06/26/2014 10:17AM

Australia heavily favored in Irish Derby


Australia and Kingston Hill, first and second in the English Derby on June 7, meet for the second time in a month in Saturday’s $1,687,500 Irish Derby at The Curragh.

While the two were separated by only 1 1/4 lengths in the English Derby, there might be little suspense to the Group 1 Irish Derby, run over 1 1/2 miles on turf. As of Thursday, Australia was the 1-3 favorite with Irish bookmakers to give trainer Aidan O’Brien his 11th career win in Ireland’s top race for 3-year-olds. Kingston Hill was listed as a 7-2 shot.

O’Brien won the Irish Derby for the first time in 1997, and in 2001-02 and from 2006-12. Last year, Trading Leather, trained by Jim Bolger, won the Irish Derby.

For Saturday’s race, Australia will be ridden by O’Brien’s son, Joseph, the only jockey to partner with the Galileo colt, who is out of Ouija Board, the winner of the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Lone Star Park.

Australia has won three of five starts. The Epsom Derby was his first win in a Group 1, preceded by a third to Night of Thunder in the English 2000 Guineas on May 3.

O’Brien has four of the seven starters in the Irish Derby, including Geoffrey Chaucer, Kingfisher, and Orchestra. Fascinating Rock, eighth in the English Derby for trainer Dermot Weld, and Ponfeigh, who makes his stakes debut for trainer John Oxx, are the other runners.

Kingston Hill, trained in England by Roger Varian, won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October in his final start at 2. He was eighth in the English 2000 Guineas before rebounding to finish a game second to Australia in the Epsom Derby.

Gentildonna returns in Takarazuka Kinen

Gentildonna, the winner of the last two runnings of the Japan Cup and the $5 million Sheema Classic in Dubai in March, returns to racing in Sunday’s $2.7 million Takarazuka Kinen over 1 3/8 miles on turf at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan.

A 5-year-old mare, Gentildonna was third in the 2013 Takarazuka Kinen to Gold Ship, who is part of this year’s race. The Grade 1 race has a maximum field of 18, with 10 runners voted on by fans in a ballot similar to an all-star game.

Gold Ship, Win Variation, who was second in the springtime running of the Tenno Sho this year, and Gentildonna finished in the top three in the balloting.