Santiago Sets The Standard In Irish Derby

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Santiago | Racing Post

In this topsy-turvy season, Saturday's G1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at The Curragh has a large field including six well-regarded maidens who have been unable to open their account before the big day largely due to its proximity to the real start of the current campaign. Half-chances are situated everywhere in the line-up, but this one-off renewal could be an open-and-shut case if Santiago (Ire) (Authorized {Ire}) is able to replicate his success in Royal Ascot's G2 Queen's Vase eight days previously. Aidan O'Brien's horses have a remarkable record when backed up in such a short time and his 2 3/4-length success from the Listed Lingfield Derby Trial runner-up Berkshire Rocco (Fr) (Sir Percy {GB}) in last week's 14-furlong contest stands up to the closest inspection. Runner-up to Alpine Star (Ire) (Sea the Moon {Ger}) as a 2-year-old at the Galway festival in August, the bay was always one set to come into his own tackling middle distances this term and it will be a surprise if he is not aided by a strong pace with Ballydoyle so well-represented.

Santiago would be providing the former Haras du Logis-based Authorized with a first Classic here, having been bought in utero by Robert Nataf of Horse France as he purchased the 4-year-old filly Wadyhatta (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}) at Arqana's 2016 Summer Sale. Coolmore must have appreciated the foal as a physical specimen to hold on to the relative of the dual Group 1-winning sire Tamayuz (GB) and the miraculous Urban Sea (Miswaki) and it is now paying rich dividends. It will be an extremely rare occurrence should Coolmore win a European Classic with the son of a sire who stands in Turkey–Authorized was sold to that country's Jockey Club last year–but this is the kind of year when strange things are going to happen. He benefits from having Seamie Heffernan in the saddle, who with three renewals since Soldier of Fortune (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) smashed up the field in 2007 is the Classic's most successful current rider.

“He seems to be in good form since Ascot–he obviously hasn't done much,” O'Brien said of Santiago. “He's a horse we always thought would stay and that's why he went to the race in Ascot. It will be interesting coming back to a mile and a half as well. I think he's versatile enough ground-wise.”

Joseph O'Brien denied his father two years ago with Latrobe (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) and could easily do the same again with Scott Heider's unbeaten Crossfirehurricane, who bids to provide Kitten's Joy with a second European Classic winner in less than a month. Heider's racing operation has come a long way since the California champion Answer Do (To-Agori-Mou {Ire}) gave him the ideal kickstart in the early nineties and the Omaha-based real estate developer bred this chestnut with Craig Bernick's Glen Hill Farm. His dam is a half to the G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches heroine Flotilla (Fr) (Mizzen Mast) from a fast family and while there was genuine Classic class in his defeat of the G2 Beresford S. third Gold Maze (GB) (Golden Horn {GB}) and Sherpa (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) in the G3 Gallinule S. over 10 furlongs here last time June 12, this trip is the unknown.

“Throughout his whole career he's been progressive, with each run he's taken a big step up with a career-best last time out over 10 furlongs. He earned his spot by winning the Gallinule,” Joseph O'Brien said of Crossfirehurricane. “He had a couple of runs on the all-weather, winning both impressively, and then he went on to the Gallinule last time. That was his first run over 10 furlongs and obviously the Derby is another step up by two furlongs, but if you're not in you can't win. He has a fantastic will-to-win. I'd be a little worried if it went very soft, as he handles the all-weather well and won well on good-to-firm last time.”

Runner-up in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October, Arthur's Kingdom (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) fared better than stablemate Mogul (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) when splitting Pyledriver (GB) (Harbour Watch {Ire}) and Mohican Heights (Ire) (Australia {GB}) in Royal Ascot's G2 King Edward VII S. on June 16 and stamina is assured in his case. Aidan O'Brien has moved to fit the half-brother to the triple Canadian International hero Joshua Tree (Ire) by Camelot's sire Montjeu (Ire) in the cheekpieces that worked so well on Ruler of the World (Ire) in the 2013 G1 Epsom Derby. “He's a real honest, straightforward horse,” Aidan O'Brien said. “Ascot was his first run of the year, so it was a good run.”

It is guesswork as to which of Ballydoyle's June 9 Leopardstown maiden one-two-three Tiger Moth  (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Dawn Patrol (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Order of Australia (Ire) (Australia {GB}) will hold most sway here, but Dawn Patrol must have significant upside as a half-brother to the 2011 G1 Epsom Derby hero Pour Moi (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}). “Tiger Moth won nicely over a mile and a quarter the last day on nice ground and seems to be in good form since then,” Aidan O'Brien added. “We thought Dawn Patrol would stay further than the mile and a quarter and he seems to be in good order since the run, and Order of Australia is another horse who looks like he might stay further than the mile and a quarter as well.”

O'Brien was not ruling out a big show from one of his outsiders and said, “Horses are going to come from out of the clouds in this race. Nobody is going to know what's what until after this race. After it we'll know who is the best mile-and-a-half horse, what horses need to drop back to a mile and a quarter or even a mile. That's the best thing about The Curragh, you know where you are going after it, we always think. We would usually like two runs well spaced out before the Derby, but most have only had one run. I think it will be the most exciting of all, because there's so much mystery in it.”

Camelot has a big week ahead of him here and at Epsom and he is also represented here by the maiden Chiricahua (Ire), who hails from the Ger Lyons stable. Owned by another American in Mark Breen, he was last seen finishing runner-up over a mile on heavy ground at Naas in November and was protected from fast going when taken out of his intended 3-year-old reintroduction in the Gallinule.

Fittingly, last year's shock six-length Irish Derby hero Sovereign (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) is back for the first time subsequently in the G3 Comer Group International Vintage Crop S. over 14 furlongs. He meets the G1 Melbourne Cup fourth Master of Reality (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and other smart staying benchmarks as he gets his 4-year-old campaign underway. “He's just ready to start. He's done very well, but will improve plenty from the run,” Aidan O'Brien said. “Ideally we might have liked to start a couple of furlongs shorter, but the race was there to suit him so we said we'd start and go from there.”

Kicking off the day's action is Newcastle's G3 Betfair Backs Racing Welfare Chipchase S., in which Shadwell's dream run last week could carry on into this prize via the Sir Michael Stoute-trained 4-year-old Mubakker (Speightstown). Earning this tilt with a course-and-distance handicap success on June 2, the unexposed son of the GII Beaumont S. winner Ready To Act (More Than Ready) is unsurprisingly three-for-three on artificial surfaces but has something to chew on here taking on the likes of the 2017 G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest hero Brando (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), who is having his first all-weather start at the age of eight, and the June 6 G3 Palace House S. runner-up Judicial  (Ire) (Iffraaj {GB}). “We pulled him out of [Royal] Ascot last week because of the ground, he doesn't like it soft,” Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's racing manager Angus Gold said of Mubakker. “The fact he's been up to Newcastle and won should be in his favour. Hopefully he's a progressive horse and this looks the right race for him.”

Newcastle also hosts the G3 Betfair Exchange Hoppings Fillies' S., where Kirsten Rausing's 2019 Listed Height of Fashion S. winner Aloe Vera (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) faces five including Anamoine Limited's 3-year-old Virgin Snow (GB) (Gleneagles {Ire}). Ed Dunlop is hoping the daughter of one of his two star distaffers Snow Fairy (Ire) (Intikhab) can build on her win in a Haydock handicap over an extended 10 furlongs on June 9. “She's taking on older fillies and she's obviously bred to be a better 3-year-old,” he said. “It's still very much a learning curve with her and we are restricted to what races we can run in, so we've ended up taking her to Newcastle. We're not sure just yet what her optimum trip will be. We hope she might stay a little further, but she can be a bit keen in her races.”

Night of Thunder (Ire) is one of the sires of the moment and he has a duo in Newmarket's 10-furlong Listed Fairway S. headed by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing's Thunderous (Ire) who is coming back from a lengthy absence having won Newbury's Listed Washington Singer S. in August.

Back at The Curragh, the Listed GAIN First Flier S. over five furlongs sees the juveniles get their first chance of domestic black-type and Ballydoyle's Chief Little Hawk will be trying to provide Coolmore's freshman Air Force Blue with a first having been to Royal Ascot for the Listed Windsor Castle S. Seventh in that speed test on June 17, the son of the GI Matron S. heroine Marylebone (Unbridled's Song) will either come back strong for that effort or it might take its toll as he faces six rivals including SBA Racing Limited's June 10 Navan fillies' maiden scorer Frenetic (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}).

Click here for Saturday's group race fields.

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