06/23/2005 11:00PM

Classic runner-ups meet at Curragh


Ideally a match between the winners of the English and French Derbys, Sunday's $1.5 million Irish Derby at the Curragh loses little luster evolving into a match between the runners-up of those two classics.

Indeed, at first glance it is almost impossible to tell Hurricane Run and Walk in the Park apart. Both are trained in France: French Derby second Hurricane Run by Andre Fabre, Epsom Derby second Walk in the Park by John Hammond. Both are sons of the exciting young stallion Montjeu. And both are, in effect, owned by Michael Tabor: Walk in the Park is owned entirely by Tabor, and Hurricane Run was purchased this week by Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier, although he has been leased back to Gestut Ammerland.

Currently available from both Irish and British bookies at odds of 8-11, Hurricane Run should appreciate the step up to 1 1/2 miles. In the French Derby at Chantilly on June 5, he found 1 5/16 miles a bit short as he came charging late after drifting both left and right, only to fall a neck short of the pacesetting Shamardal. Had the race been run over its traditional distance of 1 1/2 miles, there is little doubt that Hurricane Run would have been the winner.

Kieren Fallon replaces Christophe Soumillon aboard Hurricane Run, while Alan Munro retains the ride on Walk in the Park, who finished five lengths behind Motivator in the Epsom Derby on June 4. Munro has promised to keep his charge closer to the pace this time, but Walk in the Park may also be better suited than his main rival to the galloping nature of the Curragh. A big, long-legged colt, he will be running late.

Although Motivator and Shamardal are skipping the Curragh classic in favor of a clash with older horses in the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on July 2, Hurricane Run and Walk in the Park are not short of rivals. David Wachman will send out his Epsom Derby fourth Fracas, Aidan O'Brien will saddle Epsom Derby fifth Gypsy King, and Saeed Manana has paid $115,000 to supplement maiden winner Bahar Shumaal, a Dubai Millennium colt from the family of In The Wings and High-Rise.

More dangerous may be the Aga Khan's Shalapour. A John Oxx-trained Darshaan colt whose dam is a half sister to Epsom and Irish Derby winner Shahrastani, Shalapour is expected to improve off a sharp Gowran Park allowance score at the Derby distance.

On the Derby undercard, George Washington, an Aidan O'Brien-trained Danehill half brother to Grandera, is accorded the edge over another Danehill colt, the Dermot Weld-trained Golden Arrow, in the six-furlong Group 2 Railway Stakes for 2-year-olds.