Anything could happen! Lack of trials means a very open Derby, says Aidan O’Brien

Horse Racing Aidan O'Brien trainer
Aidan O’Brien: could run six horses in the Investec Derby at Epsom.
Photo: Qipco British Champions Series

By Jon Lees

GB: Aidan O’Brien believes “anything is possible” at Epsom on Saturday, raising the possibility of a shock winner of the 2020 Investec Derby because of the lack of preparation time for this year’s Classic.

O’Brien could run six of the seven entries he has in the race, in which an eighth victory would make him the most successful Derby-winning trainer in the race’s history.

The Derby: ‘I am massively excited, he ticks a lot of boxes’ – trainers on their runners

Mogul, Russian Emperor and Vatican City are his best chances in the betting but the Ballydoyle trainer, who sprang his own upset with the 40-1 winner Wings Of Eagles three years ago, says he is struggling to identify his lead hope.

“It’s a very difficult question to answer, it could happen with any of them,” said the trainer, who also has Mythical, Serpentine and Amrhan Na Bhfiann, speaking at an Investec Derby media event. Armory is more likely to wait for the Prix du Jockey Club the following day at Chantilly.

Opportunities have been scarce because some traditional Classic trials were lost due to the coronavirus-enforced suspension of racing.

O’Brien said: “I think it makes these races all the more interesting because horses will come out of the clouds that are sleeping in there that nobody really knows. Usually in trials you would know before the main race comes along.

“It’s going to be so interesting. Like the Irish Derby anything is possible. There are all different scenarios and it could happen with any of them.

“I suppose Mogul is the horse that always looked like going there but everyone’s life changed when this thing came. It would have been lovely to have got two races into him and really this is a second run now.”

James Doyle, William Buick and Adam Kirby are standing by to ride for O’Brien once first jockey Ryan Moore has made his choice, with neither the trainer nor his Irish-based riders able to travel to Epsom.

O’Brien said Doyle was also in contention to ride Ennistymon, whom he rode to second place in the Ribblesdale Stakes, in the Investec Oaks, in which she will support 1,000 Guineas winner Love. Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful will go to France for the Prix de Diane.

Irish Derby winner Santiago could head to the 2m Goodwood Cup for his next start en route to the St Leger, O’Brien revealed. Japan and Magic Wand are set to represent the stable in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes on Sunday against Enable and Ghaiyyath.

Last year’s Juddmonte International winner Japan disappointed when only fourth in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot, but O’Brien said there were excuses.

“What happened was Ryan was waiting on the stalls to open and when the starter shouted ‘hoods off’ he jumped and hit the front of the stalls so anticipated the start a bit,” he explained. “Then when the stalls did open, he was a little bit on the back foot and he came out late and lost a little bit of ground.

“Then Ryan let him go forward but the pace was strong. We think with the combination of all that and it being his first run that he got a bit tired. The plan was he would come back to the Eclipse. We have had our eye on the King George and we thought he might take another run in between.”

Investec Derby betting

Coral: 9-4 English King, 4 Kameko, 6 Russian Emperor, 7 Mogul, 8 Vatican City, 14 Highland Chief, Pyledriver, 20 Armory, Mohican Heights, 25 Emissary, Khalifa Sat, 33 Mythical, Serpentine, Worthily, 40 Max Vega, 50 Amhran Na Bhfiann, Gold Maze.

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