Wednesday 21 August 2019

Roaring Lion best placed to thwart Saxon Warrior's ambitions

Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: PA
Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: PA
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Aidan O'Brien has never hidden his ambition to win the English Triple Crown and follow in the footsteps of his Ballydoyle predecessor, the late, great Vincent O'Brien, who famously completed the remarkable feat with the mighty Nijinsky in 1970.

There are very few racing records that O'Brien doesn't hold at this stage, most recently breaking the record for most Group One victories in a year when surpassing Bobby Frankel's haul with an astonishing 28 top-level successes last season.

But his itch for the Triple Crown (2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger) runs deep.

Camelot was the last horse to make it to the final leg since Nijinsky when touched by Encke in the St Leger six years ago.

Subsequent events must leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Camelot's owners John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith as Encke's trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni was later banned for eight years for his part in the biggest doping scandal in British racing.

That brings us today's Derby in which O'Brien will be hoping to write the second chapter of unfinished business with odds-on favourite Saxon Warrior (10/11).

Saxon Warrior looks tailor-made for Epsom's unique undulations with a blend of speed, stamina and courage.

Oozing class to score at Newmarket, significant improvement is expected by his trainer and that bodes well.

Saxon Warrior looks the class act and is a worthy favourite as he bids to extend his unbeaten sequence to five.

However, his prohibitive odds are a worry given this will be the son of Deep Impact's first time to race at beyond a mile and, while it is expected he will stay the 12-furlong trip under Ryan Moore, it is no guarantee and value is sought elsewhere.

With another four runners, the Ballydoyle maestro has a crack team.

Delano Roosevelt (16/1) chased home Hazapour in the Derrinstown Derby Trial and the way he finished does bode well over a longer trip.

Third that day was The Pentagon (33/1), which has always been well regarded but not lived up to his reputation, while Kew Gardens (33/1) is guaranteed to stay but the Lingfield Derby form doesn't really jump off the page.

Rank outsider Zabriskie (66/1) is likely to be outclassed, while Dermot Weld's Hazapour (9/1) is the other Irish interest in the race in the hands of Frankie Dettori as the master of Rosewell House bids to follow up his maiden win with Harzand two years ago.

It's a stiff ask, however, with the son of Shamardal unproven at Group One level.


The formidable home challenge is led by brilliant Dante Stakes winner Roaring Lion (9/1).

With Kerry jockey Oisin Murphy aboard, John Gosden's charge produced a stunning display at York over 1m2f and an extra two furlongs should show further improvement for a horse his trainer has labelled a "playboy".

He has his quirks - hanging left when just going down to Saxon Warrior in last year's Racing Post Trophy - but he looks to have matured.

Rated just 2lb inferior to the favourite and having only fallen by a neck when they met at Doncaster, he is the most likely source of an upset in a decent renewal.

Another of interest is William Haggas' Young Rascal, which looked smart when winning the Chester Vase from the re-opposing Dee Ex Bee (20/1) despite trouble in running, while English 2000 Guineas third Masar (18/1) is not without a chance for Charlie Appleby in what promises to be a cracker.

Irish Independent

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