Smullen expecting huge battle to win third Irish Derby

Pat Smullen wins the 2015 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Harzand

Irish champion flat Jockey Pat Smullen is expecting a big challenge from Wings Of Eagles at the Curragh this Saturday as he bids to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby for the third time in his career.

Smullen was yesterday confirmed aboard the John Gosden-trained Cracksman with regular pilot Frankie Dettori currently sidelined by injury.

Gosden has wasted no time in securing the services of Smullen, who will be bidding for a third Irish Derby success following Grey Swallow in 2004 and Harzand last year.

Smullen told RTÉ Sport that he's delighted to have got the ride on one of the race favourites who finished a close third to Wings of Eagles in the Epsom Derby and is expecting the pair to renew rivalries this weekend.

"It’s a hugely demanding race course [Epsom] on both man and beast. That said, Cracksman seemed to handle it pretty well as any horse in the race.

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"He goes into the Curragh in tremendous form. The Epsom winner [Wings of Eagles]is there as well and I’m sure he has improved as well.

"It all depends on where these colts get to this time of year. It depends on who has improved the most from Epsom.

"I’d be very hopeful of a big run."

Cracksman is one of 12 colts still in contention following the confirmation stage and trainer Gosden is eagerly looking forward to the race.

"Cracksman is in great form and I’m very happy with him. All being well we are going to the Curragh on Saturday, it is a lovely track and I think it will suit him," he said.

"They are two very nice horses from Epsom and I thought Wings Of Eagles was impressive in the Derby.

"I’m very clear in my mind that he would have been an unlucky loser as he was stopped twice in running and still won it at the finish. I don't think it was a fluke but the pair of them are nice horses and it will be great to see them meet up at the Curragh."

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