While the Irish raiders appear to have the whip hand in this year's Epsom Derby, horses from France and Germany could yet offer the biggest threat, writes MARCUS ARMYTAGE.
With the home defence not looking particularly strong, Germany has an eye on Classic glory with Chopin – their highest-ever rated three-year-old at this time of year – and France is looking to the Andre Fabre-trained Ocovango.
Chopin, a colt by first-season sire Santiago out of a Galileo mare, is being described as "the New Approach of Germany" because he is so far clear of his three-year-old rivals and won his only start of the season, a Group Three race over an extended mile at Krefeld, by eight lengths.
After that victory in April, the colt was bought from his breeder by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and he will be the owner's first runner, as well as the only German runner in recent memory, in the Derby on June 1.
Yesterday, his retained jockey, Jamie Spencer, rode him in a gallop at Dusseldorf, the country's most undulating track.
"It was a good way to see how balanced he was and, though it was bit softer than he'd have liked, he pleased us enormously," said racing manager David Redvers.
Chopin is trained by Andreas Wohler at his private training establishment between Hanover and Dortmund. Wohler is not short of international experience, having trained horses such as Lomitas, his son Silvano, which won the Singapore Cup, QEII in Hong Kong and Arlington Million, and Paolini, winner of the Dubai Duty Free.
Before he turned his hand to training, he rode as an amateur and took part in the amateur Derby at Epsom. "I had to make the running and had never been so fast down a hill in all my life," he recalled.
"After today, I am not worried about Chopin handling Epsom," he added.
"He did well over the winter but until we put him against some good horses we won't know how good he is – he just does what you want. I've had some good horses but they did well later in their careers. At the same stage, he is a long way in front."
Ocovango is of interest because he is trained by Fabre, who won the race with Pour Moi two years ago, and the unbeaten Monsun colt won the same trial, the Prix Greffulhe. He will be ridden, as in all three starts so far, by Pierre-Charles Boudot (20). (© Daily Telegraph, London)