Australia could go for a double

DOWN UNDER: Australia ridden by Joseph O’Brien on their way to victory in the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs last Saturday

DOWN UNDER: Australia ridden by Joseph O’Brien on their way to victory in the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs last Saturday

First published in Sport

AUSTRALIA, a very impressive winner of the Investec Derby at a Epsom last Saturday, could bid for the Derby double at the Curragh later this month.

Aidan O’Brien, the colt’s trainer, said: “Australia was fine after Epsom and seems to have taken the race well.

“It’s quite possible he will go to the Curragh for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby but all options are open for him.

“The lads [owners John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith] will talk about plans and we’ll make a decision about where his next race might be in the next week or ten days.”

Should Australia line up at the Curragh he is likely to cross swords again with Derby second Kingston Hill, who was reported to be on course for the Irish Classic by his trainer Roger Varian.

However, the weather may prevent the meeting with Kingston Hill’s connections keen to race on easier ground and O’Brien saying on Sunday that Australia will avoid soft ground.

“The ground will be a very important factor regardless of what race we decide on as we won’t be running him on soft ground,” O’Brien said.

Camelot, High Chaparral and Australia’s sire Galileo have all completed the Anglo-Irish Derby double for O’Brien. Ruler Of The World is the only one of the trainer’s previous four Epsom winners to had failed to follow up at the Curragh.

Next Tuesday Royal Ascot will burst into life, the highlight on the opening day being the St James Palace with Night Of Thunder and Kingman, winners of the 2,000 Guineas and Irish 2,000 Guineas set to do battle.

The Richard Hannon-trained Night Of Thunder was on top when the pair met in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, but Kingman subsequently won the Irish equivalent in style.

Another interesting runner is War Command, who flopped in the Guineas but showed his potential at the Royal meeting 12 months ago when hacking up in the Coventry.

Mark Johnston, who has trained no less than 35 winners at the Royal meeting, is sure to be well represented throughout the week, and is always a trainer to be feared at this meeting.

Wetherby, home to jump racing since 1891, moved a significant step closer to incorporating Flat racing into its annual programme following a series of full-blown trials that earned a thumbs-ups from jockeys and trainers on Tuesday morning.

Twenty-eight horses, pro vided by Richard Fahey, Brian Ellison and Mark Johnston and comprising a mixture of experienced handicappers and unraced juveniles, were put through their paces on the track on Tuesday morning over a variety of distances.

With a home straight measuring four furlongs, the minimum Flat racing distance at Wetherby will be five and a half furlongs, the start of which is on a chute at the far corner of the course.

Tony Hamilton, who rode in the first trial over that trip, said: “It’s spot-on, no problems at all. It rode brilliant and although the ground is soft today, I’d have no qualms going around there on quick ground.”

Jockey PJ McDonald, the northern riders’ safety officer, took part in several gallops over distances up to a mile and three-quarters.

He said: “You could race around here tomorrow – the bends are that well graded. It’s class.”

Today York open the gates for a quality two-day card, with the highlight coming up tomorrow in the shape of the Betbright Sprint, a £100,000 handicap for three-year-olds.

This afternoon’s action gets under way at 2pm, while tomorrow it starts five minutes later with the 26th running of The Queen Mother’s Cup, the richest race for lady amateur riders in Britain and a contest won by The Princess Royal in 1988.

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