Heffernan Calls Dibs On Santiago As Ballydoyle Dominate Irish Derby Field


It’s been a heated topic for many in recent years, and Ballydoyle will once again field a huge team for a classic on Irish shores. The fifteen-strong field for Ireland’s third Classic will feature no less than six Aidan O’Brien trained runners, and with his sons also fielding runners for the biggest flat race of the Irish season, it really is going to be a family affair.

Heffernan Snaps Up Santiago

With Ryan Moore on the English side of the Irish Sea, it’s Seamie Heffernan who will be calling dibs on the most fancied Aidan O’Brien runner for this year’s Irish Derby. It’s taken a while, but Santiago has really come into his own in two recent starts, winning a mile maiden at Listowel before relishing a step up to fourteen furlongs to land the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.

Dropping back two furlongs does present a question mark for the strong-stayer, but given the way he travelled at Royal Ascot, there is unlikely to be much of an issue in the way of pace. The Derby is sure to be run at a true pace and it’s unsurprising to see Heffernan choose in this way.

Aidan O’Brien was positive on the chances of the market favourite, saying: “When Santiago ran at Ascot he was very fit coming into it. We think the Curragh will suit him and that’s why he’s going back“.

Ballydoyle Battalion On The March

Given jockey bookings and a bit of help from the market, O’Brien’s second string looks to be Arthur’s Kingdom. Despite being highly touted throughout his career, he’s won just one of his five career starts, filling out second on all of the other four occasions. He was upped to the Derby trip at Royal Ascot on his latest outing, where he was second to Pyledriver in the King Edward VII.

Given that Royal Ascot was his first run of the season, he should come on plenty, and the Curragh is a track that should play to his strengths on paper. That being said, he’d certainly be helped out by a dash of rain.

Of the other O’Brien runners, Dawn Patrol arrives as one of three Ballydoyle runners without a career win. He returned this season with a second to Tiger Moth at Leopardstown in a ten-furlong maiden and although both need to improve, that’s impossible to discount given the lack of runs and the step up in distance for both.

Iberia won his debut at the Curragh back in July 2019 over seven furlongs but is yet to score in five subsequent starts. He returned this season when third in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown where the blinkers didn’t look to have helped matters. Regardless, he’s one who needs to prove his stamina. Order Of Australia is one of the outsiders and was no match for Tiger Moth or Dawn Patrol on his second career start.

Irish Derby A Family Affair

Away from Aidan, both of his sons, Joseph and Donnacha, field runners in this year’s Irish Derby. Joseph comes armed with a trio, fielding unbeaten Group 3 winner Crossfirehurricance and gutsy filly New York Girl, who has stamina to prove after a fourth in the Irish 2000 Guineas. He also fields outsider Galileo Chrome, a course winner over ten furlongs to break his maiden earlier this month.

Donnacha will be fielding Sherpa, a Roscommon maiden winner who was two lengths behind Crossfirehurricane at the Curragh back in June.

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