Aidan O’Brien knows the Curragh like the back of his hand and is hoping Santiago can land him a 14th victory in Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, writes Will Jennings.
It’s been 23 years since Desert King first got the ball rolling for the master of Ballydoyle and it hasn’t stopped since.
O’Brien is firing six horses at the 1m4f battle as he vies for a third victory in just four years.
Santiago and Arthur’s Kingdom spearhead his charge but will face stern opposition from the training trio of Joseph O’Brien, Jim Bolger and Jessica Harrington, as Harrington bids to become the maiden female to win the prestigious race as a trainer.
And Jim Bolger and Donnacha O’Brien also saddle entries, as 15 runners go to post on Saturday evening with the race broadcast live to the nation on RTE 2.
Santiago (jockey: Seamie Heffernan, trainer: Aidan O’Brien)
The favourite and rightly so.
Santiago outlined his class in the Royal Ascot’s Queen’s Vase last week, triumphing by a convincing two-and-three-quarter-lengths with the prolific Ryan Moore on board.
Santiago was beaten by Coronation Stakes winner Alpine Star in his second outing at Galway, but a pair of wins since makes him O’Brien’s most likely chance of landing a stunning 14th Irish Derby win.
Arthur's Kingdom (jockey: Wayne Lordan, trainer: Aidan O'Brien)
There’s heaps of love out there for Arthur’s Kingdom, son of 2012 Irish Derby winner Camelot.
He gave his all for second in the King Edward VII at Ascot and has never finished outside the first two in five starts.
Ballydoyle will hope he settles quickly, ridden by Wayne Lordan for the first time and also making a maiden appearance in cheekpieces.
Crossfirehurricane (jockey: Shane Crosse, trainer: Joseph O’Brien)
Crossfirehurricane comes into the contest bidding to extend his flawless record, having triumphed at the same course against Gold Maze on Guineas weekend.
And trainer O’Brien knows the recipe for success at the Curragh, winning the race twice as a jockey and then as a trainer with Latrobe in 2018.
Fiscal Rules (jockey: Kevin Manning, trainer: Jim Bolger)
Bolger knows what it takes to win this race and Fiscal Rules is used to mixing it with the big boys. He finished second behind Wichita in his first start and then was a decent fifth in the Qipco 2000 Guineas a fortnight ago.
It’s a big step up from a mile and he looks a little short at 7-1.
Sherpa (jockey: Billy Lee, trainer: Donnacha O'Brien)
Fancy Blue showed very nicely for Donnacha in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas and lightly-raced Sherpa goes forward in the next Classic on the calendar.
He finished third in the Gallinule Stakes behind two horses that feature in the field and with Billy Lee on board, is fancied to place.
Dawn Patrol (jockey: Ronan Whelan, trainer: Aidan O’Brien)
Dawn Patrol finished a close second over 1m2f at Leopardstown earlier this month, with stablemate Tiger Moth reigning supreme that day.
And with his third ever outing now looming large, O'Brien's horse will be hoping to outline all his precocity - after also coming fourth at Tipperary on debut.
Gold Maze (jockey: Shane Foley, trainer: Jessica Harrington)
Looked to enjoy the trip in the Gallinule and so going two furlongs further shouldn’t be a problem.
Shane Foley has already won the Irish 1000 and 2000 Guineas and will be spoiling to add the Derby to his collection.
Iberia (jockey: Michael Hussey, trainer: Aidan O'Brien)
Might be asked by Ballydoyle to frontrun and set the pace for the rest of the squad to track.
The colt won in his maiden at Curragh last year but is not expected to lay a glove on the leaders.
New York Girl (jockey: Declan McDonogh, trainer: Joseph O’Brien)
New York Girl is vying to become the first filly to beat the boys since Balanchine in 1994, when Frankie Dettori piloted Hilal Ibrahim’s horse to a memorable triumph.
Salsabil was another female horse to win in 1990 and if O’Brien’s star can improve on her fourth-placed finish in the Irish 1000 Guineas, she has every chance of doing the same.
Tiger Moth (jockey: Emmet McNamara, trainer: Aidan O'Brien)
This will be a big learning experience on his third start.
Don’t rule out a good run having beaten Dawn Patrol and Order of Australia and won a maiden at Leopardstown 18 days ago.
Chiricahua (jockey: Colin Keane, trainer: Ger Lyons)
It’s been a pair of second-places for Lyons’ star since his debut at Navan in October, before showing signs of promise in losing narrowly to Nobel Prize at Naas.
And with Irish 2000 Guineas-winning jockey Colin Keane on board, Lyons will be hoping his go-to rider can make it a pair of Irish Classics in the space of a fortnight.
Order of Australia (jockey: Padraig Beggy, trainer: Aidan O’Brien)
Genetics suggest O’Brien’s colt will be well-placed to challenge, with sire Australia winning this race in 2014 with Joseph O’Brien on board.
And jockey Padraig Beggy is no stranger to Irish Derby hegemony, winning the race on Sovereign last year as Order of Australia arrives after a good third at Leopardstown.
Sunchart (jockey: Ben Coen, trainer: Andrew Slattery)
Andrew Slattery has talked up this high-class colt and warded off concerns after a disappointing display in the Derrinstown Derby Trial.
Reasons to believe his trainer include victory at Tipperary as a two-year-old and particularly, second-place behind favourite Santiago on his first start at Listowel.
King of the Throne (jockey: Rachael Blackmore, trainer: Emmet Mullins)
What can Rachael Blackmore expect to get out of her first ever ride in the Derby?
Not much on the strength of the form, with King of the Throne’s best result second by a head from Galileo Chrome over 1m2f earlier this month.