Ser­pen­tine takes O’Brien’s Derby en­tries to seven

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Rac­ing By Mar­cus Army­tage

English King and Kameko, first and sec­ond-favourite re­spec­tively, head a field of 17 for the In­vestec Derby at Ep­som on Satur­day, the day when own­ers will fi­nally be al­lowed on a race­course this sea­son.

Nor­mally, the Derby is a bit like Eton, you are nom­i­nated at birth for it. But for this year only – though it will no doubt be one of the many things up for dis­cus­sion at the end of this sea­son – there was a one-off £10,000 en­try stage yes­ter­day.

Given the cost, bar­ring any last­minute in­juries, it might be ex­pected that this is pretty much the fi­nal field. Ai­dan O’Brien, who shares the record of seven wins in the race with Robert Rob­son, John Porter and Fred Dar­ling, has seven in the race. Though he has re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to run San­ti­ago, Satur­day’s Ir­ish Derby win­ner, for a third time in three weeks, he has put in Ser­pen­tine, a nine-length win­ner of a maiden over a mile and a quar­ter at The Cur­ragh on Satur­day, on top of the six he had pen­cilled in.

With no rid­ers com­ing from Ire­land, his jockey book­ings will be telling. What­ever Ryan Moore rides will give an in­di­ca­tion as to what is seen as the best hope. Wil­liam Buick is on standby to ride an­other.

Ben Cur­tis will make his Derby de­but on the As­cot win­ner High­land Chief for Paul and Oliver Cole. “The call came out of the blue, but it was a nice call,” said Cur­tis, who also rode his first Royal As­cot win­ner this month. “It’s an ex­cit­ing ride to get, par­tic­u­larly in a year like this. He couldn’t have been more im­pres­sive in the last two fur­longs at As­cot.”

There will be two test fix­tures at South­well and Kemp­ton to­mor­row to pi­lot the rein­tro­duc­tion of own­ers to the race­course. They will have to un­der­take an on­line Covid-19 train­ing mod­ule, an­swer a health ques­tion­naire and have their tem­per­a­ture taken on ar­rival. They will then be re­stricted to an “owner zone”.

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