Harrington eyes Derby glory
Jessica Harrington has had a phenomenal year so far and bids to cause a major upset in Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby with the largely unconsidered Grandee.
Gold Cup hero Sizing John was one of three winners for the Moone-based trainer at the Cheltenham Festival in March and she continued her purple patch on home soil with several victories at Punchestown, as well as landing the Irish Grand National with Our Duke in between.
Although considered a National Hunt trainer by trade, Harrington has proved just as adept on the Flat this year, enjoying notable success with the likes of Alpha Centauri, Brother Bear, Torcedor and Grandee himself, who was an impressive winner of Leopardstown's King George V Cup earlier in the month.
The three-year-old faces a major step up in class for this weekend's Classic, but Harrington feels he deserves his place in the field.
"He stayed on really well at Leopardstown. It's a very big step up for Saturday, but he's been in good form and he's improved with each run this year," she said.
"It's great to have a horse that's even good enough to run in the Irish Derby.
"If he could run into a place I'd be delighted with him."
Grandee is part of a nine-strong field headed by shock Epsom Derby hero Wings Of Eagles.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien has saddled a record 11 previous winners of the Irish Derby and Wings Of Eagles is, along with Capri, Douglas Macarthur, Taj Mahal and The Anvil, one of five Ballydoyle representatives in this year's renewal.
Padraig Beggy steered Wings Of Eagles to his surprise Epsom success, but is replaced by Ryan Moore this weekend.
Seamie Heffernan partners Capri, Donnacha O'Brien rides Douglas Macarthur, Wayne Lordan is booked to ride Taj Mahal and the trainer's daughter, Ana O'Brien, gets the leg up on The Anvil.
British hopes rest upon the shoulders of the John Gosden-trained Cracksman, who was just a length behind Wings Of Eagles when third at Epsom.
Gosden, who broke his Irish Derby duck with Jack Hobbs in 2015, was quick to snap up the services of jockey Pat Smullen to replace the sidelined Frankie Dettori.
The Jim Bolger-trained Dubai Sand and Andre Fabre's French Derby runner-up Waldgeist complete the line-up.
Evan Arkwright, commercial manager of the Curragh Racecourse, said: "I think we're all very happy with the final field for the Derby.
"There are nine runners and it looks a seriously quality renewal. It looks the best race in Europe run so far this year for three-year-olds from our point of view.
"It's great to have a French runner in the race as it's been a while since we have."
Heavy rain was forecast to hit the County Kildare circuit, but the ground remained good to yielding on the round round course and yielding on the straight course at 5pm.
"We were forecast quite a bit of rain today, possibly as much as 20 millimetres, but that hasn't materialised as yet," said Arkwright.
"They say it's been lashing down in Dublin all day, but we've avoided it here so far.
"I think there are odd showers around on Friday, but it's looking like it's going to mainly dry, which is good.
"The track is in great order and all the facilities are looking brilliant.
"Derby day is an all-ticket affair and there will be no tickets available on the gate, but there are plenty of tickets available for both Friday and Sunday.
"Sunday in particular looks a very strong card and we're looking forward to it."