O’Brien look­ing for more Derby back-up to Saxon War­rior

Ryan Moore will travel to Paris but Ep­som con­sid­er­a­tions are to the fore

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RACING NEWS AND PROGRAMMES - BRIAN O’CON­NOR

This week­end’s ac­tion could see Ai­dan O’Brien’s grip on the Ep­som Derby move from tight to over­whelm­ing with a cou­ple of other Clas­sics po­ten­tially thrown in for good mea­sure.

On Sun­day Ire­land’s cham­pion trainer sends US Navy Flag to the Paris-Longchamp track for the French 2,000 Guineas. Last sea­son’s top-rated Euro­pean ju­ve­nile is ac­com­pa­nied by Could It Be Love who goes in the French 1,000. Both races are off at 2.35 and 3.15 re­spec­tively.

Ryan Moore will go to Paris to ride O’Brien’s lat­est Clas­sic con­tenders but it is Derby con­sid­er­a­tions which will oth­er­wise be the week­end pri­or­ity.

With three weeks to Ep­som O’Brien has al­ready been quoted by one firm at 1-5 to win rac­ing’s ‘Blue Riband’ for a sev­enth time.

Last week­end’s New­mar­ket Guineas hero Saxon War­rior is odds-on him­self in most bet­ting lists and much of the rest of the bet­ting sug­gests his most sig­nif­i­cant Derby op­po­si­tion is likely to come from very close to home.

Kew Gar­dens could join Thurs­day’s Ch­ester win­ner Rostropovich on the Ep­som ticket if suc­cess­ful un­der Moore in Satur­day’s Derby Trial at Ling­field. On the same card last week­end’s wide-mar­gin Cork Flat­ter­ing goes in the Oaks Trial.

Course and dis­tance

How­ever it is Sun­day’s Der­rin­town Trial at Leop­ard­stown which prom­ises to be more in­for­ma­tive. The Bal­ly­doyle trio of Nel­son, De­lano Roo­sevelt and The Pen­tagon filled the frame in last month’s Ballysax over the course and dis­tance and are set to clash again.

It is a long 16-year gap since High Cha­parral be­came the third Der­rin­town win­ner in a row to go on and win at Ep­som.

But even with Thurs­day’s Dante at York still to come there looks to be a ‘best of the rest’ el­e­ment to Sun­day’s race in terms of po­ten­tial chal­lenges to Saxon War­rior.

Last year’s shock 40-1 Derby vic­tory for Wings Of Ea­gles in­di­cated how the Bal­ly­doyle peck­ing-or­der isn’t flaw­less and there has been a per­sis­tent sense in Bal­ly­doyle cir­cles that if there is a mid­dle-dis­tance ri­val there to Saxon War­rior it is most likely The Pen­tagon.

He and Nel­son are still joint-sec­ond favourites for Ep­som de­spite Nel­son fin­ish­ing nine lengths in front of his sta­ble com­pan­ion in the Ballysax.

Moore rode The Pen­tagon on that oc­ca­sion and even in the cur­rent spell of wet weather ground con­di­tions are likely to be bet­ter this time. That may be cru­cial to the out­come be­ing in The Pen­tagon’s favour.

Sun­day’s other Clas­sic trial is for the Ir­ish 1,000 Guineas and Godol­phin’s Mary Tu­dor can make light of drop­ping down a quar­ter mile from her Salsabil Stakes vic­tory last month.

Mary Tu­dor has to re­verse ju­ve­nile form with Mag­i­cal but there was plenty to like about how she won at Na­van while her old ri­val’s own sea­sonal reap­pear­ance in France hardly set the world on fire.

Clas­sic fo­cus

Prior to that the clas­sic fo­cus will be on the Curragh’s Satur­day fix­ture which sees a trio of three-year-olds take on their se­niors in the Plusvi­tal Blue Wind Stakes.

O’Brien has both Easter Lily and Bye Bye Baby as well as the top-rated five-year-old Clear Skies. How­ever the most in­ter­est­ing con­tender looks to be Der­mot Weld’s Jaega.

The Fast­net Rock filly made light of heavy ground on her Leop­ard­stown de­but to win by a wide mar­gin and the third that day, Magic Wand, im­pres­sively won the Cheshire Oaks dur­ing the week.

Killarney gets its three-day May pro­gramme un­der­way on Sun­day. Wil­lie Mullins will be rep­re­sented in seven of the eight races. They in­clude three hopes for the Listed Mares Hur­dle and Lagos­tove­gas has a 146 rat­ing that’s hard to ar­gue with. She looks a safer op­tion than the keen-run­ning four-year-old, Stormy Ire­land.

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