Updated on 09/17/2011 11:39AM

Irish strong in Epsom Derby


Irish eyes should be smiling after the Epsom Derby on Saturday as the three favorites in the $2.4 million, Group 1 classic, Refuse to Bend, Alamshar and Brian Boru, all hail from the Emerald Isle.

Dermot Weld will saddle the likely favorite in 2000 Guineas winner Refuse to Bend. A son of Sadler's Wells, Refuse to Bend was always going to prefer something longer than the mile of the Guineas, but he may just lack the stamina for Epsom's testing 1 1/2 miles.

The same might be said of Alamshar, the winner of the 1 1/4-mile Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown May 11. But Alamshar has stamina on his dam's side in French Oaks winner Shaarastani and disqualified English Oaks winner Aliysa. His trainer John Oxx was successful with his only other Derby runner three years ago, Sinndar, and Alamshar has drawn ideally in post 8, practically in the middle of the 20-horse field.

Alamshar is owned by the Aga Khan, who is bidding for an unprecedented Derby double as his runner Dalakhani won the Prix du Jockey-Club on Sunday.

Alamshar has the perfect action needed to handle the hills and unbanked turns at Epsom, and with Johnny Murtagh aboard can prevail in a tight fit.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien is seeking his third consecutive victory in the 224th running of Europe's richest race, running Brian Boru and three others - Alberto Giacometti, Balestrini, and The Great Gatsby.

Brian Boru was third behind Alamshar at Leopardstown May 11, so there is little value at 7-2. By Sadler's Wells out of Eva Luna, Brian Boru should stay the trip, but he does not appear to be in the same class as O'Brien's two previous Derby winners, High Chaparral and Galileo.

The Great Gatsby is another son of Sadler's Wells. He split Alamshar and Brian Boru at Leopardstown and is capable of springing an upset with jockey Pat Eddery, who is seeking his fourth Derby triumph.

Magistretti, trained by Neville Callaghan for Michael Tabor, comes out of a victory in the key British Derby prep, the Dante Stakes, while Kris Kin was successful in the Dee Stakes for Michael Stoute. Godolphin's only runner is the 40-1 Graikos.

Orby was the first Irish-trained horse to win the Epsom Derby, in 1907. The 2003 running should produce a fourth consecutive Irish triumph in England's most famous race.