Saxon Warrior tipped to give Aidan O’Brien 13th Irish Derby win
Trainer confident Japanese-bred colt to follow in Capri’s footsteps and prevail at Curragh
Aidan O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior is a 1-2 favourite to win the Irish Derby. Photograph: Inpho
Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team isn't sending their Epsom hero Masar to Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby but are considering their Royal Ascot winner Old Persian instead.
Old Persian won Friday's King Edward VII Stakes and a quick reappearance in this weekend's €1.5 million Curragh classic is being considered.
Trainer Charlie Appleby explained the 'Win and you're In' clause applicable to the King Edward VII is being explored by in form-Godolphin team.
"Old Persian has come out of his race very well and I am very pleased with him. I have had initial discussions about the Irish Derby with his High Highness Sheikh Mohammed and he has agreed to review the situation before the supplementary entry deadline on Tuesday," Appleby said on Sunday.
Old Persian beat the Aidan O'Brien pair Rostropovich and Giuseppe Garibaldi on Friday. The Sheikh's son, Sheikh Hamdan, owns Dee Ex Bee can also be added to the Irish Derby field for free on Tuesday after finishing runner up to Masar at Epsom.
Saxon Warrior is odds-on to make it “lucky 13” for O’Brien in Saturday’s race. Fresh from securing a ninth “Leading Trainer” award at last week’s Royal Ascot extravaganza O’Brien once again looks in a dominant position ahead of Ireland’s premier classic.
Capri provided the champion trainer with a 12th Irish Derby success a year ago and Saxon Warrior is a general 1-2 favourite to follow in his footsteps.
The Japanese-bred colt could finish only fourth when an odds-on favourite at Epsom earlier this month. However O’Brien expects the previously impressive 2,000 Guineas winner to show the benefit of that run back on home ground.
“We think he will have grown up and learned a lot for that experience. I think the track at the Curragh will be better for him. I think Epsom would be fine for him if he was to go back there again. He was just a little bit at sea and was still a bit of a baby last time,” O’Brien said on Sunday.
“He had three soft runs at the back end last year and didn’t learn an awful lot. The tracks were all easy he raced on. We think the experience at Epsom would have done him the world of good. His work is finished now and everything seems good,” he added.
The race’s most successful ever trainer could wind up supplying much of the Derby supporting cast too.
One of his four Ascot winners, the Hampton Court scorer, Hunting Horn, is currently a 10-1 shot while another, the Queens Vase winner, Kew Gardens, is as low as 12-1 in some ante-post lists. A number of other Ballydoyle horses remain in the frame to run in the race too.
With the Epsom winner Masar waiting for the following week’s Eclipse at Sandown, the Curragh authorities are “confident” the Epsom runner-up Dee Ex Bee will travel for the weekend feature.
Dee Ex Bee, owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s son, Sheikh Hamdan, and trained by Mark Johnston, earned a free entry to the Irish Derby with his Epsom performance.
“He’s the one we’ve been targeting. Supplementing isn’t an issue because of his Epsom placing and we’re confident he’s coming. We also talked to the connections of the French Derby winner [Study Of Man] but they’ve decided they’re not going to travel,” said Curragh chief executive Derek McGrath on Sunday.
With the current warm weather conditions set to continue well into the rest of the week, watering began at the Curragh on Friday.
“We’re planning for it [the good weather to continue]. We’ve been hitting the water for the last few days and we’re happy the track will be good, good to firm, which is where it is today. But it’s going to take a lot of watering,” McGrath said.
The 6,000 on-site crowd capacity limit which provoked such controversy last year is reportedly also still in place for this year’s Derby festival. The Curragh’s chief executive was reluctant to be pinned down to a precise figure however.
“We don’t have an issue with restrictions. The only restriction we have is in the size of the site we have,” McGrath said.
“It is clearly not 30,000. The site is exactly as we have set it out last year. This year we have a different configuration and the availability of the new facilities means we have a lot more to offer to people,” he added.
Joseph O’Brien, twice an Irish Derby winner as a jockey aboard Australia and Camelot, could saddle his own Irish Derby contender this time with the course maiden winner Latrobe.
Before that though the in-form trainer will be in National Hunt action at Kilbeggan on Monday evening when O’Brien can combine for a double with his cousin JJ Slevin.
Glocca Mora showed enough on his hurdling debut to suggest he should be hard to beat in the opener while quick ground looked to transform Maifitz’s Madonna on her previous start at Tipperary. She can go one better in the first of the handicap hurdles.
She memorably secured her first Royal Ascot winner when Alpha Centauri produced an outstanding Coronation Stakes performance on Friday.
Harrington stressed on Sunday the giant grey filly won’t be asked to race on soft ground again and Alpha Centauri has a range of future Group One options.
“She’s in the Falmouth. Whether that comes a bit quick for her I don’t know. She’s also in the Irish Champion Stakes. I suppose she’ll be put in the Matron and I know the Niarchos family sponsor the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville and there was talk she would go there.
“The Breeders Cup Mile could definitely enter calculations. I know that’s their [owners] love and it would be lovely if everything goes alright if she stays in training next year,” she said.