06/29/2017 1:16PM

O'Brien has five entries in nine-horse Irish Derby


He won the Epsom Derby as a 40-1 shot with little-known jockey Padraig Beggy on his back, but can Wings of Eagles score again Saturday at The Curragh under Ryan Moore as one of the favorites in the Group 1 Irish Derby?

His trainer, in his unique way, is due to win the 1 1/2-mile race; Aidan O’Brien’s Irish Derby drought stands at two long years. Before that, O’Brien had won the Irish Derby every season between 2008 and 2014, and Wings of Eagles is one of five O’Brien-trained entrants in the nine-horse Derby who could give him a 10th win.

The others are Capri, Douglas Macarthur, The Anvil – all of whom started in the Epsom Derby – and Taj Mahal, fourth June 22 in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Cliffs of Moher, who was second in the Epsom Derby under Moore, races next week in the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes. Capri was sixth at Epsom and Douglas Macarthur seventh, but Douglas Macarthur turned in the stronger performance, setting a quick pace and holding on gamely in a race that fell apart late and was dominated by closers.

Among the late runners was Wings of Eagles, whose pilot, Beggy, scored one of the least-probable major-race wins in recent European racing. Beggy rode last year in Australia before returning home to Ireland following a suspension, and the main thrust of his employment this year has been as O’Brien’s work rider.

That’s why Wings of Eagles on Saturday will have O’Brien’s first-call rider, Moore, in the saddle, but it’s possible that Moore missed out on the race of Wings of Eagles’s life.

The colt’s lone previous victory had come in a Killarney maiden race, and Wings of Eagles got a very favorable setup racing on “good” ground over Epsom’s unusually configured course. The Curragh is less idiosyncratic, and the ground is forecast to be good-to-yielding Saturday.

Skepticism regarding Wings of Eagles as well as a forecast calling for more rain brought the French invader Waldgeist to the head of the antepost betting market Thursday. Waldgeist, trained by Andre Fabre, stands an excellent chance, with a Group 1 win over soft ground and a fine second-place finish last out in the French Derby, where he was beaten a nose by Brametot. Waldgeist has yet to race beyond 1 1/4 miles, but as a son of Galileo and a Monsun mare, the 12-furlong trip should prove no impediment.

The wet weather has dampened support for Cracksman, who was scratched from the Dante Stakes because of soft ground. Cracksman’s third-place finish in the Epsom Derby was, owing to race dynamics, every bit as good as Wings of Eagles’s victory, but Cracksman probably needs substantial drying to show his best again.

Post time for the Irish Derby is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.