Tag Archive for: White Birch

Murphy team retain full faith in White Birch

White Birch skips an option at Kempton on Monday but connections have high hopes there are plenty of nice prizes for him to win next season.

Third in the Derby to Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel, his only disappointing effort was in the Irish equivalent when he was hampered by an injured rival.

After that he went close at Leopardstown in a Group Three behind Adelaide River and he was entered in the Listed Floodlit Stakes at Kempton.

However, he is now finished for the season but all the major middle distance races will be on his radar next term.

George Murphy, assistant trainer and son of trainer John, said: “We decided he wouldn’t travel and that looks like the end for this year.

“He stays in training and we’re really looking forward to him. It’s easy to put a line through the Irish Derby and other than that, he ran some massive races.

“We’re really looking forward to next year, when he should be able to compete in a lot of nice races and do very well.

“Something like the Tattersalls Gold Cup will be an option, there are lots of races we can aim at so we’ll sit down and make a plan over the winter.”

White Birch poised for return to action at Leopardstown

Derby third White Birch is set to return to the track at Leopardstown during the Irish Champions Festival following a mid-season break.

Trained by John Murphy, the colt acquitted himself with real credit in the first half of the season and it was at Leopardstown where he won the Ballysax Stakes on his seasonal bow before podium finishes in both the Dante and the Derby at Epsom.

The only blot in the son of Ulysses’ copybook came when misfiring at the Curragh in the Irish Derby prior to his break, but he is now reported to be in rude health ahead of his impending return to the track.

He holds entries in Leopardstown’s Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix Niel at ParisLongchamp, but connections are favouring the Group Three Paddy Power Stakes at the Dublin track for White Birch’s comeback outing.

“He’s in super shape and he’s had a couple of weeks of a break,” said George Murphy, assistant trainer to his father.

“We’re just building him up slowly to run probably next weekend. He’s in the Champion Stakes, the Kilternan Stakes (Paddy Power Stakes) and the Prix Niel in France.

“There’s no concrete plan which we will go for next, but he will run in one of those races.

“I think at the moment it is likely we will go to the Kilternan Stakes.”

White Birch has plied his trade at the highest level in his most recent outings, contesting Classics on both sides of the Irish sea.

However, he will be dropping back to Group Three company if contesting the Paddy Power Stakes, with Murphy explaining it is the mile-and-a-half distance that is the biggest determining factor when selecting the horse’s next target.

He added: “There is going to be nothing easy about a race on Champions Weekend, but I think a mile and a half is his most suitable trip and it just happens to be a Group Three.

“That’s the race that suits him that weekend other than the Prix Niel in France which he also has the option of as well.”

White Birch’s appearances are set to be limited this autumn as his training team already have one eye on a four-year-old campaign.

However, there is the possibility the colt may take an enterprising trip to Germany before the end of the season for a crack at Munich’s Grosser Preis von Bayern in early November, a Group One contest won two years ago by Sir Mark Prescott’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Alpinista.

“He’s entered in the Grosser Preis von Bayern and there is the potential he may go there – that’s a bit later in the year,” said Murphy.

“There’s a couple of other races but we’re probably not going to over-race him in the autumn.

“He’s grown quite a lot and we’re kind of looking forward to next year with him really.

“There’s a nice programme throughout the year for older horses and he’s shown throughout this year he is more than happy to travel. He should have a big future next year, please God.”

White Birch has earned rest after taking in Epsom and Curragh Classics

White Birch is set for a mid-season break following his below-par showing in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Trained by John Murphy, the colt had acquitted himself with real credit in the first half of the season, following up a win on reappearance in the Ballysax Stakes with podium finishes in both the Dante and then the Derby at Epsom.

He was sent off 6-1 at the Curragh but was ultimately way below his best as he trailed home in a well-held eighth of nine and connections are keen to put a line through the performance as they now freshen their charge up ahead of a return in the autumn.

“He’s come home perfectly sound and all is well,” said George Murphy, assistant trainer to his father.

“He just ran a little bit flat and ran in to a fair bit of trouble, so he is going to get a little break now and aim for a couple of targets at the back-end of the year.

“He’s had a tough early season so he’s more than entitled to a rest now.”

It is still to be decided what those targets may be, but Murphy admitted another crack at Classic honours in the St Leger is a possibility with the colt as short as 10-1 for a trip to Doncaster on September 16.

White Birch (left) was only beaten a neck in the Dante at York
White Birch (left) was only beaten a neck in the Dante at York (Mike Egerton/PA)

He also suggested that although a drop in class could come into the reckoning, he believes the son of Ulysses has earned the right to continue campaigning at the highest level.

“Potentially it is one of the races we are looking at,” continued Murphy, when asked if the Town Moor Classic could be on the agenda.

“We’re just discussing with the owners at the moment and haven’t made any final plans yet.

“It’s unfair to say he is not up to it (running in Group One company) after one run, although we’ll keep lesser races in mind also. But I think he is more than entitled to compete at that level.”

O’Brien backed by Moore to have Auguste Rodin spot on for Derby double

Ryan Moore hailed the “genius” of Aidan O’Brien, as he prepares to partner hot favourite Auguste Rodin in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on Sunday.

Despite O’Brien having won the Classic a record 14 times, Moore has never managed to find himself on the right one since linking up with the Ballydoyle trainer.

Idaho in 2016 was as close as he has come, being beaten half a length by Dermot Weld’s Harzand, who was completing the English-Irish Derby double that Auguste Rodin will be attempting at the weekend.

And the fact the Deep Impact colt was able to bounce back in the Betfred Derby at Epsom, after finishing 12th of the 14 runners in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, once again underlined O’Brien’s special talent, according to Moore.

TV Presenter Clive Myrie presents the Ryan Moore with the leading jockey at Royal Ascot award
TV Presenter Clive Myrie presents the Ryan Moore with the leading jockey at Royal Ascot award (David Davies/PA)

“Aidan has shown for the last 30 years what an unbelievable talent he is,” said the rider, who was crowned leading jockey at Royal Ascot for 10th time last week.

“Genius gets bandied around an awful lot but how he prepares his horses and gets them to that day, to do it as many times as he has is a very special thing to do.

“I know the horse was disappointing at Newmarket, but there were reasons for that and Aidan always had complete belief in the horse.

“He is a horse that everyone always held in the highest regard from a very early stage.”

O’Brien could also run Adelaide River, Covent Garden, Peking Opera and San Antonio.

The third and fourth home from Epsom, White Birch and Sprewell, are both also on course with young jockey Dylan Browne McMonagle booked to partner the John Murphy-trained White Birch.

He Racing TV: “I’m delighted to get the leg-up, massive thanks to connections and Mr Murphy and all the gang down there. It is a great ride to pick up and I’m just blessed to get the leg over him.

Dylan Browne McMonagle has been booked to ride White Birch
Dylan Browne McMonagle has been booked to ride White Birch (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s my first ride in the race, so hopefully we will have a bit of luck. He has got good form coming into it. I think the Curragh will suit him well.

“He’s a bit awkward away from the gates, but I think if it happens again we won’t be worrying because in the Curragh you have got plenty of time to get into it. There’s a long straight there, so hopefully he has got a live chance and can run a big race.”

Dermot Weld’s once-raced Knight To King, Joseph O’Brien’s Up And Under, Donnacha O’Brien’s Proud And Regal and Salt Bay, the only UK-based entry left in by last year’s winning trainer Ralph Beckett, complete the list.

Auguste Rodin on course to bid for Derby double

Auguste Rodin will face a maximum of 10 rivals if he is to complete a Derby double in the Dubai Duty Free-sponsored Irish version at the Curragh on Sunday.

Aidan O’Brien’s Deep Impact colt bounced back from a disappointing run in the 2000 Guineas to win at Epsom and confirm once again the undeniable skills of his trainer.

Three of the first four home from Epsom are still in the mix, with subsequent Royal Ascot winner King Of Steel, second at Epsom, the only one not heading to the Curragh. Auguste Rodin is set to go off the long odds-on favourite and will aim to give Ryan Moore a first win in the Classic.

O’Brien could also run Adelaide River, Covent Garden, Peking Opera and San Antonio.

The third and fourth home from Epsom, White Birch and Sprewell, are both also on course with young jockey Dylan Browne McMonagle booked to partner the John Murphy-trained White Birch.

He Racing TV: “I’m delighted to get the leg-up, massive thanks to connections and Mr Murphy and all the gang down there. It is a great ride to pick up and I’m just blessed to get the leg over him.

Dylan Browne McMonagle has been booked to ride White Birch
Dylan Browne McMonagle has been booked to ride White Birch (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s my first ride in the race, so hopefully we will have a bit of luck. He has got good form coming into it. I think the Curragh will suit him well.

“He’s a bit awkward away from the gates, but I think if it happens again we won’t be worrying because in the Curragh you have got plenty of time to get into it. There’s a long straight there, so hopefully he has got a live chance and can run a big race.”

Dermot Weld’s once-raced Knight To King, Joseph O’Brien’s Up And Under, Donnacha O’Brien’s Proud And Regal and Salt Bay, the only UK-based entry left in by last year’s winning trainer Ralph Beckett, complete the list.

Murphy eager for Auguste Rodin rematch with White Birch

Connections of Derby third White Birch are eager for another crack at Auguste Rodin in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby next Sunday.

And should all go well at the Curragh, a possible Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe bid may be on the cards.

Trainer John Murphy has floated the idea of a trip to ParisLongchamp in October after seeing plenty of improvement in three runs this term.

The grey landed the Group Three Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown to start his Classic campaign, before a slow-starting, fast-finishing runner-up spot in York’s Dante Stakes.

White Birch tackled a mile and a half for the first time at Epsom where, despite again being slowly away, he made up plenty of ground under Colin Keane to stay on behind Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel in the Betfred Derby.

Murphy is keen to take on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Derby winner again and is a general 5-1 chance to lift the Irish Classic.

“He is in great shape,” said the County Cork-based handler. “I think we are happy enough to have another crack at him. It is going in the right direction.

“I think we fancy our chances. He’s going the right way, definitely. We are going to be looking forward to a very nice run.

“The ground is heading as though there might be some juice in it, which won’t bother him either. He’ll have no bother with ground – he’s very versatile ground-wise.

“I think that would inconvenience others more than him, because in the trial (Ballysax) it was heavy.”

Owned by Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez, the strapping son of Ulysses is expected to improve as he matures and a possible tilt at the Arc could be in the offing at the end of the season.

“He has been a bit unlucky in the Dante and the Derby,” Murphy added. “He could do with winning a big one, which would be lovely for us all.

“It would just completely turn around our profile maybe. It would put a smile on everybody’s face for sure and a pep in the step.

“And I’ve no doubt he will improve with age, given his physique. He is a big horse, he’s getting stronger. I’ve not any doubt he will improve.

“He is in the Champion Stakes and I think he is going to be put into the Arc. We’ll see how he progresses. We will discuss it with the owners and we’ll see what they want to do, but we’re really looking forward to next weekend first.”

Murphy eyeing Irish Derby date for White Birch

White Birch will take on Auguste Rodin in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh, with trainer John Murphy insisting “there’s no hiding now”.

The grey son of Ulysses had advertised his Classic credentials when he flew down the York straight to get within half a length of The Foxes in the Dante after previously landing the Ballysax Stakes.

Though having plenty left to do at the halfway stage under Colin Keane on his first try over a mile and a half in the Betfred Derby, he stayed on well again to finish just over five lengths behind the impressive winner at Epsom on Saturday.

Murphy is now anticipating a rematch with Aidan O’Brien’s winner on July 2, for which White Birch is the 8-1 joint-third favourite with Paddy Power, with Auguste Rodin the 4-6 favourite.

“It was a relief. We were absolutely delighted. He came home safe and sound, not a bother on him,” said Murphy.

“We’re happy out, very happy.

“He is on the cards for the Irish Derby – that’s Plan A. He’s come back 100 per cent and all is good.

“He’s progressive. Every run seems to be better, so we hope that curve continues. He’s in very good shape.

“The first plan is the Irish Derby and he will have loads of other entries in the meantime, but we will just play it by the horse.

“We have to take on the winner now. There’s no hiding now – you have got to do it. Hopefully one of these good races will go his way. You never know.”

So close but so far in the Derby for Varian and King Of Steel

Roger Varian was left with a sense of Classic deja vu after his 66-1 outsider King Of Steel come close to becoming the first horse since since Shaamit in 1996 to win the Betfred Derby on their first start at three.

The Carlburg Stables handler had seen Kingston Hill suffer a similar fate when hunted down by Australia in 2014 and had to settle for a silver medal once again as this time it was Aidan O’Brien’s Auguste Rodin who showed his class to pass the imposing Amo Racing-owned colt in the closing stages. It was second runner-up finish for the Amo colours, too, after Mojo Star in 2021.

Varian admitted his mind flashed back to his Derby near-miss nine years ago when King Of Steel hit the front in the hands of Kevin Stott and although disappointed his charge could not hold on to give both trainer and jockey their first victory in the premier Classic, he took comfort from the fact his lofty opinion of the horse has been vindicated.

He said: “I knew he was good. I’m gutted, but that’s horse racing. Hopefully, he’ll come out of the race OK and he’s a very good horse. Credit to the winner though, who is a very good horse.

“I never thought I had it, as I’d been in the same position in 2014 with Kingston Hill, who was clear of the field but you could just see Australia coming to us. Again, I could just see Auguste Rodin coming to us. I hoped when he got to us we would find a bit more, but he ran huge – he’s a very good horse.”

The strapping son of Wootton Bassett failed to make the track prior to the blue riband having seen an intended outing in the Dante scuppered when he was withdrawn at the start, and he arrived at Epsom having had to pass a stalls test at Leicester on Monday.

“He was very well behaved at York until he got to the start, but he was just a bit fresh on the day,” continued Varian.

“I promise you could have led him across the Knavesmire in a head collar and rope. He wasn’t unruly, he was just fresh at the start and playful more than anything.

Trainer Roger Varian saw his King Of Steel finish second in the Derby
Trainer Roger Varian saw his King Of Steel finish second in the Derby (Mike Egerton/PA)

“You could only call it an unconventional route to the Derby, as we went to York without running and then we went to Leicester only on Monday for a stalls test. So he had two days out from the yard, and sometimes not having a hard race two and a half weeks out, as long as they get it out of their system and get a day away, can benefit them – look at Chaldean.

“We’ve always thought for the last 10 or 12 weeks he’s been very good, but he just wasn’t right for those early trials and so the Dante was our last chance, but he stood up in the gates and didn’t take part. Who knows, that might have made the difference. It’s ifs and buts, but he’s a very good horse – he proved that today – and I hope he comes out of it OK and we can enjoy him going forward.

“I don’t think we could have done much more, but it’s a long way to be in front. I thought Kevin gave him a fine ride, and if he hadn’t gone when he did they’d have rolled in on top of him and he might not have got a run.”

Despite Varian praising the ride given by Stott, the jockey himself was left pondering if he had hit the front too soon in his first ride in the race.

Stott said: “I think from every jockey’s perspective, you hit the front in the Derby and a few emotions and a few thoughts go through your head.

Jockey Kevin Stott finished second in the Derby aboard King Of Steel
Jockey Kevin Stott finished second in the Derby aboard King Of Steel (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I’m obviously kicking myself a little bit, thinking I might have gone a little bit too early on him, but then again he hasn’t had a run before this year and that might just have caught him out a bit in the last 50 yards.

“Listen, we were beat by a very good horse obviously, but I had faith in my horse from his home work. He’s a very nice horse and you can see from the size of him he’s absolutely huge.”

Meanwhile, connections of third-placed White Birch were delighted with his effort and will now bid to go two places better on home soil in the Irish equivalent.

George Murphy, assistant to his father, John, said: “We’re delighted with him and he stayed on really well.

“He just hesitated again at the gates and put himself into a difficult position, but it was a great run.

Connections were thrilled with White Birch
Connections were thrilled with White Birch (PA)

“I’d say it will be the Irish Derby next, Colin (Keane) gave him a great ride considering how it played out early on and he galloped all the way to the line, so all going well it’ll probably be the Irish Derby next.

“We didn’t have a lot of time after the Dante and we didn’t want to do too much, but he’s going to have to improve (around the stalls). I don’t actually think he’s too worried in them, he just gets a bit excited. We’re over the moon to have a horse like him and I can’t thank the owners enough. It’s a great day.”

Keane added: “It was a massive run. He got a bit worked up beforehand and was a bit anxious at the gate. I didn’t want to rush him up. It was a great run considering g the ground he gave away at the start. If we can work things out with him he could be a very good year for him.”

Fellow Irish runner Sprewell claimed fourth with Kate Harrington, representing her mother Jessica, also anticipating another crack at Classic honours at the Curragh next month.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted. He didn’t get the clearest of runs down the hill and into the straight, Shane (Foley) felt that if he got him out and got him rolling a bit closer he thinks he would have been third, but he’s run a cracker.

“It was his first time contesting that ground, so he’s only going to keep on improving. Roll on the Irish Derby.”

Foley said: “It was a big run. He didn’t come down the hill as well as you’d have liked, but he stayed on galloping and I think the Curragh will suit a lot better. I just got a check when I wanted to get going.”

There was no luck for Frankie Dettori in his final Derby appearance as the John and Thady Gosden-trained 4-1 favourite Arrest failed to handle the undulations of Epsom and finished down the field in 10th.

Dettori said: “The track didn’t suit him and he didn’t like the ground. We were done at the top of the straight.

“Back on softer ground there is a good race in him.”

John Murphy dreaming of Derby delight with White Birch

John Murphy is feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement as he prepares White Birch for a tilt at Betfred Derby glory at Epsom on Saturday week.

The veteran trainer has had plenty of high-class performers pass through his hands over the years, perhaps most notably the 2006 Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Newmill.

Murphy considers Tuscan Evening, who was beaten just a head into fourth place in the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2008, as his best Flat horse to date, and admits finding a horse capable of competing in the world’s most famous Flat race is something dreams are made of.

He said: “It’s a lot of people’s dream and it’s our dream. We just got lucky, the owners agreed to buy the horse and we’re delighted.

“It’s exciting, absolutely. We’re looking forward to it. It’s huge for us, definitely, we’re excited and apprehensive.”

After finishing fifth as an 80-1 shot on his racecourse debut at Naas in November, White Birch opened his account with a wide-margin win on the all-weather at Dundalk before being given a winter break.

The Ulysses colt may have been a surprise winner of a heavy ground Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on his three-year-old debut, but he proved there was no fluke about that victory when powering home to be beaten just a head by The Foxes on much quicker ground in last week’s Dante Stakes at York.

White Birch winning the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown
White Birch winning the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown (Niall Carson/PA)

Murphy added: “We had a very good filly called Tuscan Evening. It was a long time ago, but she was very high class from the start.

“This guy had a run in a maiden at Naas, it was a lovely start, he did it easily in Dundalk and there was no place to go really other than take a step further (in the Ballysax). We were confident going into it that he would run really well.”

Reflecting on the decision to send his charge to what is widely considered as Britain’s leading Derby trial, he said: “It was very soft in Ireland, we didn’t want to run him again on heavy and we hoped there’d be better ground in York, so that’s what we did.

“We were very happy with how he ran. He was a bit unlucky at the start, he just kind of fly-leapt out of the stalls and lost at least a length. Everything counts at that level.

“It wasn’t the plan to track them all, but he stayed on well and finished the race really strong.”

Like most of the horses in the Derby field, White Birch will need to prove his stamina for a mile and a half and his ability to handle the idiosyncratic nature of the Epsom track.

Murphy is not overly concerned about either variable, adding: “We’ve been delighted with him since York, no issues. It looked like he stays, but I don’t think anybody can answer that question.

“We have a lot of undulating gallops and he’s a balanced horse who can travel. Every day you go to war it’s a concern, but he’s a good traveller, which is very important in the Derby.

“He has a great mind, he’s sound and has all the qualities you need in a good horse.”

Shane Foley aboard White Birch at Leopardstown
Shane Foley aboard White Birch at Leopardstown (Damien Storan/PA)

Another question mark hanging over White Birch is who will ride him on the big day.

Shane Foley was in the saddle at Leopardstown and York, but he looks set to partner Leopardstown Derby Trial winner Sprewell for his boss Jessica Harrington, leaving Murphy to consider his options.

He said: “It’s in the air still, we’re undecided.

“There’s a few options and nine days is a long time for all of us. You never know who is going to drop out and who is going to become available, so we’ll take a few more days before we make that decision.”

Passenger out of luck on the Knavesmire – but not out of Derby picture

Passenger may yet throw his hat into the Derby ring after running with immense promise in defeat in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York.

It was hard to know what the Ulysses colt had achieved in beating a field of fellow newcomers in the Wood Ditton at Newmarket, but it appeared significant connections decided him to supplement him for a Derby trial Sir Michael Stoute had already won on a record seven occasions, with Desert Crown doing the double just last season.

Punters on the Knavesmire ultimately agreed, with Passenger the 9-2 favourite by the time the gates opened. But what followed was a tale of woe for his supporters.

Ridden by Richard Kingscote, the Niarchos family-owned runner appeared to be travelling all over his rivals halfway up the home straight, but he could not find a gap for love nor money.

By the time Passenger did get a run, it was all too late, but there was much to like about the way he stayed on to dead-heat for third with Aidan O’Brien’s Continuous, beaten just a couple of lengths by eventual winner The Foxes.

While brief in his assessment of the performance, Kingscote immediately blamed himself, saying: “It was my fault, I couldn’t get him a run. It’s very frustrating.”

A decision on whether Stoute and the Niarchos family will roll the dice at Epsom on June 3 is made more complicated by the fact Passenger is not entered, meaning the owners will again have to stump up a supplementary fee, with the price for adding him to the Derby set at £85,000.

Paddy Power were impressed enough by his performance to make him an 8-1 shot like The Foxes, though, and connections ultimately have a couple of weeks to mull it over.

Sir Michael Stoute at York on Wednesday
Sir Michael Stoute at York on Wednesday (Mike Egerton/PA)

Stoute was not on the Knavesmire, but his assistant James Savage said: “It was a bit of a hard-luck story.

“He was in the stalls a long time, he jumped well and did everything brilliantly for a horse having only his second start after running on a straight mile at Newmarket.

“There’s a lot of positives to be taken out of the race. It didn’t happen for Richard up the straight, but that’s just one of those things.”

Interestingly, the only previous horse to be beaten in the Dante and win the Derby was the Stoute-trained Workforce in 2010.

When asked whether Passenger could bid to emulate the subsequent Arc hero, Savage added: “That is going to be a decision for Sir Michael and the Niarchos family. All I can say is that we’ve learnt he’s able to compete at a very high level with the best three-year-olds.

“I’m not so sure experience got him beat because if the gap had come he would have gone through it.

“He’s took a massive step forward from Newmarket to here and we’ll just see how he is.”

Alan Cooper, racing manager for the owners, said: “I’m afraid he didn’t have the clearest of runs, but it was a great improvement from his first start, so let’s get home and see what Sir Michael would like to do.

“He’s shown that he’s a good horse on only his second start. Let’s regroup.

“The family will follow Sir Michael’s advice.”

White Birch (left) is narrowly beaten by The Foxes in the Dante Stakes at York
White Birch (left) is narrowly beaten by The Foxes in the Dante Stakes at York (Mike Egerton/PA)

Splitting The Foxes and the third-placed pair of Passenger and Continuous was John Murphy’s Irish raider White Birch.

Winner of a heavy ground Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on his seasonal bow, the grey proved he is equally effective on quicker conditions, charging home from the rear to be beaten only a neck.

Another son of Ulysses, White Birch does hold a Derby entry and appears bound for Epsom. He is 20-1 with Coral.

George Murphy, assistant to his father, said: “He ran a super race, quickened up really well and just bumped into one on the day, but we couldn’t be happier with the run.

“I think the horse himself thought he had it won and the winner just came from out of his vision, but we’re delighted.

“He’s a super mover and a big, powerful horse – ground doesn’t seem to bother him.

“We’ll take him home and see how he comes out of it, but I think he’s more entitled to take his chance in the Derby now. If the owners are happy to go there and he comes out of it well, I think he definitely deserves a crack at it.”

White Birch bidding for Derby Trial double

White Birch will return to Leopardstown to put his Betfred Derby aspirations on the line in the Derby Trial Stakes on Sunday.

Trained by John Joseph Murphy, the colt opened his account at the second attempt at Dundalk in November and thrived for the step up in trip on his three-year-old return to cause a 22-1 upset in the Dublin track’s Ballysax Stakes.

Now the son of Ulysses will head to the race previously known as the Derrinstown Derby Trial as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of Battle Of Marengo (2013), Broome (2019) and Bolshoi Ballet (2021) who all completed the double in the last 10 years.

A strong showing could signal a trip to Epsom for on June 3 where White Birch would have the opportunity to become the first horse since Harzand in 2016 to win both the Ballysax and the premier Classic.

“He came out of the race at Leopardstown really well and we couldn’t be happier with how things are going. His work has been great and he is in super form,” said George Murphy, assistant trainer to his father.

“The plan is to go back to Leopardstown for what was the Derrinstown – it’s just the Derby Trial now – and after that we can make a decision over whether we go to the Derby or not.

“I have no doubt the trial will be a difficult race, but he’s in great form and we’re looking forward to it.”

A total of 14 colts have been entered for the Derby Trial with Aidan O’Brien responsible for Adelaide River, Continuous, Gooloogong, Londoner, Mohawk Chief and Tower Of London.

Donnacha O’Brien’s Proud And Regal and Jessica Harrington’s Sprewell are others of note.

Outsider White Birch surprises Ballysax rivals

White Birch was all heart to triumph as the outsider in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.

The grey son of Ulysses was a 22-1 chance on his seasonal debut having run twice previously, finishing fifth in a Naas maiden and then landing a Dundalk contest in November.

Trained by John Murphy and ridden by Shane Foley, the three-year-old progressed from last to first in the final two furlongs and was then hindered significantly when Aidan O’Brien’s Alexandroupolis, the favourite, lurched right on the run to the line.

Recovering from the wobble to rally again, White Birch locked horns with Joseph O’Brien’s Up And Under and was headed at the half-furlong pole before battling back to score by half a length.

George Murphy, assistant trainer to his father, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with that. He relaxed lovely early on and quickened up really well.

White Birch and Shane Foley
White Birch and Shane Foley (Damien Storan/PA)

“He got a good bump about a furlong down but he’s a very honest horse and stayed lengthening the whole way to the line.

“We are delighted with that and he could be very good. He’s done what we always thought he could do.

“We’ll have a chat now with the owners and make a decision on where we are going to go. We said we would learn a lot today going up to a mile and a quarter on this ground and it seemed no issue to him.

“He’s hasn’t any Classic entries but he could get some yet! We’ll see how he comes out of this and make a plan from there.

“He had a lovely run first time out in Naas on heavy ground, so we thought he’d get through it today all right. He floated around Dundalk over seven (furlongs) and showed a lot of speed, so he could be very versatile ground wise and clearly going a mile and quarter was no issue either.

“He could be a very exciting horse.”

Foley added: “It wasn’t necessarily a surprise. I’ve ridden him in his work over the last couple of weeks and I’ve really liked him. He’s a gorgeous horse. George (Murphy) was worried about coming here and going that trip, but I think you could go a mile and a half with him.

“It was a proper race, they went a proper gallop and it never let up. He’s a nice horse.

“I knew down around the bottom bend that I was getting to them and he actually picked up better than I expected and I ended up getting there a little bit too soon. He really is a nice horse.

“I actually fancied him coming here and then he was the outsider of the whole field. On his homework, he was working like a very nice horse. I was riding him to run well and it all worked out.”