GBI RACING

Saxon Warrior to spearhead Aidan O’Brien assault on Derby

Aidan O’Brien, trainer (Clint Hughes/PA)

Saxon Warrior is set to lead an Aidan O’Brien team of at least four horses into battle in the Investec Derby at Epsom on June 2.

The Deep Impact colt is odds-on across the board for the premier Classic following his decisive success in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

O’Brien is also set to saddle Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon, who finished second and third respectively in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Kew Gardens, who filled the runner-up spot in the Lingfield Derby Trial on Saturday, has also been earmarked to run in the Derby.

O’Brien said: “I’d imagine those four will run and we’ll see if anything else goes with them.

“I suppose the two horses in the trial yesterday, the second and the third, and I suppose the horse from Lingfield.

“He would be number four then, and if something else runs, I don’t know. That’s what I would be thinking.”

Rostropovich (right) is set to head to Chantilly rather than Epsom
Rostropovich (right) is set to head to Chantilly rather than Epsom (Martin Rickett/PA)

Rostropovich looked a likely Derby contender when running out an impressive winner of last week’s Dee Stakes at Chester.

O’Brien added: “I thought that maybe the horse from Chester might go to the French Derby and something might go with him.

“They’ve all been progressing from their trials. Even the horses (in the trials on Sunday), we were happy that they had progressed from their first runs.”

Saxon Warrior will be a red-hot favourite to provide his trainer with a seventh success in the Epsom Derby.

Worryingly for his rivals, O’Brien expects him to improve significantly from his 2000 Guineas success.

He said: “The plan with going to Newmarket, and with the Derby in mind, we didn’t want to start over seven furlongs.

“We thought a mile at Newmarket was going to be a lovely start-off for him.

“Obviously we were very happy with him. Everything’s good so far. We could not have been happier with Saxon because there’s an awful lot of improvement to come. It’ll be exciting to see.”

Saxon Warrior on his way to victory in the 2000 Guineas
Saxon Warrior on his way to victory in the 2000 Guineas (Joe Giddens/PA)

O’Brien added: “We’ve always thought he was going to be a middle-distance horse, rather than Guineas horse.

“He’s a big colt – he wears his head low. He’s a good traveller and he seems balanced.

“He didn’t have any problems at Newmarket with the dip.  We’re very happy with him.

“Ryan Moore will ride him as he’s the number one rider and that’s the way it is.”

Saxon Warrior at Ballydoyle
Saxon Warrior at Ballydoyle (Brian Lawless/PA)

Should Saxon Warrior be successful at Epsom, he could be in line for a crack at the Triple Crown in the St Leger at Doncaster in September.

No horse has managed to win the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the Leger since the great Nijinsky in 1970.

The O’Brien-trained Camelot came mightily close in 2012 after being beaten just three-quarters of a length in the final leg, and the Ballydoyle handler feels Saxon Warrior has the tools to go one better.

He said: “It would be unbelievable if we ever had a horse that ever did it.

Camelot after being narrowly denied the Triple Crown in the St Leger six years ago
Camelot after being narrowly denied in the St Leger six years ago (John Giles/PA)

“If there’s a chance we had a Triple Crown horse, this was always going to be the horse.

“And that’s why we started him off in the Guineas.

“We are still alive and kicking after the first round.”