With Aidan O’Brien’s Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior no bigger than evens for the 2018 Investec Derby this week would hopefully throw up one or more credible challengers to the powerful Ballydoyle powerhouse in the trials held at Chester, Lingfield and Leopardstown and with the victories of Young Rascal, Knight To Behold and Hazapour the greatest Flat race in the world may not be the foregone conclusion it appeared just a few days ago.
O’Brien’s Rostroprovich ran out an easy winner of Chester’s Dee Stakes on Thursday but the son of Frankel appears more likely to head for France and the Prix Du Jockey Club rather than Epsom, leaving the hard-fought victory of the William Haggas-trained Young Rascal in the Chester Vase as the most significant Derby trial run on the Roodee. A top price 12-1 with Skybet, William Hill and Paddy Power for Epsom the son of Intello will have learnt plenty in beating Dee Ex Bee by a comfortable half a length and can be expected to improve again ahead of the big day.
Knight To Behold posted a solid effort in taking the Betfred Lingfield Derby Trial on Saturday and with the son of Sea The Stars open to plenty more improvement and possessing stamina in abundance looks a serious value each-way alternative to Saxon Warrior as does Hazapour from the Dermot Weld stable who proved too good for the Ballydoyle trio of Delano Roosevelt, The Pentagon and Nelson in Leopardstown’s Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes on Sunday. Unfancied at 16-1 the mount of Declan McDonogh always looked like reeling in the O’Brien runners inside the last two furlongs, earning a top quote of 16-1 with Sportingbet for Epsom. The son of Shamardal is out of a half sister to dual Derby winner Harzand and the Aga Khan looks to have another serious Derby challenger to join the owner’s successes with Shergar, Shahrastani, Kahyasi, Sinndar and Harzand.