JESSICA Harrington has had a phenomenal year so far and bids to cause a major upset in today’s Irish Derby with the largely unconsidered Grandee.
Gold Cup hero Sizing John, owned by Barnsley-born Alan Potts and his wife Ann, was one of three winners for the Moone-based trainer at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
She continued her purple patch on home soil with several victories at Punchestown, as well as landing the Irish Grand National with Our Duke in between.
Although considered a National Hunt trainer by trade, Harrington has proved just as adept on the Flat this year, enjoying notable success with the likes of Alpha Centauri, Brother Bear, Torcedor and Grandee himself, who was an impressive winner of Leopardstown’s King George V Cup last month.
The three-year-old faces a major step up in class for this weekend’s Classic, but Harrington feels he deserves his place in the field.
“He stayed on really well at Leopardstown. It’s a very big step up for Saturday, but he’s been in good form and he’s improved with each run this year,” she said.
“It’s great to have a horse that’s even good enough to run in the Irish Derby. If he could run into a place I’d be delighted with him.”
Grandee is part of a nine-strong field headed by shock Epsom Derby hero Wings Of Eagles. Trainer Aidan O’Brien has saddled a record 11 previous winners of the Irish Derby and Wings Of Eagles is one of five Ballydoyle representatives in this year’s renewal.
Padraig Beggy, once associated with Malton trainer John Quinn, steered Wings Of Eagles to his surprise Epsom success, but is replaced by Ryan Moore this weekend.
Meteor Light will bid to complete a three-timer when he contests the feature £50,000 handicap on York’s newly-established seven-race card.
The lightly-raced three-year-old has only had three career starts, triumphing in his last two. Trainer Ed Vaughan’s charge opened his account at Nottingham in early May before winning a handicap at Leicester.
“He is a progressive horse, who won nicely last time from a tricky draw,” said the trainer. “I know it’s soft ground at York but a bit of juice won’t hinder him, that’s for sure.
“And I think the track will suit him, also. It’s a nice, flat, galloping track – it’s a no excuses track for any horse, really.
“He still doesn’t know a whole lot about racing – he’ll improve again for another run. I think he is probably in better shape than he ever has been. Since his last run, he has eaten well, is looking great and he’s in great form with himself. He has slipped into a decent handicap off a nice low weight so it’s worth taking the chance.”
However, by York’s high-class standards, this is not a meeting for the purists.
It is a revenue-generator, hence the ‘gimmick’ of a five-furlong Flat race for jump jockeys, prior to the headline act for many – a concert after racing by Olly Murs.