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Epsom Downs

  • 16:00 Investec Derby 1m 4f 10y

  • (Group 1) £1,380,000 added 3yo 16 ran
  • Winner £782,598 2nd £296,700 3rd £148,488 4th £73,968
  • Going: Good
  • Surface: Turf
    Weighed In
  • Winning time: 2m 33.63s
  • Off time: 16:07:31

View from connections ahead of Saturday's Investec Derby at Epsom Downs.

Last Updated: 07/06/14 2:24pm

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Australia heads the Ballydoyle squad for the Epsom Derby

Australia heads the Ballydoyle squad for the Epsom Derby

Aidan O'Brien believes he has "never had a horse" like Australia ahead of his date with destiny at Epsom on Saturday.

The master of Ballydoyle is one of the most successful trainers of the modern era and has saddled four winners of the premier Classic in Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002) and the last two winners Camelot and Ruler Of The World.

Both Galileo and High Chaparral were standout performers of their time, while Camelot came close to sealing the Triple Crown in 2012, but O'Brien rates his latest Epsom candidate the best Flat horse he has ever trained.

Bred to excel on the Downs as a son of Galileo out of 2004 Oaks heroine and brilliant racemare Ouija Board, Australia burst onto the scene with a scintillating victory at Leopardstown last September and the hyperbole continued into the winter and spring.

The three-year-old came up narrowly short in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket behind Night Of Thunder and subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Kingman, but O'Brien insists Epsom has been his primary objective since day one.

"We don't take anything for granted ahead of any big race, we're always hopeful and never confident. We were happy with the horse at Newmarket," said O'Brien. "Australia is uncomplicated, relaxed and has speed - exactly what you want in a racehorse. He's very natural and takes no training. He has a great mind and settles very well."

The trainer revealed he knew Australia was something out of the ordinary even before he first graced the racecourse last summer.

"From the time he worked, he always showed something different. In March and April of last year he was doing half-speeds with horses he shouldn't have been able to do it with," said O'Brien.

"When you see the splits in the Guineas they were all 11 seconds and looking at the video he was doing half-speed in the first half of the race. It was an unusually strongly-run race and he was cruising along.

"I'd never say the Guineas is a trial, but the reason we went was it was good ground and a mile on a straight course. It's the most straightforward trial for him. It is run over a straight mile and gave us a five-week gap ahead of Epsom."

"I would be surprised if he didn't stay. He's never shown anything that would suggest it will be a problem. He's a Derby horse like we've not had the likes of before. We've never had a horse like this."
Aidan O'Brien

Having never raced beyond a mile, Australia will be stepping into the unknown over a mile and a half, but given his stout breeding, connections are not anticipating any stamina issues.

O'Brien said: "I would be surprised if he didn't stay. He's never shown anything that would suggest it will be a problem.

"The guys couldn't believe they could buy a Galileo out of Ouija Board. It's very rare to get a horse like that and even more rare that they are good - most horses don't live up to expectations. He's a Derby horse like we've not had the likes of before. We've never had a horse like this."

Aidan and Joseph O'Brien became the first ever father-son combination to win the Derby when Camelot romped clear in 2012 and the young rider has been ever-present in the saddle during Australia's four-race career so far.

He feels his big-race mount may well have won the 2000 Guineas in different circumstances and is confident about his chances this weekend.

"I'd love to run the Guineas again. If we had all been in a group, I feel Australia might have won," said O'Brien jnr.

"He came into the race having won a four-runner race at Leopardstown and at Newmarket it's a big, open space for a relatively green horse. I would have loved a target for the last furlong but I had to go when I did. He ran a massive race and it was probably a very good Guineas."

Assessing his Derby credentials, Joseph said: "I wouldn't want to swap him for anything else at all - either in the Derby or back over mile. I like him and always have done. I really believe in the horse. To be successful, you have to believe in your own horse."

While Australia is undoubtedly the star name among the Ballydoyle three-year-old brigade, the colt is ably supported by three stable companions in Saturday's Epsom showpiece.

Orchestra earned his tilt with a narrow victory in the Chester Vase, but Ryan Moore has intriguingly jumped off him to ride Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial third Geoffrey Chaucer, leaving Seamie Heffernan to ride the Roodee winner.

The formidable quartet is completed by Dee Stakes scorer Kingfisher, the mount of Colm O'Donoghue.

The trainer said: "I was very happy with the way Orchestra won at Chester. If anyone had seen him there, they'd have seen that he had a bit of a tummy on him, and he'll come on for that.

"I wasn't sure he would get a mile and a half, even though his pedigree is very stout. I know Ryan Moore was also impressed with him at Chester and thinks he has a big chance in the Derby.

"Kingfisher won well at Chester and is very straightforward horse.

"Nothing went right for Geoffrey Chaucer in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown as it was a very messy race with a slow pace. Joseph had to go up the inside from where he was drawn."

Roger Varian expects Kingston Hill to thrive for the step up to 12 furlongs as he goes for glory in the Investec Derby at Epsom.

The Mastercraftsman colt progressed at a rapid rate after winning his debut at Newbury last September, going on to land the Group Three Autumn Stakes before he spreadeagled the field, including French Derby winner The Grey Gatsby, in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

"At the same time, we're there to take him on, we'll be doing our best and we're going there with plenty of excitement. He deserves to be there. He's a Group One winner and I have no doubt you'll see a better horse now he steps up in trip."
Roger Varian

Varian started him off in the 2000 Guineas, where he was beaten five lengths in eighth, but the trainer believes a switch up in distance is a positive for Kingston Hill, who is the only previous Group One winner in the field.

He is owned by Paul Smith, son of Derrick, who is part of the Coolmore triumvirate.

"He has come out of the Guineas very well. We considered running in the Dante, but at the start of the year the plan was to go for the Guineas and then the Derby and we decided to stick to that," said Newmarket-based Varian.

"The ground at York would have suited him, but we felt asking him to run in the Guineas and then another good race like the Dante 12 days later would have been the wrong thing to do and there was no need to do it.

"We would have liked him to have finished a bit closer at Newmarket but, on reflection, he ran a perfectly good race and a good trial for Epsom.

"The Derby trials have been interesting and there have been some good winners, but probably nothing outstanding, which is why nothing is really challenging Australia at the top of the market.

"From the reports I've read, Aidan (O'Brien) has been very positive about Australia since the Guineas and if the ground comes up good to firm at Epsom, he'll be hard to beat.

"At the same time, we're there to take him on, we'll be doing our best and we're going there with plenty of excitement. He deserves to be there. He's a Group One winner and I have no doubt you'll see a better horse now he steps up in trip."

While the ground may come in his favour as rain is forecast, Kingston Hill must defy an unfavourable draw in stall two, with no winners in recent years starting from one or two.

True Story, who is drawn in one, was a hot favourite for the Dante after an imperious display in the Feilden Stakes but he was well held in third with Kieren Fallon, who replaced SIlvestre de Sousa on the colt, blaming his defeat on the ground.

His trainer Saeed bin Suroor said: "The Dante form is good. Since York he has worked twice with Kieren and worked really well.

"I'm really happy with him, but the key is we don't want it too soft. The horse is well, physically we are happy now, he's improved a lot and I think a mile and a half will be really good for him. Good ground or good to soft will be perfect.

"It depends how fast they go, but off a nice pace I think we'll sit handy and that will suit him."

One place in front of True Story at York was Peter Chapple-Hyam's Arod, representing a trainer with two wins in the Classic.

"Arod has been in really good form since the Dante - we are really happy with him. We think that he has improved and he has definitely improved physically," said Chapple-Hyam.

"He should enjoy the step up to a mile and a half, we think that is what he wants even though he has got a lot of speed. But you do need speed too - a horse has to travel well around Epsom.

"He would not want the ground too soft but he should handle the hullabaloo of Derby Day - I am sure that he will handle it a lot better than I will!"

"He's unbeaten and won his two Group races. He's a lovely, kind animal. He's a smashing colt to train and he's getting better all the time. We don't know if a mile and a half is up his street, that's the unknown question. We hope he will stay."
Dermot Weld

Dermot Weld has won races all over the globe but has yet to triumph in the Derby, with Casual Conquest's third to New Approach in 2008 the closest he has come. His contender this year is Fascinating Rock, who won the Ballysax Stakes and was awarded the Derrinstown Derby Trial in the stewards' room.

However, Weld admits he is in the dark as to whether Fascinating Rock will see out a mile and a half.

"He's a fine, big horse, he's done us proud this spring. He's unbeaten and won his two Group races," Weld said.

"He's a lovely, kind animal. He's a smashing colt to train and he's getting better all the time. We don't know if a mile and a half is up his street, that's the unknown question. We hope he will stay. The mental attitude of the horse will help - he's a lovely, big, relaxed horse.

"Obviously we've been training him to settle, he's been doing that nicely, and there's every chance he will get a mile and a half. He got a mile and a quarter at Navan going away, he was coming home to some tune at Leopardstown.

"He gives us every indication he will stay, but that is the one doubt about it."

Assessing the opposition, Weld said: "Australia is a very worthy favourite, the English 2000 Guineas form was a very good Classic trial. I'm very happy with my horse. He's adaptable and I expect a big run. But if Australia was not in the race, I think Geoffrey Chaucer would be a short-priced favourite.

"I've been training for nearly 40 years and I've saddled 22 European Classic winners and saddled an Oaks winner early in my career and won a Newmarket 2000 Guineas. If I won the Derby it would be great, I've had very few runners in the race."

Fascinating Rock finished behind John Oxx's Ebanoran in the Derrinstown before being awarded the race but in contrast to Weld, Oxx has notched two wins from just three runners in the Classic.

Sinndar and Sea The Stars collected while Alamshar finished third, subsequently winning an Irish Derby and the King George, suggesting Oxx only brings colts of the highest order.

"Everything has been going fine, he's a little bit like his mother (Ebadiyla) at home, he doesn't burn up the gallops, he does what he has to do and no more but he seems in great shape and we're happy with the way everything has gone," said Oxx.

"Nobody knows until 4pm on Derby day what they've got. All the trials, you learn a little bit but there's a lot you don't learn and everything becomes crystal clear on the day.

"He's got to improve. He's on 113 so he's got to improve 7lb to be in the money. We're hoping he has, he's improved enormously from race to race to date, taking a big stride forward each time but he has to do it again to be in the money.

"We don't have any real worries about the ground until he proves otherwise. He won his maiden on good and one of his other two races was on heavy and one on soft and that didn't stop him.

"His mother won the Irish Oaks on real good ground and the Prix Royal Oak on heavy so he gets his ability to handle that from her and he seems adaptable there.

"When he wandered around in the Derrinstown it was not that he became unbalanced, it was just greenness. And there were some mitigating circumstances. There was a photographer standing at the top of a step ladder near the line and we think he swerved away from that.

"The longer trip is a new test and Epsom is a very demanding track. You cannot be certain but he has so much stamina on the dam's side of his pedigree that there must be a good chance he will stay the extra distance."

"Western Hymn has a lot of ability and I am very pleased with the way he has trained this year. He is a very solid and legitimate horse to run in the race. I took him to work at Lingfield and was very pleased - he did a mile in one minute and 37.2 seconds."
John Gosden

It seems a long time since John Gosden tasted Derby glory with Benny The Dip in 1997 and he fields the only unbeaten runner in the race, Western Hymn.

"He is a young horse and has only had three races. The first was at the back end of last year at Kempton Park. People decry all-weather racing but when the ground has gone in the autumn and you want to get a two-year-old out, there is no better place than Kempton or Lingfield on Polytrack," said Gosden.

"Whether they win or not, they get a nice race and come home in one piece rather than having the guts pulled out of them on heavy ground in November. He did that and won well. Then obviously, he ran a nice race first time out this year at Newbury.

"He had to slog a bit in heavy ground at Sandown when winning the Classic Trial but won well. Having had those two races, I did not want to have a hard race at York in the Dante so we missed that and instead took him to work at Lingfield. I was very pleased with his work there - he did a mile in one minute and 37.2 seconds.

"Western Hymn has a lot of ability and I am very pleased with the way he has trained this year. He is a very solid and legitimate horse to run in the race."

Gosden also supplemented Romsdal, beaten a nose by Orchestra in the Chester Vase.

Among the outsiders is the William Haggas-trained Our Channel, who won the Classic Trial at Epsom over 10 furlongs.

"He looks great and he's ready to go. He seems very, very well, which is all we can ask," said Haggas, who won the race with Shaamit in 1996.

"He obviously has a bit to do, but he won his trial at the track, the owner is keen to give it a go and he deserves his place in the field."

Bruce Raymond, racing manager to Our Channel's owner Abdulla Al Mansoori, said: "We know he handles the track - there's no problem there - and we are hoping he gets the trip. If we finish in the money, we will be absolutely delighted. I can't see him beating the front two favourites but the fact he handles the track is a huge positive.

"I was second on 150-1 shot Blue Judge and there were a few good ones behind me. It's possible in the Derby because horses who act on the track have a huge advantage. You might think a horse will act but, until you try, you never know."

Andrew Balding is represented by Impulsive Moment and said: "He stays well and I think you are going to need to. I thought he ran really well at Sandown (behind Western Hymn) on what was only his third ever run. There's only one Derby so we'll have a go."

Red Galileo is a first Derby ride for rising star Oisin Murphy, although trainer Ed Dunlop knows he is up against it.

He told his website, "We entered Red Galileo for this race in the winter. This is a very sporting venture by his owner, Mr Arculli and his sportsmanship shows by booking up-and-coming star apprentice Oisin Murphy to ride this horse.

"Let's hope he can give his connections a great run."

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