The Duke’s Weekend Preview

The best race of the weekend is the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and Wings Of Eagles aims to become a dual Derby winner by adding the Curragh crown to his Epsom victory.

While it was somewhat of a surprise that he prevailed that day (40/1 SP), the betting market hasn’t missed him this time, with about 9/4 the biggest you can get.

Ryan Moore takes over in the saddle from Padraig Beggy and while the sentimental would be a bit disappointed Beggy loses the ride, Moore is the best jockey on turf.

Aidan O’Brien has four others in the race and I could see Taj Mahal outrunning his 40/1 price, although maybe not causing as big an upset as Wings Of Eagles did a few weeks ago.

The realistic challenges come from Waldgeist and Cracksman.

Waldgeist won a Group 1 last year and Andre Fabre’s colt came very close to winning the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly a few weeks ago. He is respected, but the pick for the Irish Derby is Cracksman.

John Gosden’s colt was within a length of Wings Of Eagles at Epsom and had he settled quicker then it might have been a different story. That was only his third start and he is the least exposed in this race. It is abundantly clear he has talent and I genuinely think he will improve past Wings Of Eagles to win this.

 It’s not just in Ireland that we have some intriguing races.

The Fred Archer Stakes at Newmarket is on ITV at 2.05pm on Saturday. The betting market believes Midterm is the one to beat. He has looked a promising horse for some time and there comes a point where you can’t keep overlooking his performances. He has disappointed in both starts this season and although he is dropped in grade, I’m more drawn to Second Step.

Roger Charlton’s horse finished in front of Midterm at Newbury in April and at 7/2 I’ll take my chances. On their best performances you can make cases for Mount Logan, Platitude and Red Verdon, but Second Step is in the best form and a replication of his most recent two runs should see him in the winners’ enclosure.

 The final race we’ll look at this weekend is the Stobart Rail Northumberland Plate.

It’s easy to see why Flymetothestars is up there in the betting after a facile success over course and distance last time. He’s also with one of the shrewdest trainers for big handicaps around, Sir Mark Prescott.

This is a race that has tended to suit horses with experience, but how much you can draw in to statistics on the race given the entire surface has changed to an all-weather one, I’m not so sure. Jaameh carries a penalty for a couple of recent successes and may get involved.

Good Run will need cheekpieces to revitalise his career, but isn’t totally ruled out. Seamour has been close to winning this race in the past but is now higher in the weights, although he should be in the mix again. James Fanshawe has two pretty interesting ones.

Lord George carries a low weight and jockey George Wood claims a further 3lbs off his back. He’s not guaranteed stamina wise, but his stablemate Higher Power is. I like Higher Power and we saw both Fanshawe and Tom Queally teaming up for success at Royal Ascot last week with The Tin Man. Higher Power ran well when runner-up behind Big Orange at Sandown, with that form looking rock solid after the latter powered home in the Ascot Gold Cup.

Natural Scenery is the other that interests me. He was put at the rear at Lingfield last time and simply wasn’t put in with a chance of winning. Josephine Gordon returns to the saddle and it may be a very different story for Natural Scenery over a track and trip we know she should love.

The two each-way bets for the Northumberland Plate are Natural Scenery and Higher Power.

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