Ambiente Friendly Goes for Curragh Gold

This season has already witnessed one British-trained Classic runner-up travel across the Irish Sea to go one better, with Richard Hannon’s Rosallion following up his second-placed effort in the 2000 Guineas when getting up late to deny stablemate Haatem in the Irish version of this race.

This coming weekend may see a repeat of that trend, with James Fanshawe confirming his Epsom Derby runner-up Ambiente Friendly will tackle the Irish Derby on Sunday afternoon rather than the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday week. There are two plus points to that decision. Firstly, the Gleneagles colt will stick to a trip over which he has performed so well, and secondly, he steers clear of Derby conqueror City Of Troy, who goes to Sandown for the Eclipse.

No City Of Troy, But O’Brien Battalions Lie in Wait

Impressive Epsom hero City Of Troy may head elsewhere, but you don’t claim an Irish Derby without getting past Aidan O’Brien. The 15-time winner looks set to put up a bold defence of the title, having landed the 2023 edition with Auguste Rodin.

10 colts stood their ground on Wednesday afternoon – six of whom hailed from the O’Brien operation. Comments from the trainer suggest that Agenda, Chief Little Rock, and The Euphrates are unlikely to take up the engagement, most probably leaving the Ballydoyle maestro with a three-pronged attack of Los Angeles, Grosvenor Square, and Euphoric.

With Grosvenor Square beaten by over 10 lengths in the Chester Vase and Euphoric 17 lengths adrift of City Of Troy at Epsom, Los Angeles appears to boast much the strongest claims. Already a Group 1 winner, having landed the Criterium de Saint-Cloud as a juvenile, he returned with a win in the Derby Trial Stakes at Leopardstown, before running a gallant race in third at Epsom. That effort leaves him with 3¼l lengths to find with Ambiente Friendly, with the market rating him a general 13/8 shot behind the 11/10 British raider.

Other Contenders

Besides the O’Brien trio, Ger Lyons’ Keeper’s Heart is the only Irish-trained runner remaining in the field. Having come up short in Listed and Group 3 events in his two most recent outings, he has work to do on the form book. If there is to be an upset, it may come from one of the two other British runners in the field.

David Menusier’s Sunway is a proven Group 1 performer, following his win in the 2023 edition of the Criterium International, but is zero from three in the current campaign. That said, he posted a solid effort to finish within five lengths of the winner in the French Derby last time when slightly unlucky in running.

Roger Varian’s Matsuri is an unknown quantity at this level but is a horse on a sharp upward trajectory. Showing promise in two starts last season, the son of Sea The Stars exploded into life on his first start at three – slamming the field by eight lengths at Leicester – looking a class apart from his Class 4 rivals. This is a huge step up, but he appeals on pedigree and is held in the highest regard by connections. A fascinating contest awaits.