Monday 22 January 2018

Bookies wary of Aidan O’Brien’s team of four for Derby

Australia 'wouldn't like the ground to be soft' at Epsom for the Investec Derby, says trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Australia 'wouldn't like the ground to be soft' at Epsom for the Investec Derby, says trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

AIDAN O'BRIEN sends a four-strong team into battle for the Investec Derby at Epsom tomorrow and Coral offer 33-1 that he saddles the first three home in the premier Classic.

Red-hot favourite Australia, Ryan Moore's mount Geoffrey Chaucer and Chester Vase winner Orchestra all hold solid claims and it would not be a complete surprise were those three to dominate. O'Brien also runs Kingfisher.

Coral are official betting partners for the meeting and expect turnover of upwards of £20million on the big race.

However, despite the ground quickening up throughout Friday under beautiful sunshine, the possibility of heavy showers on Saturday meant likely ground conditions remained up in the air on the eve of the big race.

"The presence of Australia in this year's Derby will ensure turnover remains healthy, as for all those punters who want to be with the favourite, there will be plenty looking to oppose him," said Coral's David Stevens.

"The market leader has been easy to back all week, and his price could yet drift further, particularly if Epsom is hit by the thunderstorms forecasters are predicting."

O'Brien has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Australia, hailing him as his best ever Flat horse.

"Australia is uncomplicated, relaxed and has speed - exactly what you want in a racehorse," he said.

"He's very natural and takes no training. He has a great mind and settles very well."

Of his other runners, O'Brien said: "I was very happy with the way Orchestra won at Chester. If anyone had seen him there, they'd have seen that he had a bit of a tummy on him, and he'll come on for that.

"Kingfisher won well at Chester and is very straightforward horse.

"Nothing went right for Geoffrey Chaucer in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown as it was a very messy race with a slow pace. Joseph (O'Brien) had to go up the inside from where he was drawn."

The only Group One winner in the race is Roger Varian's Kingston Hill, but he was some way behind Australia in the 2000 Guineas. He would appreciate any rain.

"He deserves to be there. He's a Group One winner and I have no doubt you'll see a better horse now he steps up in trip," said Varian.

One who does not want the rain is Saeed bin Suroor's True Story, the mount of Kieren Fallon and third in the Dante behind subsequent French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby.

Bin Suroor said: "The Dante form is good. Since York he has worked twice with Kieren and worked really well.

"I'm really happy with him, but the key is we don't want it too soft. The horse is well, physically we are happy now, he's improved a lot and I think a mile and a half will be really good for him. Good ground or good to soft will be perfect."

One place in front of True Story at York was Peter Chapple-Hyam's Arod, representing a trainer with two wins in the Classic.

"Arod has been in really good form since the Dante - we are really happy with him. We think that he has improved and he has definitely improved physically," said Chapple-Hyam.

Dermot Weld has won races all over the globe but has yet to triumph in the Derby, with Casual Conquest's third to New Approach in 2008 the closest he has come.

His contender this year is Fascinating Rock, who won the Ballysax Stakes and was awarded the Derrinstown Derby Trial in the stewards' room.

"We hope he will stay. The mental attitude of the horse will help - he's a lovely, big, relaxed horse. He got a mile and a quarter at Navan going away, he was coming home to some tune at Leopardstown. He gives us every indication he will stay, but that is the one doubt about it," said Weld, who was second in the Oaks with Tarfasha.

Fascinating Rock won the Derrinstown at the expense of John Oxx's Ebanoran, and the Currabeg handler has less concerns over the trip.

Oxx said: "The longer trip is a new test and Epsom is a very demanding track. You cannot be certain but he has so much stamina on the dam's side of his pedigree that there must be a good chance he will stay the extra distance."

Oxx has won with two of his three Derby runners to date.

It seems a long time since John Gosden tasted Derby glory with Benny The Dip in 1997 and he fields the only unbeaten runner in the race, Western Hymn, on the back of landing his first Oaks with Taghrooda.

"He is a young horse and has only had three races," said Gosden.

"He had to slog a bit in heavy ground at Sandown when winning the Classic Trial but won well. Having had those two races, I did not want to have a hard race at York in the Dante so we missed that and instead took him to work at Lingfield.

"Western Hymn has a lot of ability and I am very pleased with the way he has trained this year. He is a very solid and legitimate horse to run in the race."

Gosden also supplemented Romsdal, beaten a nose by Orchestra in the Chester Vase.

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