Paddy Power Column: Nadal set for French Open

MAGICIAN drifted in the betting but was still only a 100-30 chance when comfortably landing Saturday’s Irish 2,000 Guineas, while Just The Judge was a heavily backed 2-1 favourite when looking the real deal in winning the following day’s Irish 1,000 Guineas to give us bookies a bit of a drubbing.

MAGICIAN drifted in the betting but was still only a 100-30 chance when comfortably landing Saturday’s Irish 2,000 Guineas, while Just The Judge was a heavily backed 2-1 favourite when looking the real deal in winning the following day’s Irish 1,000 Guineas to give us bookies a bit of a drubbing.

Aidan O’Brien initially appeared to rule out the former from this Saturday’s English Derby, but owner John Magnier kept the possibility alive when stating that ‘we’ve done crazy things before’ and on Sunday his trainer revealed that he would be among six entries for the Blue Riband the following day in what was seemingly a major change of heart.

No such dilemma for English trainer Charles Hills, who immediately said that the timing of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot is perfect for Just The Judge and when you consider that connections thought they were unlucky in the English equivalent, she goes to the Royal fixture with a major chance.

Of the supporting races at The Curragh, I really liked the performance of Coach House in the Marble Hill Stakes and while he’s certainly no dark horse now as we made him 6-1 favourite for Ascot’s Coventry Stakes, the way he quickened makes me think he really is the real deal. If William Shakespeare were a racing fan, he’d be asking: “To stay or not to stay,” about Dawn Approach who goes into the English Derby as an odds on favourite.

My good friend Brendan Duke is adamant that he’ll win doing handstands, while wily Sir Peter O’Sullevan seems to agree with my worry that he has yet to run over further than a mile let alone win over it when he says he ‘has got to overcome his pedigree to get a mile and a half’.

That’s enough of a concern for me to think that there is absolutely no value in the ‘jolly’ and instead I’m going to opt for French challenger Ocovango, who won his trial in his homeland in workmanlike fashion, but trainer Andre Fabre isn’t bringing him for a day out as his last runner Pour Moi proved in 2011.

I think the top three in the previous day’s English Oaks are all solid fillies and wouldn’t be surprised if any of the trio were to prevail so I’m going to opt for the longest priced of the three in Liber Nauticus.

A good press room judge gave me this filly as his horse to follow for the season and while some pundits crabbed her performance in winning the Musidora Stakes at York, she could do no more than win and the noises coming from Sir Michael Stoute’s yard in Newmarket are quite encouraging. The way she ran on the Knavesmire indicated to me that she would really appreciate the extra two furlongs at Epsom and I have little doubt that her master trainer left a little extra in reserve and she will come on a bundle for the run.

I don’t think I’ve ever covered tennis before but I think that Rafael Nadal is a good bet to win the French Open despite being relatively short odds of a current 8-11.

The Spanish legend is chasing an eighth title in the last nine campaigns and his domination is clearly exhibited by the fact that he dropped just one set in 2012 and three the previous year.

Nadal is outstanding on clay and despite his loss to Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo, I’m sure he can reverse the form if, as expected, the pair meet as his opponent in the final there was assisted by a downpour which made the court plenty heavy which was to his advantage.

Selections French Open at Roland Garros Rafael Nadal to win; Friday Epsom 4pm Liber Nauticus; Saturday Epsom 4pm Ocovango