Irish Derby: Epsom Derby form is positively Golden

June 27th, 2015

Going into Saturday's Irish Derby at the Curragh, the major interpretive key appeared to be a battle of formlines between the Epsom and French Derbies. With placegetters from each lining up, the Irish classic loomed as a "proxy war" between the respective Epsom and French winners Golden Horn and New Bay. Since those two are set for a head-to-head clash in next Saturday's Eclipse at Sandown, today's result at the Curragh took on more than hypothetical import.

But as it turned out, another military history term came to mind - "bad mauling," for the Epsom form dominated about as categorically as possible.

Jack Hobbs, runner-up to stablemate Golden Horn in both the Epsom Derby and their prep in the Dante, looked like the winner a long way out at the Curragh. Traveling conspicuously well into the straight while the others were being asked, the John Gosden trainee cruised home by five lengths.

Moreover, the Epsom order of finish was replicated tidily here. Storm the Stars, third last time, was a clear second by 5 1/2 lengths from Giovanni Canaletto, who had been fourth at Epsom. There was a bunched finish from third through sixth. Kilimanjaro, sixth in the English classic, was a one-paced fourth at the Curragh. He continues to shape up as a St Leger type.

You have to go down to fifth to find the French Derby runner-up, Highland Reel. Of course, it must be admitted that Highland Reel was trying 1 1/2 miles for the first time, and the Aidan O'Brien blueblood may be seen to much better effect when reverting in trip to 1 1/4 miles or thereabouts. Since the son of Galileo is out of a Group 1-placed full sister to one of my past favorites, Australian superstar Elvstroem, I've always been hopeful that Highland Reel would turn out to be decent.

And so must all-world jockey Ryan Moore, who chose Highland Reel in preference to O'Brien's other runners, Giovanni Canaletto, Kilimanjaro and Epsom Oaks upsetter Qualify (who was a non-threatening sixth versus the colts but not beaten far for third). Anchored near the back of the field early, Highland Reel was never really in it and didn't find much under pressure.

Highland Reel performed to a higher standard behind New Bay in stakes-record time at Chantilly, but it's worth pointing out that the French Derby form took another hit at Royal Ascot. Fellow O'Brien trainee Cape Clear Island, a troubled but not disgraced seventh in France, was drubbed by the exciting Time Test when 10th in the Tercentenary.

Although New Bay will have the chance to speak up for himself in a week's time at Sandown, the evidence is stacking up in favor of Golden Horn.

As a footnote, Qualify didn't enhance the Oaks form when venturing outside of her own division. But Star of Seville, ninth at Epsom, subsequently cut back in trip to capture the French Oaks. And Epsom Oaks near-misser Legatissimo, along with the badly hampered fourth Diamondsnrubies, hopes to advertise the form when making a similar cutback to 1 1/4 miles in a loaded renewal of the Pretty Polly on Sunday.