Saxon Warrior tops Derby 14

NEWMARKET, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  Donnacha O...Brien riding Saxon Warrior (R, purple) win The Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse on May 5, 2018 in Newmarket, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Donnacha O...Brien;Saxon Warrior
Image: Donnacha O'Brien riding Saxon Warrior

Saxon Warrior is the star name among 14 confirmations for the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday.

The son of Deep Impact is odds-on across the board for the premier Classic after extending his unbeaten record to four in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier this month.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien has seven remaining entries in all as he chases a joint-record seventh Derby success. The other Ballydoyle hopefuls are Delano Roosevelt, Kew Gardens, The Pentagon, Nelson, Rostropovich and Zabriskie.

Dermot Weld's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner Hazapour is the only other Irish-trained contender.

The home team is headed by John Gosden's runaway Dante winner Roaring Lion, who finished fifth behind Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas.

Masar, who was third in the 2000 Guineas, will bid to become a first Derby winner in the Godolphin colours for Charlie Appleby.

Chester Vase hero Young Rascal is a leading fancy for William Haggas and is set to renew rivalries with the Mark Johnston-trained Dee Ex Bee, who was runner-up on the Roodee.

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Harry Dunlop's Lingfield Derby Trial winner Knight To Behold and Gosden's second runner Sevenna Star complete the potential field.

The Niarchos Family will bid for their second Classic success in the space of a week when Zabriskie goes for glory in Saturday's race.

The Jessica Harrington-trained Alpha Centauri carried the famous colours to victory in Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas and Zabriskie, one of seven potential runners for Aidan O'Brien in the premier Classic, has been confirmed an intended runner at Epsom.

The son of Frankel has won just one of his five starts to date, but posted a career-best effort when third in the Dante Stakes at York behind Roaring Lion earlier this month.

Alan Cooper, racing manager for the owners, said: "Aidan says he is an improving horse and Zabriskie gave me the impression at York that he would stay a mile and a half.

"His half-brother Bago (by 1989 Derby winner Nashwan) won the Arc over a mile and a half so there is stamina in the pedigree.

"Zabriskie handled the track at Epsom very well when he ran in the Investec Blue Riband Trial in April (finished sixth).

"The Derby has been the hope for a long time. Aidan has not yet finalised the jockeys for his Derby runners."

No watering at Epsom

Conditions at Epsom remain on the slow side of good after a second dry day, but the forecast leading up to the two-day Investec Derby Festival remains unpredictable.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper revised the going from good to soft, good in places to good, good to soft places on Monday afternoon, but there is the possibility of showers before early Tuesday morning.

The prospect of rain is also up in the air right through to Friday.

"We've had a hot, dry Monday but from late afternoon right through to breakfast time tomorrow morning we're going to be potentially at risk of seeing some showers in this area," he said.

"The week as a whole has still got an unsettled and uncertain look about it.

"You could find potential for rain or showers on any day this week, certainly up to and including Friday.

"They are going to be hit and miss and with warmish weather in between.

"Wednesday has been flagged up as having potentially more rain around. Again, its going to be showery in nature and you wouldn't have confidence in what was going to happen weather wise.

"Ground wise we've dried a bit today as you'd expect. We're just on the slow side of good overall.

"We'll have to see what the weather does over the next couple of days.

"It's not as if we're fast at the moment, needing rain. We can afford to have a couple of dry days and still be in the realms of nice ground."

At present there is no question of Cooper having to water the track.

"We're fortunate we're on the slow side of good rather already than being fast and worrying whether it will rain or not," he said.

"With ground conditions as they are and with that forecast there is no question of us doing anything for a while this week, if it all, which is ideal obviously."

In an ideal world, Cooper would be hoping for good, fast summer ground come Derby day.

"I think, as Flat racecourses, we are aiming for good to firm ground, although there is an acceptance in the same instruction that says if there is a meeting of more than one day, it is perfectly acceptable to start on good ground," he said.

"We tend to do that for the Friday and if it stays dry, it will be good to firm on the Saturday.

"Ideally, Flat racing ground is what you'd call good, good to firm places - the fast side of good. That is generally acceptable to most people. It's summer Flat racing and should be racing on good, fast ground."

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