06/24/2010 11:00PM

Cape Blanco vulnerable in Irish Derby


After much hand-wringing, Johnny Murtagh has decided that his mount in the $1.5 million Irish Derby at the Curragh on Sunday will be Cape Blanco. With his choice of five Aidan O'Brien-trained runners, his selection is so informative that Cape Blanco, a Galileo colt, is likely to go off as the favorite in the 1 1/2-mile classic.

Cape Blanco beat subsequent Epsom Derby winner Workforce by 3 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/4-mile, 88-yard Dante Stakes but was 10th as the 2-1 favorite in the French Derby, having engaged in a good bumping match early in the stretch. Even with Murtagh in the irons, he looks a bit vulnerable. A half-brother to Dixie and Kelso Stakes winner Mr O'Brien, he is not sure to stay 12 furlongs.

Murtagh had ridden Jan Vermeer to a fourth-place finish behind Workforce in the Epsom Derby, a race in which Jan Vermeer failed as the 9-4 favorite after having thrown both front shoes. By Montjeu out of a Pennekamp mare, he too is not certain to stay the trip. A third O'Brien trainee, Midas Touch, followed a win in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial with a well-beaten fifth-place finish at Epsom, but the fourth O'Brien runner, At First Sight, nearly stole the Derby serving as a pacesetter, finishing seven lengths second behind Workforce. Since then, however, he was fourth in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes, so he may be forgiven if he runs short of breath after all that racing. O'Brien will employ course-and-distance handicap winner Bright Horizon as his rabbit on Sunday.

Frankie Dettori rode ex-handicapper Monterosso to a 2 1/4-length victory in the Edward VII at Royal Ascot last Friday, and trainer Mark Johnston is wheeling him right back in the Irish Derby. A Dubawi colt, he will be facing better horses this time, and this will be his fourth race in 44 days.

This is a wide-open Irish Derby, and Puncher Clynch has as good a chance as any at 20-1. By Azamour, winner of the 1 1/2-mile King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, he has been prepared by Jim Bolger for this race since beating At First Sight by a short head in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Ballysax Stakes on April 18. His freshness will be an aid in a race with a number of well-tried horses. With Kevin Manning aboard, he is taken to end O'Brien's streak of five consecutive Irish Derby victories.

O'Brien going solo in Railway

O'Brien has won the Group 2, $123,000 Railway Stakes, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds, the last five years, 10 times in the last 11 years, and 12 times overall. Yet the master of Ballydoyle will saddle only Samuel Morse in Sunday's renewal.

A listed winner going five furlongs at the Curragh, Samuel Morse, a Danehill Dancer colt, was only fourth behind the impressive Strong Suit in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. The speedy Clondinnery won a six-furlong listed race at Cork two weeks ago, while High Award won a similar event at Epsom. Either could tap Samuel Morse out.