Race of The Day Saturday June 30
17:151m4f (2400m)

Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1)


  • Current Favourite  Saxon Warrior
  • Current Odds 4/5
Race Analysis Runners 12 Going Good to Firm Distance 1m4f (2400m)

Race Overview

Ireland’s premier Classic, this Curragh contest is worth a cool €855,000 to the winning connections and is, in some parts, viewed as a fairer test compared to its Epsom counterpart owing to the wide open Co Kildare track. At any rate, it takes less getting than Epsom.

Of late, the Irish Derby has been bossed by the maestro that is Aiden O’Brien who has won seven of the previous ten renewals. The Ballydoyle supremo is responsible for four of the dozen contenders this time around but he faces some strong raiding opposition from Britain keen to take his mantle.

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Favourite Saxon Warrior

Saxon Warrior leads the charge for the O’Brien team after his big-race failure at Epsom. He faced a brutally tough assignment from stall one and rarely looked like bringing it to a successful conclusion. His trainer feels he can get this trip and the high-class son of Galileo could prove up to bouncing right back and doubling his Classic tally.

Horse racing Mark Johnston

Other Contenders

Mark Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee finished a couple of places and three-lengths clear of Saxon Warrior at Epsom last time, appearing to relish every yard of the mile and a half trip on the Downs. Connections have stumped up a supplementary fee to come here and he is a major player on form. Royal Ascot winner Old Persian is in rude health and will help ensure a strong British challenge, though this is clearly his biggest ask yet. Discounting the Ballydoyle outsiders in any race is a futile exercise and so the likes of Delano Roosevelt and Rostropovich merit consideration at fancy prices.

Race Analysis

Saxon Warrior is the only starting place for this contest, as he goes in search of immediate redemption following an odds-on defeat in the Derby at Epsom this month.
That was the first defeat of his five-race career and wasn’t suffered without some mitigating factors. Barring his maiden win over a mile at this track last summer, the Galileo colt has been a steadfast prominent racer so far in his career. Drawn in stall one under Ryan Moore at Epsom, his task was a thankless one from the moment the stalls opened.

Saxon Warrior was never better than midfield through the first half of the race and plenty of energy was expended on getting into a challenging position as the Derby field rounded Tattenham corner. Victory never looked likely, though he did stay on up the home straight to finish a fair fourth. His trainer voiced the opinion afterwards that his finishing effort gave him confidence his charge could get the mile and a half trip. The proof will be contained in this pudding. Saxon Warrior is a high-class colt, that much we already know, but taking likely odds-on again is not without its risk over this distance.

On the betting his main rival will be Mark Johnston’s DEE EX BEE, second to Masar at Epsom and some three-lengths clear of Saxon Warrior in doing so.

The recent track record of British horses in this race isn’t that inspiring. John Gosden’s 2015 win with Jack Hobbs representing the only occasion since the turn of the century that the prize was exported across the Irish Sea (one French winner in that sequence too).

That said, it would be churlish to dismiss Mark Johnston’s colt here, with connections already having parted with €100,000 just to line up after supplementing the son of Farhh.

Dee Ex Bee has only won two of eight starts thus far but he has crucially raised his game in two recent starts over this sort of trip. He didn’t get the clearest of runs when second to Young Rascal in the Chester Vase and again did little wrong in running on into second behind Masar at Epsom. The winner was decisive, but Dee Ex Bee caught the eye in picking off those behind.

Johnston has his team in supreme order right now, with a 23 per-cent strike rate from 113 runners. Given that he had three-lengths to spare on Saxon Warrior and has done more to prove he wants this trip, taking the 7/2 on offer versus the odds-on jolly looks to be the wisest investment.

So what of the remainder, and is there anything we can hang our hats on at a big price?

Old Persian has also been supplemented in here having won the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot a week ago. Charlie Appleby took out the Derby at Epsom and would be seeking a fine treble but the turnaround is a concern and, in any case, the Dubawi colt has plenty of improvement to find.

O’Brien’s Rostropovich was his closest pursuer at the line that afternoon and promises to be better suited should this contest be run at a decent clip. He’s more than the double the price of Old Persian but, again, the eight-day turnaround is a concern.

The fairytale would be Latrobe, as trainer Joseph O’Brien and rider Donnacha O’Brien look to combine and put one over on their father. The brothers are more than capable, but their charge was only scoring in maiden company here last time and could find this tough.

If there is going to be major shock it might be that Platinum Warrior is the one to cause it. He was a comfortable winner of a Group 3 at this track over 1m2f last month, holding the aforementioned Latrobe at bay fairly readily.

He’s unexposed over this trip, and while he’s got some work to do with the two market leaders he may have more to offer and certainly can be given claims of making the frame. That he trades significantly bigger in the betting than Joseph O’Brien’s runner seem an anomaly here, as I’d certainly be willing to have him in a match bet with that rival. Platinum Warrior is one to consider for those happy to play for places.

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Betting.net Selection

Dee Ex Bee
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Betting.net Danger

Saxon Warrior

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Written by Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is an Irish-based racing writer with an increasing portfolio of work on British and Irish racing. His daily routine is race-by-race form analysis, both on the Flat and over jumps. While the racing world must keep on turning, he is quite sure that no horse will ever pull at his heartstrings quite as much as the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Denman.