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Havlin ready to seize Irish Derby chance with Ambiente Friendly

Havlin ready to seize Irish Derby chance with Ambiente Friendly
Havlin ready to seize Irish Derby chance with Ambiente Friendly

Robert Havlin is well aware he has found himself in an enviable position aboard the talented Ambiente Friendly and is determined to grasp the opportunity, as the Epsom runner-up seeks to go one better in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

James Fanshawe’s son of Gleneagles found only the sublime City Of Troy too strong in the Derby and now heads to the Curragh as the bookmakers’ favourite to taste Classic success in the Irish equivalent.

His jockey has an Italian Derby to his name, but a British or Irish Classic has so far eluded one of the elder statesmen of the weighing room, whose experience saw him chosen by the Gredley family to replace Callum Shepherd in the saddle at Epsom.

Havlin retains the partnership with Ambiente Friendly for what represents a rare visit to the home of Irish racing for the 50-year-old.

However, the veteran Scot – who has guided a plethora of John Gosden superstars through the early part of their careers – has full faith in his mount handling the stamina test the Curragh presents, having been impressed with his maturity since his fine performance in the premier Classic.

“I’m really looking forward to Sunday and he’s come out of Epsom really well,” said Havlin, whose season continued on the crest of a wave when he guided Audience to a surprise all-the-way success in the Lockinge Stakes.

“Being a breeze-up horse, it can go one way or the other, but he’s taken it unbelievably well and it’s like he’s matured overnight.

“I rode him Thursday morning and he felt great, I’ve ridden him a few times this week. Thursday morning he was bucking and kicking, but then he lobbed up the canter out of my hands the whole way.”

Robert Havlin is confident in Ambiente Friendly
Robert Havlin is confident in Ambiente Friendly (John Walton/PA)

He went on: “It’s a while since I’ve ridden a mile and a half at the Curragh, it was quite a lot of years ago. I think now he’s so relaxed – he’s unbelievably relaxed – I don’t think the track will pose any threats.

“I’m unbelievably lucky to fall upon him, not in the best circumstances I suppose, but you have to take these opportunities with both hands.”

There is no City Of Troy standing in Ambiente Friendly’s way this time, but Ballydoyle will still be well represented, with Epsom third Los Angeles leading the assault.

Havlin is happy to see the Derby hero head elsewhere for now, but despite having just over three lengths in hand over Los Angeles on the Surrey Downs, he is respectful of the challenge that rival poses as they lock horns for a second time.

Ambiente Friendly (yellow) chased home City Of Troy at Epsom
Ambiente Friendly (yellow) chased home City Of Troy at Epsom (Adam Davy/PA)

“Ambiente Friendly didn’t have a hard race at Epsom so we are hoping he can go there, has improved again and can finish in front of Los Angeles again,” continued Havlin.

“Los Angeles would be entitled to get a bit closer this time, he went down on his sword at Epsom and the Curragh might suit him a little bit better, but I’m really looking forward to the rematch.

“There’s no City Of Troy this time and it would be nice to meet him somewhere down the line to test the water again, but we can leave that for another day.”

As well as Los Angeles, Aidan O’Brien will saddle Grosvenor Square, Epsom ninth Euphoric and King Edward VII Stakes fifth The Euphrates in a bid to extend his imperious race record.

Los Angeles finished third at Epsom
Los Angeles finished third at Epsom (Bradley Collyer/PA)

However, it is clearly the mount of Ryan Moore who has the best chance of giving the master of Ballydoyle Irish Derby number 16.

“The Curragh looks like it should suit him,” said O’Brien of Los Angeles.

“He’s come out of Epsom really well, we couldn’t be happier with him really, so we’re looking forward to running him.

“We’ve been happy with him since, this is his third run of the year, so hopefully he can improve again (to make up the ground on Ambiente Friendly).”

On the ground for Los Angeles, O’Brien – who first landed the Curragh showpiece with Desert King in 1997 – added: “I think it should be fine, it was quick enough in Epsom.

“He’s a very big horse and racing is only going to improve him, mentally and physically, we think. He’s a big, honest, straightforward horse, we think.

Desert King was Aidan O'Brien's first Irish Derby winner
Desert King was Aidan O’Brien’s first Irish Derby winner (PA)

“He’s hardy and he’s fresh, but he’s very genuine and he relaxes very well. He’s obviously by Camelot and they have plenty of nervous energy. That’s the way they are and that’s what makes them good, I think.

“We’re very happy with everything he has done since then.”

Of his others, O’Brien said: “Grosvenor Square is a lovely, big horse, but he was a little bit backwards when we ran him at Chester.

“He’s just ready to start again so hopefully he runs a nice race.

“The Euphrates ran a nice race at Ascot and hopefully he comes forward again, we think he’ll improve as the year goes on, the same for Euphoric.”

Ger Lyons’ Keeper’s Heart bolsters the Irish hand in their bid to keep the first prize on home soil, but there is not just Ambiente Friendly making the trip from the UK.

Roger Varian has always spoken highly of Matsuri and the Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum-owned son of Sea The Stars is pitched into deep waters following his impressive Leicester novice success, with the in-form James Doyle expecting this race to provide an acid test of his potential.

Happy days! James Doyle pictured with Henry Winkler at Royal Ascot
Happy days! James Doyle pictured with Henry Winkler at Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA)

He said: “His win (at Leicester) in the first part of the year, he was a bit keen, but it was a nothing contest and we didn’t learn much. Visually he looked like he could gallop.

“It’s not an easy race to step into, but his home work has been good.”

Doyle is still on a high after winning four times at Royal Ascot, all in the colours of his new retainer of Wathnan Racing.

He added: “It was brilliant, now I’m back down to earth with Carlisle and Beverley and the smaller tracks!

“But it’s good, they’re running well and the boss is happy – that’s the main thing.

“You always want more though, however many you win.”

Sunway and Oisin Murphy
Sunway and Oisin Murphy have formed a great team (PA)

David Menuisier’s Sunway completes the line-up, as the French Derby seventh takes a second bite of the Classic cherry.

Having competed over 10 furlongs at Chantilly, Oisin Murphy now feels the time is right to test the son of Galiway over further and is optimistic he can get involved at the business end.

“I felt the last day I was too far back off a slow pace and he’s been crying out for a little bit further,” said the former champion.

“I rode him on Tuesday, David Menuisier is very happy with him, as am I. He’s drawn eight of eight, but that doesn’t concern me. I’m hoping he’ll run a career best.

“On ratings, he’s not out of the race and if he runs up to his best, which the signs are good for, he’ll go well.”

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