Byline: by PEADAR FLANAGAN
iT CAME as no surprise yesterday to learn that the taps have been turned on at the Curragh ahead of the three-day Irish Derby meeting beginning on Friday. 'It's good to firm here and we are watering,' confirmed racecourse manager Paul Hensey yesterday as he awaited confirmation that King Edward VII Stakes winner Monterosso is to be supplemented today for Sunday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, which is worth a cool [euro]1.25million.
The impressive Epsom Derby Workforce skips the Curragh race, but it is sure nonetheless to be a thrilling spectacle for the huge crowd expected at headquarters.
And it is conceivable that the race may throw up a serious challenger to Workforce for the honour of becoming the season's top middle-distance three-year-old.
Michael Stoute's charge is oddson to claim that mantle at the moment, but we are less than halfway through the season and it is possible that any one of Aidan O'Brien's team, now that the stable is hitting top form again, will leave disappointing Epsom Derby form behind with a sparkling run on Sunday.
However speculative that may seem, it is certain that Sunday's winner will have to prove himself to be a colt out of the ordinary. Such has been the case virtually throughout the history of the race, particularly since its first sponsored running in 1962, when the French-trained Tambourine defeated John Oxx senior's Arctic Storm in a pulsating finish.
Twelve months ago Fame And Glory capitalised on the late withdrawal of the brilliant Sea The Stars to land the Irish Derby in breathtaking style. If some questioned the merit of that performance at the time, Fame And Glory has silenced the doubters by winning two further Group One races this season.
The five-day Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby entries will be unveiled this morning, 24 hours after 18 runners stood their ground for Saturday's glittering [euro]200,000 Pretty Polly Stakes, which heads up Saturday's programme.
The most notable entry is the Michael Bell-trained Sariska, the dual Oaks winner of last season, who finished second to Fame And Glory in the recent Coronation Cup at Epsom.
John Gosden, who won the Pretty Polly last year with Dar Re Mi, has allowed High Heeled -- third to Fame And Glory and Sariska at Epsom -- to stand her ground, while Michael Stoute has accepted with Strawberrydaiquiri, winner of the Windor Forest Stakes at Royal Ascot last week. …