SIX months ago the racehorse Jack Hobbs was an unknown. Now he is odds-on favourite to win the 150th renewal of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby after an meritorious rise through the ranks that would have found favour with the colt’s cricketing namesake.
This is why. Two days after Christmas, the horse won a seemingly mundane maiden under floodlights at Wolverhampton when beating 11 other runners to the first prize of £2,911. The contrast could not have been greater to the sweeping expanse of the Curragh where today’s Classic takes place.
After winning a Sandown handicap in convincing style, the John Gosden-trained Jack Hobbs chased home stablemate Golden Horn in both the Betfred Dante Stakes at York and Investec Epsom Derby.
Yet, with Golden Horn set to stick to 10-furlongs and reappear in next weekend’s Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, Jack Hobbs has the chance to shine and vindicate Gosden’s patient approach with the colt.
Although the horse was bred by Gosden’s wife Rachel Hood and two university runs, it now runs in the vibrant blue colours of Godolphin after Sheikh Mohammed’s racing operation bought a stake in Jack Hobbs in the hope that he matures into a champion.
And today’s one and a half mile test, on a galloping track, should play to the strengths of William Buick’s mount according to Gosden.
“He’s a tall, rangy horse and he’ll be having a nice break after this until the autumn as I wouldn’t want to race him on through the summer. I think a galloping track like the Curragh should suit him well,” said the trainer as he seeks to win Ireland’s premier classic for the first time
“I’m very happy with him, he worked last Saturday and I was very happy, he worked with a lead horse and Robert Havlin rode him, he was nicely clear on the bridle at the end.
“He took Epsom very well, he ate up and all of that, he’s a big boy. We fully respect the quality of the field, which includes an Oaks winner Qualify, but it’s not a race I got greatly involved with in the past, so it would be extremely nice to win.”
Jack Hobbs is reopposed by four horses who finished behind him at Epsom, including the third, Storm The Stars.
The Sea The Stars colt has four and a half lengths to make up with the Gosden runner and Skipton-born trainer William Haggas admits it looks a tough ask.
“The horse is very well and we came to the conclusion if we didn’t run he couldn’t win,” said Haggas. “John’s horse looked marvellous before the Derby at Epsom and ran a pretty good race, so he’ll be hard to beat.”
Qualify, a shock 50-1 winner at Epsom, is one of four runners for Aidan O’Brien as he chases an astonishing 12th Irish Derby success. The No 1 hope on jockey bookings appears to be French Derby runner-up Highland Reel, with Ryan Moore still buoyed by his astonishing week at Royal Ascot.