O’Brien Reveals His Investec Derby Battalion
Trainer Aidan O’Brien opened the doors of the famous Ballydoyle Stables in County Tipperary to the press yesterday at a media visit organised by Epsom Downs Racecourse and sponsor Investec to talk about his contenders for the 2010 Investec Derby.
O’Brien has won the Classic, which this year is run on Saturday, June 5, and boasts a prize fund of at least £1.25 million, twice previously with Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002). This year he looks to hold another formidable hand after saddling the second, third, fourth and fifth in 2009 from six runners.
St Nicholas Abbey was the European Champion juvenile of 2009 after going through his two-year-old season unbeaten in three starts, culminating in a comprehensive victory over Elusive Pimpernel in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. The Montjeu colt began this season at Newmarket on May 1, when he started evens favourite for the StanJames.com 2000 Guineas but could finish no better than sixth in the mile Classic.
O’Brien commented: “The race at Newmarket was St Nicholas Abbey’s first of the season and he was obviously very fresh. He was ready to run a hard mile that day but maybe it wasn’t a hard mile and if the pace had been fast and strong his class would have come out.
“Before that, his times at home had been as good, if not better, than all the good milers we’ve had and he was doing it on the bridle. We didn’t ask him a lot at home and maybe we were too easy on him.
“He has to step up from the Guineas to the Investec Derby but I think it’s in there. He was always the number one candidate for Epsom and nothing has changed. He’s one of those horses that comes along very few times but I don’t want to hype him, I’d rather he does the talking and shows you what he can do.
“He had last week off and his work will start this week again and get more serious each week in the run up to the Investec Derby. I’d have no worry about the track at Epsom, he was always a well balanced horse.”
Cape Blanco was undefeated in three starts last season, having last been seen out when successful in the Group Two Futurity Stakes over seven furlongs at Leopardstown in August. He is due to make his seasonal debut in the Group Two totesport.com Dante Stakes at York on Thursday, May 13.
The trainer revealed: “Cape Blanco gave himself a little nick at the back of his heel yesterday. He seems fine and the plan is to go to Epsom. There doesn’t look to be much pace in the Dante and you’d like to see something make it so it doesn’t become a walk and then a sprint.
“He’s a very low-moving horse and you wonder how far he’d stay but he has a lot of class. He should get a mile and a quarter and then we’ll just have to see about further.”
Jan Vermeer was also successful at Group One level as a two-year-old, ending the 2009 campaign with a four-length victory over Emerald Commander in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud, France, in November.
Prior to their success at Epsom Downs, both of O’Brien’s previous Investec Derby winners won the Group Two Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown and this year Midas Touch could follow the same route, having taken the 10-furlong contest yesterday.
Other possible O’Brien-trained starters in the Investec Derby include Mikhail Glinka, who was placed at Group One level last year and a fast-finishing third in the Group Three Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown on April 18, Viscount Nelson, who ran better than his finishing position suggested when a staying-on 11th in the 2000 Guineas and Fencing Master, who finished seventh at Newmarket.
O’Brien continued: “Mikhail Glinka had a foot bruise that delayed him and has held him up so we will just have to see how he is in the next few weeks. We were delighted with Midas Touch’s win on Sunday and he has eaten up and come out of the race very well today.
“We have to decide with Viscount Nelson whether to go for the Dante with a view to going to Epsom or whether to go to the Irish Guineas with him. Fencing Master looks like he could get further than a mile and he might go for the Irish Guineas.
“Jan Vermeer has come forward since his day out at the Curragh and we have the option of going for the Irish Guineas and then Epsom with him or we could just go to the French Derby first time out.
"The Derby is the ultimate test of the horse. Epsom is unique in that they have to be able to handle going left, going right, go uphill and downhill, cope with the camber, the preliminaries and then have the class to quicken up going up that hill. The ground is always perfect there so that’s never a problem. I can’t tell you what that feels like when you win but we’ve been on the other side of the fence many times. We try everything in our power to win it and we’ve been placed a lot of times."
Stable jockey Johnny Murtagh was also present today and gave his views on the stable’s hopes for Epsom.
He said: “I was disappointed immediately after the Guineas but watching the race again it was a good run. It was slowly run and I was very happy with the way St Nicholas Abbey stayed on to the line. It was his first run of the season and that’s just putting all ours right mentally this year.
“When St Nicholas Abbey won the Racing Post last season I thought he was potentially one of the best I’d ridden and he could be right up there with the best if everything goes OK in the Derby.
“He’s got the speed, the stamina and he’s got everything you need for the race. It would take a huge performance from one of our other horses to get me to change my mind about what I ride in the Investec Derby. It’s been a while since I won the race so hopefully I can do it again this year.
“Midas Touch didn’t like the testing ground when he ran in France last season but I was impressed with him yesterday. There is a lot more to come from him and he could be a dark horse for Epsom.
“Away from our own, I was impressed with Azmeel at Chester last week and also Chabal who beat him at Sandown before that. They would be the two I’d pick.”
O’BRIEN ALSO HOPING TO BE REPRESENTED IN INVESTEC OAKS AND INVESTEC CORONATION CUP
The master of Ballydoyle is also set to have runners in both the Investec Oaks and the Investec Coronation Cup, the two Group One contests which both take place on Investec Ladies Day, Friday, June 4.
Among O’Brien’s Investec Oaks possibles are You’ll Be Mine, who finished third in the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Ascot last season, Cheshire Oaks sixth Dance On By, recent Cork maiden winner Awe Inspiring, Cabaret, a Group Three scorer last season and Remember When, who finished a good third against older fillies in a Listed contest at Gowran Park on May 2.
O’Brien revealed: “You’ll Be Mine had a knock so had to miss the Guineas at Newmarket and is in good form but she’s not guaranteed to go for the Oaks.
“Dance On By ran respectably when there was no pace on in the Cheshire Oaks while Awe Inspiring is another that might go to Epsom.
“Cabaret is going to the Musidora and we’re very happy with her while Dylan Thomas’s three-parts sister Remember When finished third at Gowran and she’s another possible for the Investec Oaks.”
Shahtoush (1998), Imagine (2001) and Alexandrova (2006) all won the Investec Oaks for O’Brien.
In the Investec Coronation Cup, O’Brien could be represented by Fame And Glory, who beat all bar Sea The Stars in last year’s Investec Derby and also Age Of Aquarius, who finished seventh in the same race.
O'Brien said: “The plan with Fame And Glory is to go to the Tattersalls Gold Cup and then if everything is OK he could go for the Investec Coronation Cup.
“He could then have a break and we might start him back in the Irish Champion and he could go for the Arc and Breeders' Cup.
“Age Of Aquarius is a possible for the Investec Coronation Cup. We think he's a very classy horse who will come on nicely for his run at Chester last week.”
Ballydoyle's recent record in the Investec Coronation Cup is impressive reading with Yeats (2005), Scorpion (2007) and Soldier Of Fortune (2008) all having prevailed.