Wings Of Eagles eyes double Derby glory

Derby winner Wings of Eagles has his eyes set on the completing the double by winning the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday.

The Epsom hero leads a five-strong Aidan O’Brien team as the Ballydoyle trainer has saddled 11 previous winners of the Curragh Classic since breaking his duck with Desert King 20 years ago.

Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012) and Australia (2014) have all completed the English-Irish Derby double for the team and Wings Of Eagles is this year’s candidate, having caused a 40-1 upset on the Surrey Downs four weeks ago.

O’Brien also saddles Capri and Douglas Macarthur, who were sixth and seventh respectively at Epsom, as well as The Anvil, who beat just one home in the premier Classic.

Completing the squad is Taj Mahal, who was fourth in the French Derby and occupied the same finishing position in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.

O’Brien said: “We are very happy with Wings Of Eagles and we’ve been happy with all the horses and their preparation for the Irish Derby on Saturday.

“In the Epsom Derby we found out a lot about all the horses and we were very happy with them all really and they seem to be quite versatile.

“Wings Of Eagles is in good form and Capri ran very well at Epsom, as Seamus (Heffernan) expected he would.

“Colm (O’Donoghue) was happy with Douglas Macarthur at Epsom and we’ve also declared Taj Mahal, who ran well at Ascot, and The Anvil.

“The Curragh is a very fair track and usually every horse if they are good enough they get a good clean shot at it. It’s one of the fairest tracks in the world.”

The only British-trained representative in this year’s line-up is John Gosden’s Cracksman, who was just a length behind Wings Of Eagles when third at Epsom.

Gosden, who broke his Irish Derby duck with Jack Hobbs in 2015, is looking forward to the rematch.

“Cracksman is in great form and we’re very happy with him,” said the Clarehaven handler.

“I thought Wings Of Eagles was impressive in the Derby and it’s very clear in my mind he would have been an unlucky loser. He was stopped twice and still won it at the finish, I don’t think it was a fluke.

“I think they are very nice horses the pair of them and it will be nice to see them meet up again at the Curragh.”

Cracksman carries the colours of owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer, who said: “The horse which won the Derby is a very good-looking horse and I expect him to prove very hard to beat again.

“For everyone else that makes it a very enjoyable race but not so much for me I’m afraid!

“I’m really looking forward to it, it looks extremely competitive, but John has been happy since Epsom.”

Dual Irish Derby-winning jockey Pat Smullen will partner Cracksman for the first time in the absence of the sidelined Frankie Dettori.

He said: “I must admit I was delighted to get the call, it’s a very good spare ride.

“Cracksman has had a little bit of time since the Derby, so has the winner, and I’m sure both of them will pitch up in tremendous form and it’s a case of whoever has improved the most from Epsom.

“I’ve the utmost respect for all of Aidan’s and the French horse (Waldgeist). At the end of the day he was only beaten a short head in the Prix du Jockey Club so that’s top-class form as well.

“It’s going to be a tough assignment but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Master French trainer Andre Fabre is expecting a bold show from Waldgeist following his narrow reverse to Brametot over a mile and a quarter in the French Derby.

Fabre has won the race twice before, with Winged Love (1995) and Hurricane Run (2005).

He said: “He’s going to run a good race. I think the extra distance will suit him and a bit of rain would help. As long as there is a good pace, which there should be, I think we’re going to see a good performance from him.

“He is a very different horse to Hurricane Run. This is a light horse with very good acceleration. He stays well and he has a big heart as well as the ability he has already shown.

“I’m a great fan of the Curragh. It is a beautiful track, well designed, you cannot be unlucky as it is a very fair course. You never see a messy race at the Curragh.”

The nine-strong Derby field is completed by the Jessica Harrington-trained Grandee, winner of the King George V Cup at Leopardstown, and Jim Bolger’s Godolphin-owned runner Dubai Sand.

Harrington said: “I don’t think he’ll mind much what the ground is like. It’s just a question of whether he’s good enough. I’m not sure he’s good enough to win, but if he could get placed it would be great.”

Bolger told “Recently, he has been working very well. He’s getting back to where he was last year in his attitude.

“Yes, he did lose his way in late spring and early summer. I had been looking at Epsom.

“So far, it looks an average year for three-year-olds, but this Derby looks a competitive race. We have the winner and third from Epsom, plus the best from France.”

Cracksman is now the 2/1 joint favourite alongside Epsom Derby winner and the Aidan O’Brien-trained, Wings Of Eagles, with both horses shortening in from 5/2 joint favourites.

Waldgeist remains priced at 3/1 with Capri at 10/1, Douglas Macarthur drifting to 12/1 from 8/1 and Venice Beach 20/1 from 16/1.

Aoife Heffron, spokeswoman for BoyleSports commented: “Despite the announcement that Pat Smullen will replace Frankie Dettori, Cracksman was unable to shake Wings Of Eagles in the betting as they both were cut into 2/1 from 5/2 apiece.

“Wings Of Eagles is edging the liability in the antepost book, but there is little between the joint favourites as punters appear to be torn ahead of the Irish Derby.”

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