One of the traditions of the Classics in England and Ireland is that fillies are eligible for the 2,000 Guineas and Derby but colts cannot run in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks. Even so, female horses rarely compete against the boys in the Flat races that matter most. However, New York Girl has been declared for the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday. The Joseph O’Brien trained runner can be backed at +1400 with Boylesports to win the most prestigious Flat race in Ireland.
Another rare element of the story is that the trainer was the jockey on the winning horse in 2012 (Camelot) and 2014 (Australia). As a jockey, Joseph rode many of the horses in major races trained by his father, Aidan. Despite being taller than average for a jockey, there was no suggestion of nepotism. Most of the Group 1 contenders ridden by O’Brien Jnr were owned by the Coolmore syndicate who do not tolerate any compromises because they are rumoured to like a big bet.
Fifteen horses go to post in the Irish Derby on Saturday evening (19.15 GMT) and all but five are trained by one of the O’Brien clan. Aidan O’Brien has six runners in a race he has won 13 times. Joseph accounts for three runners while the new kid on the training block, Donnacha, trains Sherpa who is not un-fancied at +1000 to win the Irish Derby. The combined price for the 10 runners trained by the O’Brien racing family is about -400 which means its +250 the field.
There is often a challenging dynamic between a very successful father and a child who is trying to make a living in the same field. Mick Channon scored 21 goals in 46 football internationals for England. He played at the highest level for Southampton and Manchester City. In a second career he is a decent racehorse trainer so is well known in two major sports. Whenever people meet his son, Mick Jnr, the first question they often ask is “How’s your Dad”?
The significance of that question is indicated by the fact the son used it for the name of his racing book in which his father is often mentioned. One of the themes is having a famous Dad which can overshadow an individual’s achievements.
Similarly, it must be difficult for Joseph O’Brien because his Dad is the most successful trainer in Irish Flat racing history. If the elder O’Brien wins another Irish Derby at the weekend, he takes his tally of Irish Classics to 44 wins, from 1997.
He trains the two market leaders in Santiago and Arthur’s Kingdom while Joseph’s horse, Crossfirehurricane, is third in the betting. The bookmakers believe Sherpa and New York Girl have the same prospects but the filly receives an allowance of three pounds. New York Girl has something to find with Santiago on ratings but she can reach the payout places. If she does make the frame, New York Girl will enhance the record of fillies in the Irish Derby.
The horse has been supplemented at a cost of €50,000 after finishing fourth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Balanchine was the last female to win the Irish Derby in 1994 and only three have taken part since that race. Qualify won the Oaks in 2015 and was then sixth in Ireland’s premier Classic. Joseph O’Brien has already trained the winner with Latrobe who won the race two years ago at a Starting Price of +1400. Aidan trained the horses who finished second to fifth in the race.
New York Girl has run to a Racing Post (RPR) rating of 105. She was beaten by a total of two and a half lengths by three of Aidan’s horses in the Guineas. The horse made a poor start and was bumped inside the final two furlongs so potentially could have finished closer to the winner. Santiago produced an RPR of 111 when winning at Royal Ascot. New York Girl will struggle to become just the 11th filly to win the Irish Derby. But it would take a brave or foolish man to bet against the winning trainer having the surname, O’Brien. It could be Aidan, Joseph or Donnacha!