Donn's Articles » Irish Derby report

Irish Derby report

The last time John Gosden thought he had a horse with whom he could win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, he didn’t even get him to the starting line.

That horse was Presenting, now best-known as a prolific sire of National Hunt horses. But in 1995 he was the Dante third, the Epsom Derby third, and he was well fancied for the Irish Derby. Alas, the Mtoto colt banged his head as he was being loaded on the plane in Cambridge, and he didn’t get to make the trip, he didn’t get to compete in the Irish Derby in which Winged Love beat Definite Article by a short head.

There were similarities between Presenting then and Jack Hobbs before yesterday’s Irish Derby. Both trained by John Gosden, both placed in the Dante, both placed in the Epsom Derby, both unbeaten before the Dante, both by sires who had won the Eclipse twice. Thankfully, the similarities ended there. Jack Hobbs made the trip to The Curragh yesterday, and he made the 150th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby his own.

Any fears that Gosden had about the fast ground were allayed by a lengthy shower an hour before post time and a stroll down the track to the furlong pole. They were making a print, concluded the trainer. Genuine good to firm flat racing ground, and fine for Jack Hobbs.

“We were nervous of running him at Epsom,” said Gosden. “I was worried about the track, but I walked it before the first race and I was satisfied. They have done a great job with the track here too.”

In truth, the result never really looked in doubt. William Buick always looked happy on the Halling colt, sitting, as he was, in the slipstream of early leader Storm The Stars.

As they made the descent into the home straight, it was apparent that Buick was happier than his seven rivals, his horse was covering the ground easily under minimum effort as his rivals all around him started to come under pressure.

Buick engineered a gap for himself, then waited until the approach to the furlong pole before asking his horse for his effort. When he did, the response was impressive, as Jack Hobbs picked up and quickly cleared away from his rivals, putting five horse-lengths between himself and his closest pursuer by the time he reached the winning line.

It was in 1993 that the Henry Cecil-trained Commander In Chief won the Irish Derby under Pat Eddery, and it was the following year that the Godolphin filly Balanchine, trained by Hilal Ibrahim, won it under an exuberant Frankie Dettori. From then until yesterday, quite remarkably, there hadn’t been a British-trained winner of the race.

Those years were replete with Irish winners and French winners and Aidan O’Brien winners. And it wasn’t as if the good British horses hadn’t come. Raiders King’s Theatre and North Light and Celtic Swing and Silver Patriarch were all sent off at short prices at The Curragh. Jack Hobbs was also sent off at a short price yesterday but, in contrast to the compatriots who had challenged before him, he delivered.

“It was a great performance by the horse,” said Gosden. “It’s solid Epsom Derby form. He did it in good style, he got a nice split and he picked up nicely. He’ll have a nice break now, he’s a big rangy, light-framed colt and he just needs to fill out.”

The trainer’s plan is to prepare Jack Hobbs now for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in early October, and to bring him back for the Prix Niel three weeks earlier as a stepping stone to the Arc, for which Paddy Power cut him from 12/1 to 8/1.

“I had a lot of belief in this horse before Epsom,” said Buick, “and he was even better today. He is a horse who is improving all the time. He’s very uncomplicated, he has a great turn of foot, he’s a quick horse and he stays well. He has come a long way in a short space of time, he has had to learn very quickly, but he has. He’s a serious horse.”

The other Group race on the day, the Group 2 Gain Railway Stakes, was won in impressive fashion by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Painted Cliffs. The Canford Cliffs colt hit the front under Ryan Moore on the run to the furlong pole, and he came away from his rivals to win by three lengths.

This is a race that O’Brien has won in the last 10 years with top class colts like Holy Roman Emperor, Mastercraftsman and George Washington.

“We liked Painted Cliffs before he ever ran,” said O’Brien, “but he disappointed on his debut. We put blinkers on him at Leopardstown, and he won nicely, but maybe we could leave the blinkers off him in future.”

“We took it up too early really,” said Moore, who arrived at The Curragh from Newmarket, where he had ridden Gospel Choir to win the Listed Fred Archer Stakes earlier on the day. “But he was impressive. He’s a nice colt.”

© The Sunday Times 28th June 2015