Thursday 16 August 2018

'Saxon' leads O'Brien charge for seventh Epsom crown

Aidan O'Brien walks the course at Newbury. Photo: Alan Crowhurst
Aidan O'Brien walks the course at Newbury. Photo: Alan Crowhurst

Michael Verney

Saxon Warrior is the marquee name among a star-studded Aidan O'Brien challenge as the Ballydoyle handler saddles half of the Epsom Derby field in his bid for a seventh blue-riband victory on Saturday.

O'Brien is responsible for seven of the 14 declarations in the Epsom showpiece but all eyes will be on English 2,000 Guineas hero Saxon Warrior (8/11 favourite) as the son of Deep Impact looks to collect the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Unbeaten in his four racecourse appearances, Ryan Moore's mount will take all the beating in the €1.75 million event - and is already just 11/4 to become the first since Nijinsky in 1970 to complete the Triple Crown in September's St Leger - but further intrigue is added as he renews acquaintances with Dante winner Roaring Lion.

The pair had a ding-dong battle in last year's Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster with John Gosden's charge hanging left in the final furlong to compromise his winning run before being gunned down by a neck.

Roaring Lion (6/1), ridden by Kerry jockey Oisín Murphy, was no match for him at Newmarket earlier this month when back in fifth but left that form well behind when running away with the Dante over an extra two furlongs and looks the leading challenger in an interesting renewal.

Should O'Brien (below) make it a magnificent seven, he will join legendary trio of trainers Fred Darling, John Porter and Robert Robson at the head of the roll of honour and his team has plenty of strength in depth.

Delano Roosevelt (12/1) and The Pentagon (20/1) had to settle for the placings in the Derrinstown Derby Trial behind Hazapour while Ballysax Stakes victor Nelson (33/1), Lingfield Derby Trial second Kew Gardens (40/1) and Dante third Zabriskie (50/1) look set to take their chance.

Rostropovich (40/1) took the Dee Stakes at Chester but is more likely to challenge for the French Derby at Chantilly on Sunday while Dermot Weld's Hazapour (12/1), which will be partnered by two-time winner Frankie Dettori, is the only other Irish-trained challenger.

The home team is led by Roaring Lion while 2,000 Guineas third Masar (14/1) carries the Godolphin colours for Charlie Appleby. With British champion Flat jockey Silvestre de Sousa in the plate, James Doyle is free to team up with Young Rascal (10/1). Doyle was aboard the William Haggas-trained colt when he defeated Mark Johnston's Dee Ex Bee (25/1) in the Chester Vase by half a length.

Meanwhile, Jessica Harrington's Alpha Centauri is all set for Royal Ascot next month and a tilt at the Coronation Stakes following her surprise victory in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Sunday.

It presents the daughter of Mastercraftsman with a chance to go one better than last year where she was drawn on the wrong side of the track when only beaten a neck by Different League in the Albany Stakes.

Elsewhere, the Listed Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes (6.45) is the headline act of an eight-race Flat card at Gowran Park tonight where O'Brien's top-rated Clear Skies will take all the beating in the €55,000 feature contest.

Irish Independent

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