Irish Derby: Los Angeles Stars at The Curragh

The latest Classic of the flat season saw a high-class field of three-year-old colts head to The Curragh for the 2024 edition of the Irish Derby. The second and third from the Epsom equivalent topped the betting, with Derby runner-up Ambiente Friendly just shading favouritism from third-place finisher Los Angeles. The pair were sent off at odds of 6/4 and 13/8 respectively.

The Euphrates, Grosvenor Square, and Euphoric joined Los Angeles to complete the O’Brien challenge – the trainer running four to ensure Tote World Pool coverage. Ger Lyons’ Keeper’s Heart rounded out the Irish quintet.

Strong British Challenge

Having finished just over three lengths ahead of Los Angeles at Epsom, James Fanshawe’s Ambiente Friendly spearheaded a three-strong British assault. Joining him were Matsuri, who stepped up from a Class 4 Novice to a Group 1 as he strove to hand Roger Varian a second Classic of 2024, and David Menusier’s Sunway, who scored at the highest level when landing the 2023 Criterium International.

Second, Third, and Fourth for Britain, but O’Brien on Top Once Again

To reverse Epsom form with Ambiente Friendly, Los Angeles likely needed this race to turn into a thorough test at the distance. As such, it was no surprise to see Euphoric and Grosvenor Square sharing pace-making duties – the pair fading dramatically in the straight, having set a frenetic gallop.

With the ideal scenario set up for the mount of Ryan Moore, the rest was up to him. However, Los Angeles looked to have his work cut out at the furlong pole, with Ambiente Friendly travelling supremely well under Robert Havlin, much as he had at Epsom before being left trailing by City Of Troy.

Once pushed into a narrow advantage, it soon became clear Ambiente Friendly didn’t have quite as much in the tank as appearances suggested. Never more than half a length ahead of Los Angeles to his inside, he could never repel the challenge of the O’Brien runner, who stayed on dourly to forge three-quarters of a length clear at the line. Sunway came with a late rattle to grab second from Ambiente Friendly, with a slightly unlucky Matsuri running a stormer in fourth.

Record Extending Victory for O’Brien

This must have been a particularly frustrating result for David Menusier, who witnessed one of his runners go down by less than a length in a Classic for the third time this season. But it was just another day at the office for Aidan O’Brien, with Los Angeles’ triumph representing a remarkable record-extending 16th win in the race for the Ballydoyle maestro.

Where Next for Los Angeles?

Los Angeles appears to boast stamina by the bucketload, making the St Leger a viable option. However, O’Brien sounded a little lukewarm on that prospect in the aftermath of the race, stating, “We came here thinking he was going to turn into a Leger horse, but Ryan said he has way more class than that”. He is, nevertheless, the clear favourite for the Doncaster Classic on the back of this display.