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HOME GUARD IN DERBY DEFENCE; IRISH DERBY.

Byline: By GORDON BROWN

COCKY trainer Dermot Weld insists Ireland's domination of the big-time scene means today's Curragh Derby trophy has no chance of leaving the Emerald Isle.

Leading the home charge are Jim Bolger's Epsom hero New Approach and Weld's Casual Conquest who were split three weeks ago by Sir Michael Stoute's Tartan Bearer.

But given the way Aidan O'Brien and Bolger mopped up the top races at Royal Ascot it looks a huge ask for a visitor to scoop a Classic that has gone to the home brigade seven times in the past eight years.

Bolger has cast a slight doubt over New Approach's participation after heat was found in the colt's leg.

The situation was improving last night but bookies still pushed New Approach out to odds against.

Weld, meanwhile, expanded on his view that all the top horses are trained in Ireland.

He said: "I have no doubt the quality horses are here. It's no coincidence they are winning all the best races because they are simply the best horses.

"We like to keep our charges nice and relaxed and happy horses do their best.

"You won't find any raised voices in my yard and shouting is banned, even by the trainer.

"The Curragh will suit Conquest much better than Epsom but we will still find it difficult to reverse form with New Approach and Tartan Bearer.

"Five lengths is a lot to make up but it promises to be another great spectacle. I don't want to see too much rain although perfect ground should suit all the horses."

Adding spice to the occasion is the news that Jamie Spencer has been replaced on Curtain Call by Fran Berry following his performance in the saddle at Epsom.

Luca Cumani's charge, ridden by Berry throughout last year's juvenile campaign in Ireland, trailed in 10th in the Vodafone Derby and Spencer didn't sit on a Cumani horse again until yesterday.

The pair deny persistent reports of a rift but Frankie Dettori partnered the colt in a recent gallop and sources say Cumani was livid with the Epsom ride.

Berry said: "I can't wait to get back on him and it's great to have a Derby ride with such a live chance

"The weather has been spot-on for us and if even more rain comes it will suit us and count against some others.

"I haven't sat on Curtain Call since we were fifth in the Racing Post Trophy but you'd have to say his form before Epsom has been quite good.

"He was a straightforward type as a two-year-old and always appealed to me as a horse who would operate over a mile and a half. I still reckon New Approach is the one we all have to beat again. He took a keen hold at Epsom and never really settled yet his display was out of the top drawer."

New Approach, despite the scare yesterday, is still set to go off a hot jolly but that won't worry Aidan O'Brien.

The Ballydoyle wizard has five runners including Alessandro Volta and Washington Irving, sixth and fifth respectively at Epsom.

O'Brien and Johnny Murtagh have already scooped nine Group 1 races this year. And the bookies ran for cover again when the stable jockey elected to ride Alessandro Volta.

Murtagh, successful in the Irish Derby aboard Sinndar and Alamshar, said: "I won the Lingfield Derby Trial on Alessandro Volta and he stayed on well at Epsom."

CAPTION(S):

We'll meet again: New Approach (right) sees off today's rival Tartan Bearer in the Epsom Derby
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 29, 2008
Words:595
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