As widely expected, the Derby third Carlton House was confirmed yesterday for the Irish version of the Classic on Sunday at the Curragh, good news for those who have supported Britain's chief hope for the Group One prize to 5-4 favouritism this week. But less welcome to punters were the tidings of a well-fancied horse who had been set to make the journey across the Irish Sea in the opposite direction. The Co Tipperary-based Mount Athos, one of the market leaders for tomorrow's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, was not among the final field of 20 for the marathon. "The ground is a bit slow, the forecast isn't great, and he wants it quick" explained trainer David Wachman.
The absence of Mount Athos and a perceived poor draw for the erstwhile market leader Activate, set to emerge from stall 18, has meant that last year's winner Overturn, who will start two from the inside rail, now heads the betting for one of the season's richest and most competitive handicaps at a solid 6-1 in most lists.
Though Overturn, attempting to become the first to notch back-to-back Plates since Tug Of War 33 years ago, did win from a wide draw 12 months ago, his was a rare enough feat, as Activate's rider Hayley Turner is perfectly aware. "Shocking hell! Far from ideal," was her reaction to her mount's place at the start.
Overturn's rider Henry Brooke is not the only apprentice with a chance for big-stage glory tomorrow; the latest to step into the spotlight, thanks to some necessary jockey-juggling, is young Ashley Morgan, transferred from duties at Newmarket to take the mount on Mystery Star for his employer Mark Tompkins.
He replaces Paul Hanagan, no less, after High Office, from the champion's own stable, unexpectedly made the cut. Mystery Star, 25-1 for tomorrow's assignment, was a strong-finishing third in the Chester Cup on his latest run, one place ahead of Mount Athos and two behind Overturn.
The death was announced yesterday at the age of 95 of Arthur Budgett, who secured his place in racing history when becoming only the second man (after the 19th-century figure William I'Anson) to breed, own and train two Derby winners, courtesy of the half-brothers Blakeney in 1969 and Morston in 1973.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Piano (6.50 Newcastle) Ran a little free last time in slightly better company and is now reunited with her stable jockey.
Gamilati (6.30 Newmarket)
One to watch
Well fancied when unplaced at Ascot last week, Mezmaar (Barry Hills) will surely repay the faith later in the season.
Where the money's going
Roderic O'Connor was best supported of the Irish Derby field yesterday, cut from 12-1 to 8-1 by Paddy Power.