WE’RE still in the middle of trials season with Battle Of Marengo the latest victor for champion trainer Aidan O’Brien in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown last Sunday.
But our odds compilers weren’t impressed with the manner of his one and three-quarter length success over Loch Garman and left him unchanged at 5-1 for the English Derby next month.
While they didn’t consider this to be Blue Riband winning form, you could argue that the winner was in front a long time, before the six furlong marker, on ground that was certainly testing enough and he is likely to improve dramatically on a faster surface which you’d expect to get on the Epsom Downs.
But Jim Bolger, who also incidentally trains the runner-up, will hardly be shaking with fear for his favourite Dawn Approach who was so very impressive in the English 2,000 Guineas and he still currently sets the standard.
The last major Derby trial, the Dante Stakes, takes place at York on Thursday and we could have two Irish runners in Indian Chief and Trading Leather and I prefer the latter. Mind you it certainly won’t be easy as the home defence includes Telescope who has been backed to the exclusion of everything else since we priced up the race last week and he is 11-8 favourite now after opening at 5-2.
Indian Chief is one of those typical O’Brien animals who goes into a trial having just won a maiden. I was at Leopardstown when he defeated Dubai Deer by two lengths last month but while he is clearly thought highly of by connections, I can’t be backing him until I see more.
However, Trading Leather has been talked of as a Derby horse by Bolger and he has more solid credentials having won a Group 3 race at Newmarket last season before running a fair race in the top-class Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on the softest ground that he has encountered.
The surface at York looks likely to be much more like the one the selection was winning on last season and I’m expecting a bold showing.
I shall return to Irish racing next week with the Irish Guineas at The Curragh but I’m looking forward to seeing Declaration Of War in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
This one hasn’t had a crack at the highest level yet but I think he’s up to it after an easy victory over Bold Thady Quill in the Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown in April, when the prevailing soft ground would have been right against him. What particularly impressed me that afternoon was this War Front colt’s physique – he’s a big powerful animal who I am sure will be suited by a faster surface which I think he’ll get in England as I read they were considering watering.
This fellow has a host of big race entries for later in the campaign, including a couple at Royal Ascot, and he has the potential to be a top miler or possibly a 10 furlong horse if he stretches out that far. A fourth all-French Heineken Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday is not really what the doctor ordered but let’s just enjoy the rugby and I think Toulon are a reasonable bet at 6-4 after drawing with rivals Clermont Auvergne last month.
Clermont are virtually unbeatable at home having just completed a record 60th straight home win at their Stade Marcel Michelin base but away from there they are beatable as losses to Racing Metro 92 and Perpignan in the Top 14 have proved. Toulon go into the final as a very hard side to beat having lost only one of their last six.
Thursday, York 2.45 - Trading Leather
Saturday, Dublin 3pm - Toulon to beat Clermont Auvergne
Saturday, Newbury 3.50pm - Declaration Of War