Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 24 October 2019

Derby 'sleeper' Sir Dragonet rises in Vase

Donnacha O'Brien riding Sir Dragonet. Photo: Getty
Donnacha O'Brien riding Sir Dragonet. Photo: Getty

Marcus Armytage

The Epsom Derby market burst into life when Sir Dragonet, described by part-owner's son Paul Smith as a "sleeper", which was unraced a fortnight ago, won yesterday's MBNA Chester Vase by eight lengths from stable companion Norway.

With the Guineas winner, Magna Grecia, expected to be campaigned at a mile for the foreseeable future, the trials take on more resonance and it did not take Aidan O'Brien long to find a marker with this son of Camelot.

Ostensibly he was the second string behind Ryan Moore's mount Norway but, dripping with sweat and considerably hotter than his namesake, the writing was on the wall for Norway before he left the paddock.

Dropped out last off the strong pace, Tipperary maiden winner Sir Dragonet followed them round almost as far behind at one stage as he was in front at the finish. The gallop and the softened ground, combined with the way he was ridden, may have meant the winning distance flattered him a little, but you could not get away from the fact that he was, nevertheless, very impressive.

He is still a baby but the 8/1 for the Derby may look generous when all the trials are done and dusted. Ruler Of The World set a precedent for Ballydoyle colts six years ago by winning the Derby having not run as a juvenile. "He was a bit raw and green," said jockey Donnacha O'Brien of Sir Dragonet. "So I let him follow. They went fast and I could tell from four out we would win. He has a big engine. He doesn't show a lot at home but he is a different horse on the track, for sure."

Smith said: "Donnacha loves him and that will do for me. It gives Aidan a good yardstick."

There was an equally decisive winner of the Cheshire Oaks when John Gosden's Mehdaayih quickened clear to win by four-and-a-half lengths. The biggest hiccup came before the race when a vet found her to have dried blood on her left-hand side jugular vein but the stewards were happy to let her run.

Today, although the Derby probably needs someone other than O'Brien to win a trial, it is hard to get away from his Galileo colt Circus Maximus in the Homeserve Dee Stakes (2.25).

The Left Wing: Ireland fall short again, 2019 slump and what Andy Farrell must do as head coach

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport