AIDAN O’Brien will be in seventh heaven if hot favourite Saxon Warrior – or any of his squad of five – can land the Investec Derby (Epsom 4.30).
It will put him one clear of Ballydoyle predecessor Vincent O’Brien’s six successes in the greatest Flat race of them all.
If the Warrior wins the battle it will be all systems go for a tilt at the Triple Crown, last achieved by Nijinsky in 1970, in the St Leger at Doncaster.
Saxon Warrior was very impressive in the 2,000 Guineas and, if he stays the Derby distance, he will be very hard to beat.
But softer ground will make this a true test and his dam, Maybe, flopped in the Oaks and was then campaigned at a mile so it is no certainty. Maybe he won’t!
At the prices YOUNG RASCAL is the each-way play.
He won a hot maiden at Newbury in April easily and stepped up again when taking the Chester Vase, over the full Derby distance. He was hampered there and had to battle to get a run a furlong out before winning cosily in the end, gaining valuable experience.
The ground will be ideal and, with further progress assured, he has a great chance.
Trainer William Haggas won the race with Shaamit in 1996 but has had only four other runners in Epsom Classics prior to this week.
They include Dancing Rain (Oaks winner in 2011) and Storm The Stars (Derby 3rd in 2015). If he runs ’em he fancies ’em!
Roaring Lion is second favourite on the back of his impressive Dante win. He is a top-class 1m2f performer but he has shown a tendency to hang and seemed unsuited by the track at Newmarket in the Guineas.
He could have real problems with the unique contours of Epsom.
Knight To Behold made all to win the Lingfield Trial and he will ensure this is a real staying test but that form is dubious.
The Leopardstown Trial won by Hazapour, the mount of Frankie Dettori, has more substance. But the runner-up, another O’Brien ace Delano Roosevelt, was gaining at the line in that 1m2f contest and could reverse the form over today’s extra two furlongs.
Having been beaten on his last four starts though, he probably lacks the requisite class.
POET’S PRINCE can be crowned the winner of the 2.00. He was an excellent second to stablemate Communique in Newbury’s always red-hot London Gold Cup two weeks ago (with Connect well beaten) and can cope with a 5lb rise in what looks a less competitive race.
John Gosden’s Court House ran really well last time when only just pipped by classy Old Persian at Newmarket but that run saw his handicap mark hiked up 12lb. If he can win this off a perch of 104 his trainer may rue not going for the Derby!
Ship Of The Fen won well at Doncaster on his reappearance and is still fairly weighted. He will handle the ground but the form of that win has not worked out too well.
Corazon Espinado won at the track in April but seemed outstayed over Ascot’s stiff mile last time and the extra two furlongs are a worry.
BOOM THE GROOM can explode on to the scene late to land the ‘Dash’ (3.45).
Incredibly the line-up features the winners of the last five runnings, triple hero Caspian Prince, Desert Law and Duke of Firenze. And all of them are handicapped to run well again, within a pound or two of marks they have coped with in the past. All three warrant respect.
But Boom The Groom has gone close here more than once and is 11lb lower than when an unlucky sixth here 12 months ago.
The key trial is often the course-and-distance handicap run at the April fixture. The first nine that day are back for more.
Bahamian Sunshine won in a finish of short heads but fourth-home Boom The Groom got no run (again) and was flying at the line. He would surely have won in a couple more strides.
He is nicely drawn for a hold-up horse, not too close to the stands’ rail where bunching is sure to occur, and with the champion jockey booked, is a solid each-way shout in what is always a thrilling 60 seconds.
DASH OF SPICE (5.15) can prove too hot for his rivals. He ran a cracker on his reappearance when second to fast-improving Ajman King over 1m2f at this track and probably should have won last time at Kempton where he was keen off a slow pace and was carried wide round the final bend.
He finished like a train but just too late. With 19 runners there is unlikely to be any hanging around today.
After just five career starts he has more improvement in him than most of these and, like Boom The Groom, Silvestre de Sousa will be doing the steering.