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Australia is chasing a derby double at the Curragh

Updated: Friday, 27 Jun 2014 14:47 | Comments

Australia wants fast ground
Australia wants fast ground

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Australia will emulate his parents if he manages to follow up his win at Epsom in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh tomorrow.

A son of the brilliant Galileo out of Ouija Board, he is bred to win Classics and after falling just short in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket he lived up to his promise in the Investec Derby, never looking in any trouble.

Both Galileo in 2001 and Oaks heroine Ouija Board three years later managed to pull off the double, and Australia is a long odds-on shot with the bookmakers to provide trainer Aidan O'Brien with his 11th win in the Curragh showpiece.

Joseph O'Brien is the jockey who gets to ride him and is excited about the weekend.

He said: "I'm looking forward to it. He travelled great and did everything well at Epsom. I'm really looking forward to it."

The O'Briens have been on weather-watch, however, and will not run the star colt if there is too much give in the ground.

Geoffrey Chaucer, Orchestra and Kingfisher also represent the powerful Ballydoyle stable.

Despite plenty of rain being forecast on Thursday night, only five millimetres fell and the ground remained good to firm on Friday morning.

Speaking at Tipperary on Thursday night, O'Brien senior said: "We all know he wants fast ground. There's a lot of rain forecast for Saturday morning. A lot can change. We want to run him, but he doesn't want soft ground."

Some rain fell overnight, but Curragh manager Paul Hensey said: "We had just under five millimetres, but the going remains good to firm.

"There are a few showers around on Friday and we could catch some of them, they'd be welcome actually.

"If we didn't catch any of them we might put a splash of water on tonight. There's been quite some discrepancy in the forecasts this week.

"We're in a good place at the moment, it's a fine balance and we certainly wouldn't want to inconvenience anyone by putting too much on, but if the rain fell we can do nothing about that.

"It would be terrific to see the big two face each other again. Kingston Hill is already here and looks magnificent."

Kingston Hill was the only horse to seriously give the winner a race at Epsom, but is the opposite of Australia in that his team want rain, as trainer Roger Varian would be reluctant to run his stable star on anything faster than good ground.

"Ponfeigh has a terrific turn of foot and hopefully the step up in trip won't catch him out" - John Oxx

Jockey Andrea Atzeni would love him to run, but understands it would be in the horse's best interests not to race on ground too fast.

"Obviously I'm really looking forward to the race, it's a big weekend for me," said Atzeni.

"He probably won't run if it's too quick, though. He's a horse for the future, but it would be great if he did run.

"I think he'd have a great chance if he did. It is hard to say he's going to win with a horse like Australia in the field, but you'd have to think he'd be thereabouts. He must have a massive chance.

"It's not all about tomorrow with him, there are lots of races after tomorrow that he can run in over 10 and 12 furlongs.

"I've no doubt he's got the pace for 10 furlongs, but the ground is so important to him.

"It's still good to firm there now and it's been so dry of late it would take a lot of rain to change it."

Dermot Weld's Fascinating Rock made great strides earlier in the season, winning a maiden, the Ballysax Stakes and being awarded the Derrinstown Derby Trial but he suffered a rough passage at Epsom and came home eighth.

He is another who will not be at home on fast ground, with Weld stating he would not run unless he felt the ground was safe.

John Oxx has never been known for running horses in big races he thinks have little chance, so the fact he has declared Ponfeigh may be noteworthy.

He has won his last two races like an improving colt but steps up markedly in trip.

"He is a horse we have always liked and that is why we have kept him in the race. He had a bit of a setback in April but he has got over that now. He has had two quick runs, but he appears to have taken those races well," said Oxx.

"Ponfeigh has a terrific turn of foot and hopefully the step up in trip won't catch him out.

"The race is worth a lot of money and it is great to have a horse good enough to run in it."

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