is the surprise Epsom fourth, Sunshine Street.

Despite some impressive efforts, the Noel Meade-trained colt is still a maiden and the last of that category to win an Irish Derby was Sindon in 1958. Meade is best-known in Britain as a trainer of jumpers - and what grace in defeat he showed when Hill Society went down so narrowly in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March - and Sunshine Street is one of only 16 Flat horses in his yard.

He reported, as he watched a potential winter recruit trot up at the Tattersalls Fairyhouse sales yesterday, that his summer star is "100 per cent" for Sunday's fray. "He's perfect", he said, "but the rain has not been a help. He will definitely run, though, and he'll run well, but to be realistic it will be hard to beat the one that finished in front of us at Epsom."

Tonight sees the start of the focus on Irish racing's grandest weekend, with the second running of the pounds 100,000 Challenge at the Curragh, a two- year-old race restricted to graduates of Goffs' sales. The Richard Hannon- trained Tadwiga took the inaugural prize and seven British youngsters, including Joe Naughton's recent Swedish winner Devon Court, try their luck this time.

IRISH DERBY (Curragh, Sunday) William Hill: 6-4 City Honours, 11-4 (from 5-2) Dream Well, 6-1 Saratoga Springs, 7-1 Sadian, 8-1 Risk Material, (from 7-1) Sunshine Street, 16-1 (from 25-1) Campo Catino, 25-1 others