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Saturday 18 November 2017

Question marks still remain over this classic generation

Rekindling winning the Group Two Curragh Cup at the Curragh. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Rekindling winning the Group Two Curragh Cup at the Curragh. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

We're into July, this year's Epsom and Irish Derbies are in the past, but it is still difficult to ascertain the depth of the three-year-old crop this year.

All the Derby trials seemed to be clouded by question marks and then the Epsom Derby itself was won by a 40/1 shot but those prominent in the betting were close behind.

Wings Of Eagles arrived at the Curragh on Saturday attempting to do the Derby double and frank the Epsom form, which was boosted at Royal Ascot by two of the also-rans winning, but at Ireland's HQ it was Capri who got the better of Cracksman and Wings Of Eagles, leading to some more head-scratching.

One of my press room colleagues felt the result of the Irish Derby was enough evidence to show that the three-year-olds of this year are an ordinary bunch, but then news emerged yesterday morning that Wings Of Eagles had suffered a serious injury at the Curragh and his racing career is over.

Also yesterday you had the success of Rekindling, albeit in a Group Two Curragh Cup over a mile and six furlongs, but it is still another of the Epsom Derby horses to run and win on a first subsequent start.

Rekindling's trainer, Joseph O'Brien, is also prepared to defend the three-year-old form for now.

He said yesterday; "A lot of people are knocking the three-year-old generation, but it will be interesting to see in the next month or six weeks."

The next test for the Classic generation comes on Saturday when attention turns to Sandown for the Coral Eclipse where Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher is likely to be joined by fellow three-year-old Eminent, and they will take on the older horses over 10 furlongs but while we question the strength of the three-year-olds this year, there appears to be little in the way of a meaningful ask of them from the older horses on Saturday.

Thus, the question marks over how good they are will rumble on to the King George at the end of the month.

Capri did shape like a horse who could come forward most from Ballydoyle's Epsom contingent at the Curragh and duly did, although Cracksman didn't really travel as well as Pat Smullen or John Gosden would have envisaged.

It'll be interesting to see if connections plot a path to Doncaster in September to have a go at the English St Leger as he was certainly doing his best work at the finish.

It must go down as a brilliant run from Wings Of Eagles, all things considered. Pulling out of his box yesterday morning he was found to be "very sore" according to O'Brien and X-rays revealed that "his sesamoid had completely come apart" the trainer revealed.

Capri is set for a break after providing O'Brien with a 12th Irish Derby success but, besides Wings Of Desire, there was to be more disappointing news from the champion trainer.

Minding, who was taken out of the Irish Champion Stakes last week, will be looked at again next month, but may run out of time to run again before the end of the season and Somehow had to be put down following an injury she sustained last week in preparation for yesterday's Pretty Polly Stakes.

Meanwhile, Flat trainers need not worry about Gordon Elliott getting in their way too much in the future.

The Grand National-winning trainer saddled his first winner in a group race on the Flat with Beckford on Saturday and while he admitted that he will restock in two-year-olds again next season, he has no interest in having any more than "half a dozen or so".

However, it still looks to be enough for him to make his mark.

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