Dermot Weld says Harzand a possibility for Epsom Derby

Aidan O’Brien’s US Army Ranger and Wings Of Desire are 4-1 joint favourites in most lists

There's less than a fortnight to go to a notably open-looking Investec Epsom Derby, and Dermot Weld describes a tilt by Harzand at the world's most famous classic as still being a "distinct possibility".

Previous indications had been that the Aga Khan-owned colt would bypass Epsom but with nothing putting a stamp on the Derby picture in any of the trials, Weld is closely examining whether or not to commit Harzand to the race.

“We will review things closer to the time and see what the weather is doing and what the ground is like before making a definite decision. But there is a distinct possibility Harzand will run,” said the Curragh trainer who has famously yet to add the Derby to his illustrious CV.

After Harzand's Ballysax Stakes victory in April, champion jockey Pat Smullen appeared to cast doubt on the colt's suitability for Epsom, arguing instead that he had all the qualities required for a St Leger tilt in the autumn.


Unsettled weather

The son of 2009 Derby hero Sea The Stars impressed in beating Idaho in that Ballysax which had Sunday’s Gallinule winner Beacon Rock over seven lengths back in third and the subsequent Derrinstown winner Moonlight Magic well beaten in fifth.

The last-mentioned is a 14-1 shot for Epsom while Harzand is as high as 25-1 in ante-post Derby lists but a continuation of unsettled weather conditions could yet tempt Weld into going to Epsom.

After that Ballysax, the trainer said he would worry about Harzand on very firm ground but that good going wouldn’t be a problem. The Ballysax was run on “heavy” while the colt’s wide-margin maiden success at Cork in March was also on a “heavy surface”.

It is 16 years since Sinndar provided the Aga Khan with the last of his four Epsom Derby victories, a roll of honour that also includes Kahyasi (1988), Shahrastani (1986) and the legendary Shergar in 1981.

Memorable day

Aidan O’Brien’s US Army Ranger is currently a 4-1 joint favourite with the Dante winner Wings Of Desire in most Derby betting lists while Dante runner-up Deauville is a 10-1 shot alongside the maiden winner, Ulysses.

John Gosden has outlined plans to work Wings Of Desire around Epsom at Tuesday morning's "Breakfast With The Stars" promotion which Britain's champion trainer used to work the 2015 Derby hero, Golden Horn.

Adrian Keatley may have enjoyed the most memorable day of his short training career when Jet Setting landed Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas, but he is already plotting further top-flight victories with the bargain 12,000gns purchase later in the year.

“Ascot [Coronation Stakes] is the next option and if there’s an ease in the ground, she’ll run there; even good ground would be fine,” Keatley said.

“We’ll take it one race at a time, but even before Sunday we were looking at possibly taking her to America later in the year.

“There’s the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont and a couple of weeks later there’s the EP Taylor up at Woodbine.

"David Wachman ran Curvy in both races last year, and it was something we've had in mind for a while as you can get some juice in the ground out there at that time of the year."

International opposition

Chantilly stages Group 1 action today when last year’s French Derby hero New Bay returns to action in the nine-furlong Prix d’Ispahan.

André Fabre’s star will face international opposition from Japan, Germany and Britain, including the David O’Meara- trained Mondialiste, who was the winner of last year’s Woodbine Mile.

“It is not ideal to have very soft ground for New Bay’s first run in a long time but we need to run and otherwise I am happy,” said Fabre, who also runs Vadamos.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column