Dermot Weld is under no illusions about the task facing Hazapour in the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday.
It is only two years since the Aga Khan’s Harzand provided the Rosewell House handler with his first triumph in the premier Classic.
The son of Sea The Stars was the latest of the leading owner-breeder’s five Derby winners, going back to Shergar in 1981.
The same team appear to have unearthed another realistic contender in Hazapour, a close relation of Harzand who booked his ticket for Epsom with victory in the usually-informative Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.
Weld said: “I’m very aware of the strength of the opposition.
“The word is that the favourite (Saxon Warrior) is an outstanding colt, and the horse that won the Dante (Roaring Lion) was very impressive.
“We are just hoping to run a very good race. I’m very pleased with him.
“He is a balanced, level-headed, nice colt. He’s progressive and whether he’s good enough, only time will tell.”
With his stable jockey Pat Smullen having been out of action since late March after being diagnosed with a tumour, Weld has turned to Frankie Dettori to partner Hazapour.
The popular Italian has won the Derby twice before, with Authorized in 2007 and Golden Horn in 2015, and sat on his latest Epsom mount for the first time during a gallop on Tuesday morning.
“His form is good. I don’t know how good the other horses are or if they’ll stay or not stay, but I’m very pleased with mine,” Dettori told At The Races.
“He comes from a staying family, he’s got low mileage and I’m expecting a good run.”
Oisin Murphy is relishing the opportunity of partnering the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion.
The grey has twice been beaten by Saxon Warrior, most recently when finishing fifth in the 2000 Guineas, but looked to have improved for the step up to a mile and a quarter when dominating his rivals in the Dante at York.
Speaking ahead of another leg of the Qipco British Champions Series, Murphy said: “It’s not often you have a live chance in a Classic, let alone the Derby, so I’m very excited. It could be that I’ll be waiting a few years to get an opportunity like this again.
“What he’s achieved so far would be good enough to win the Derby some years. On bare form, Saxon Warrior deserves to be favourite, but that doesn’t mean we can’t beat him and it’s not a two-horse race by any means.
“Epsom and 12 furlongs pose new questions, but I’ve a horse likely to get the trip because he’s very relaxed and will give himself every chance of staying.”
William Haggas will be having only his third Derby runner since winning with Shaamit in 1996 when he saddles Chester Vase winner Young Rascal.
The Newmarket-based Yorkshireman said: “He is in great form. He worked on Tuesday and we were very happy with him.
“I was very pleased with Breakfast With The Stars morning at Epsom last week and that would have done him good.
“He has got a bit to find, but I think cut in the ground will suit him and he’s getting better. Shaamit was very natural, this horse is learning.
“I think he’s going to stay and the ground won’t be an issue.”
Masar was a brilliant winner of the Craven Stakes at Newmarket on his seasonal reappearance and returned to the Rowley Mile to finish third behind Saxon Warrior in the Guineas.
Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “He’s in good nick and he ran a good trial in the Guineas. He does tick boxes, but he has a couple of question marks.
“His biggest question mark is the trip. He’s a horse that shows natural pace, as we saw in the Craven, but on pedigree he should stay and we’d be hopeful he will. We’ll be riding him to get home.
“He takes some good, solid form into the race and I think he’s a big price at 25-1.”