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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Jack Hobbs looks too good for his rivals

Irish Derby weekend is always a special occasion and this year promises to be a very enjoyable festival with real quality action across all grades from the Group One races, the two-year-old races, the other Group races and the handicaps and I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.

Looking down through the eight-runner field for the main event, I'm sure the Curragh are pleased with the line-up as they have attracted three of the first four home from the Epsom Derby and an Epsom Oaks winner, but I find it very hard to look past Jack Hobbs to become the winner.

challengers

No matter how many times you look back at the Epsom race and try to analyse it, Jack Hobbs was clearly the second best in the Derby field and it's hard to see what the rest of the challengers at the Curragh are going to do to overcome that.

Storm The Stars was four-and-a-half lengths behind Jack Hobbs at Epsom and Giovanni Canaletto another two lengths behind him and looking at Jack Hobbs, he's a big, tall horse and you'd certainly get the impression that the Curragh is going to suit him better than Epsom, so that could be ominous for the rest of the field.

The only concern I'd have for Jack Hobbs, and indeed the rest of the field, is the dry spell we've had and with that drying wind there. Hopefully, the Curragh will get enough showers to leave the ground just right, because it could get unsuitably quick if the rain doesn't arrive but I'm sure it will.

Highland Reel had a very good run in the French Derby behind New Bay and he has to be respected with Ryan Moore riding him. If Jack Hobbs doesn't win the Epsom Derby tomorrow you'd have to think it will be something that hasn't run in the Epsom Derby that is going to beat him. For me, the most likely of those is Highland Reel.

If Highland Reel improves for the step up in distance from Chantilly over 10 furlongs to the Curragh, which is 12 furlongs, I think he has to be the obvious danger.

It is very hard to know what Qualify is going to be able to do here in this race.

With the fillies' allowance and her official rating, she is the closest to Jack Hobbs going into the race but no matter how you go through her form, it's still hard to believe that she has won an Epsom Oaks. While she definitely enjoyed the faster ground and the trip, but I think she probably beat a non-stayer on the day in Legatissimo, so, although she deserves respect, it is very hard to get away from Jack Hobbs.

Dermot Weld knows what it takes to win an Irish Derby and he has achieved it twice, more than most trainers could ever dream of, but I think they are concerned about the quick ground for Radanpour.

He's unbeaten and is a tough, genuine son of Sea The Stars who I would love to see winning the race. Or better yet, dead-heat with Storm The Stars, who is also by Sea The Stars ... I certainly wouldn't argue with that result!

Sticking with tomorrow's action and the Railway Stakes looks set to be a small but very select field and I'm going to side with Jessica Harrington's colt Rockaway Valley.

Aidan has won this race on many occasions and with some very nice colts.

I remember winning it on Rock Of Gibraltar back in 2001, and he has some nice types for this year but Rockaway Valley looked really good when putting a gap between him and the rest of the field to win at the Curragh last time out and I think he could be very smart.

Rockaway Valley was just touched off by Air Vice Marshall on debut. He went to Royal Ascot and certainly didn't do the form any harm last week. Rockaway Valley won his maiden on quick ground and didn't go to Ascot so might be the fresh horse who takes the beating on this occasion.

bearing

The amount of rain that does or doesn't fall could have a big bearing on Weld's weekend as he may also decide to run Forgotten Rules in Sunday's Curragh Cup.

The lack of pace, fast ground and maybe racing inexperience caught him out a little in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, but he still ran a very fine race that connections could be proud of and it would be a big attraction for the crowd at the weekend if he was to turn up on Sunday afternoon.

It's one of those tricky situations now that we really do need to see some level of rainfall to keep the ground nice and suitable for all the high-class horses set to run over the weekend but it would also be cruel on officials at the track if it spoilt the occasion for racegoers, so, hopefully, we get a nice drop over night and it clears for the day itself tomorrow afternoon.

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