Last year’s Derby third White Birch made the perfect start to his four-year-old season with victory in the Alleged Stakes at the Curragh.

Behind only the esteemed Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel at Epsom, John Murphy’s stable star was out of luck in two subsequent starts.

Sent on his way here as the 100-30 favourite, he showed he will be a force to be reckoned with this year, making ground from two furlongs out and keeping on strongly over the 10 furlongs of the Group Three affair to hold Maxux by a neck.

George Murphy, assistant to his father, said: “That was lovely, we’re delighted with that.

“You’d always be worried a bit about fitness on that sticky ground but he did it lovely in the end, behaved very well and we couldn’t be happier with him. It was a lovely way to start.

“He did everything right today, he was at the start for a good while and he was very chilled out. He travelled lovely throughout the race and did what he had to do when it mattered. He seems more mature.

“He’s in the Coronation (Cup) and in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, we’ll have a chat with the owners and see what they want to do from here. We’ll see how he comes out of it first and go from there.

“He’s clearly fairly good at a mile and a quarter, but obviously going back to a mile and a half is no issue either.”

Next month’s Alleged Stakes has been identified as a potential comeback target for last season’s Derby third White Birch.

John Joseph Murphy’s grey kicked off his three-year-old campaign in the best possible fashion by winning the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown and was beaten only a neck into second place by The Foxes on his next appearance in the Dante at York.

The Ulysses colt ran another fine race in defeat when placed behind Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel in the premier Classic at Epsom, and while he disappointed in the Irish Derby, he rounded off his season with a creditable fourth place in a Group Three at Leopardstown in September.

George Murphy, assistant to his father, reports White Birch to have wintered well and hopes he will return to competitive action at the Curragh on April 6, granted suitable conditions.

“He’s in full work and looks super, he’s training very nicely,” he said.

“He’s a fine, big, tall horse so you’d hope he could improve from three to four. He’s doing everything nicely at the moment.

“I’d say that (Alleged Stakes) could be an option, but if the ground is completely bottomless we might just hold off for another bit. We’ll just see what the weather does over the next couple of weeks, but that’s definitely in our minds at the moment, to go for the Alleged.

“It’s got to the stage where you nearly can’t remember a good day it’s been raining for so long, but it’s surely got to turn at some stage.”

Should White Birch come through his return with flying colours, a return to Group One company in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on May 26 could be on his agenda.

Murphy added: “There’s a few races, those two (Alleged Stakes and Tattersalls Gold Cup) are high up on the list at the moment, but it’s been so difficult with the weather you just don’t know which way things are going to go over the next fortnight.

“We’ll play it by ear for the moment, but we’ll probably start over a mile and a quarter and explore going a bit further as the year goes on, that’s the way we’d be looking at it.”

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 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.

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.”

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.”

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