It will be one of the biggest shocks of this or any other season if Australia does not become Aidan O’Brien’s eighth Irish Derby winner in the past nine years at the Curragh on Saturday afternoon.
Every opponent, apart from the unproven Ponfeigh, was behind him at Epsom, with only the runner-up Kingston Hill, whose participation this time is in doubt because of concern over the fast ground, making a race of it.
Kingston Hill has apparently progressed since, but he will need to have done – Australia gave him four lengths start into the home straight and beat him fair and square by a length and a quarter.
Australia (5.30 Curragh) is also likely to have improved; Ballydoyle runners were a bit hit and miss at the beginning of this month and the colt O’Brien describes as the best he has trained might have won the Derby without even being at his peak.
In the Northumberland Plate over two miles at Newcastle, Willie Mullins relies on Lucky Bridle, who has never raced beyond a mile and a half on the Flat. But the five-year-old, just held in a 10-furlong handicap at Cork last time, has clearly shown enough to convince his Irish trainer that he fits this bill.
Dark Crusader is another fascinating Irish contender. She won the Melrose Handicap at York last year, so stamina should not be an issue, but Tony Martin has prepared her for this with three outings over much shorter distances; he followed a similar ploy with the 2008 winner, Arc Bleu.
Angel Gabrial, unlucky not to beat Suegioo in the Chester Cup, looks the most likely of the home contingent, but Lucky Bridle (3.50 Newcastle) can lead home an Irish one-two.
Body And Soul and Gabriel’s Lad attempt first Group wins after shining in handicaps. Musselburgh’s fast five furlongs probably failed to bring the best out of Body And Soul (2.40 Newcastle) last time and she can be forgiven that defeat.
Gabriel’s Lad (3.30 Newmarket) fell just short of Group level last year, but gave the impression he has taken another step forward when trouncing a big field in the Victoria Cup at Ascot last month.
For information regarding the QIPCO British Champions Series visit: britishchampionsseries.com