Waldgeist, runner-up in the Prix du Jockey Club [French Derby] at Chantilly, edged to within a quarter of a point of joint-favouritism for Saturday’s Irish Derby on Thursday, despite the failure of heavy rain to arrive as forecast at The Curragh, which will stage the Classic.
Wings Of Eagles, the 40-1 winner of the Derby at Epsom, remains the favourite for the race at a best price of 9-4 after a final field of nine was declared dayon Thursday with Waldgeist, who will attempt to give André Fabre his third success in the race, next in the list at 5-2.
The sole British-trained contender for the race, however, is friendless in the market. Cracksman, who was scratched from the Dante Stakes at York in May after the ground turned soft, is out to 100-30 to give John Gosden his second Irish Derby in three years after Jack Hobbs’s success in 2015.
The going on the round course at The Curragh was described as good-to-yielding on Thursday morning and yielding on the straight course after 4mm of rain overnight and, despite a forecast for heavy rain during the day, the official going was unchanged on Thursday evening.
“We were forecast quite a bit of rain today, possibly as much as 20mm,” Evan Arkwright, The Curragh’s commercial manager, said, “but that hasn’t materialised as yet.
“They say it’s been lashing down [about 35 miles away] in Dublin but we’ve avoided it here so far. I think there are odd showers around on Friday but it’s looking like it’s going to be mainly dry, which is good. The track is in great order and all the facilities are looking brilliant.”
In addition to Wings Of Eagles, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore this weekend in place of Padraig Beggy, his partner at Epsom, Aidan O’Brien will have another four runners in the Classic as he attempts to win the race for the 12th time.
Victory on Saturday would also give O’Brien his 10th Group 1 success in 2017 and leave him very much on course to challenge Bobby Frankel’s all-time record of 25 Group One or Grade One wins in a calendar year.
Capri, the fourth-favourite in the ante-post betting, will be ridden by O’Brien’s regular back-up jockey Seamie Heffernan, while the trainer’s son, Donnacha, gets the ride on Douglas Macarthur. The team is completed by Taj Mahal, the mount of Wayne Lordan, and The Anvil, who will be ridden by the trainer’s daughter, Ana, as he was at Epsom where he finished 17th of the 18 runners.
Jessica Harrington, one of Ireland’s leading National Hunt trainers for many years, also has a runner in Saturday’s Classic in Grandee, who took a Listed event at Leopardstown in early June. On the book, Grandee has plenty to find and he is priced at 33-1, but Harrington, who won three races at the Cheltenham Festival in March and also landed the Irish Grand National in April, is hopeful that Grandee could at least make the frame.
It’s a very big step up for Saturday, but he’s been in good form and he’s improved with each run this year,” Harrington said on Thursday. “It’s great to have a horse that’s even good enough to run in the Irish Derby.Ê
“If he could run into a place I’d be delighted with him.”
Betting firms that operate high street betting shops will not find out until October at the earliest whether the government will impose further restrictions on the maximum stakes allowed on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, or FOBTs.
Tracey Crouch, the government minister with responsibility for gambling, told the House of Commons on Thursday that a review of the stakes on gaming machines, originally expected to be published earlier this year, had been delayed by the recent general election.
Crouch responded to a question by Sir Peter Bottomley MP, who said: “This House never intended vulnerable people in less-well-off areas to lose £100 several times a minute on fixed odds betting terminals. When will we have the opportunity to bring the stake down to £2?”
The minister said:” Although we launched the review in October 2016, purdah [during the election campaign] interrupted the final stages of our consideration of the evidence received and the subsequent internal cross-government process of approval and sign-off, so I am afraid we are back at the start of the process. As a consequence of that taking at least 12 weeks, I would not expect any further announcement until October at the earliest.”
Crouch later suggested that she understood the frustration of MPs over the delay. David Linden asked: “Will the minister get a move on and get a grip on the crack cocaine of gambling – the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?” He added that “we need action sooner rather than later”.
Crouch replied: “I share the frustration of many people across the House. I have been dealing with this issue as a Minister since I walked into the Department in 2015. We must ensure that we have a proper evidence-based response to the issue of stakes and prizes.”
Doncaster 2.00 Sardenya 2.30 Learn By Heart 3.00 False Id 3.30 Helovaplan 4.00 Glittering Jewel 4.30 Braes Of Lochalsh 5.00 Zumran 5.30 Bobby Vee
Yarmouth 2.10 Jellmood 2.40 Cribbs Causeway 3.10 Incredible Dream 3.40 Baron Bolt 4.10 To Dibba 4.40 Harbour Patrol 5.10 Sitar
Cartmel 2.20 Its Pandorama 2.50 Attention Seaker 3.20 Verona Opera 3.50 Brother Scott 4.20 Camillas Wish 4.50 Sailors Warn 5.20 Running In Heels
Newcastle 6.00 Excel Again 6.30 Kinloch Pride (nb) 7.00 Rasheeq (nap) 7.35 Mirzam 8.05 Chain Of Daisies 8.40 Cobalty Isle 9.10 Quiet Warrior
Newmarket 5.50 Trulee Scrumptious 6.20 Vodka Pigeon 6.50 Patchwork 7.25 Immortalised 7.55 Raven’s Lady 8.30 Al Neksh 9.00 Cartographer
Chester 6.10 Gala Celebration 6.40 Knight In Armour 7.10 Titi Makfi 7.45 Dream Walker 8.15 Cosmic Ray 8.50 Londinium