Saxon Warrior heads 12 contenders for Derby honours

Aidan O’Brien’s 2000 Guineas winner bids to add a second Classic at Epsom

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Saxon Warrior tops a field of 12 for Saturday’s Investec Derby at Epsom.

The 2000 Guineas winner sparked dreams of a Triple Crown bid at Newmarket and has been odds-on favourite to win the second leg ever since.

However, Aidan O’Brien has voiced concerns about the recent rain at Epsom as he goes in search of a record-equalling seventh blue riband.

O’Brien has also declared Delano Roosevelt, Kew Gardens, The Pentagon and Zabriskie.

Dermot Weld won his first Derby just two years ago with Harzand and has a close relative of the 2016 hero representing him this season in Hazapour, winner of the Derrinstown Stud Trial.

“Hazapour has an each-way chance, but I think it could be a really good renewal of the race,” said Weld.

“It could be a very exciting Derby. The word is that the favourite is an outstanding colt, and the horse that won the Dante (Roaring Lion) was very impressive.

“I’m happy with my fella. He’s so laid-back.

“I was satisfied with his work the other day, but Frankie (Dettori) was delighted.”

Roaring Lion is one of two runners for John Gosden with the rain persuading him to let Sevenna Star take his chance. He will be a first Derby ride for Robert Havlin.

Young Rascal, owned by Investec’s managing director Bernard Kantor, runs for William Haggas with Craven winner Masar aiming to be the first winner in Godolphin’s blue silks.

Harry Dunlop’s Knight To Behold was very impressive in the Lingfield Derby Trial and has his supporters while Mark Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee completes the field. He will be ridden by champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa.

O’Brien’s Rostropovich and Nelson were the only horses not declared from the five-day stage.

Saxon Warrior has been drawn in stall one while his main market rival Roaring Lion will break from five.

Masar will be in stall 10 with Young Rascal in nine – the same stall from which Haggas’ 1996 winner Shaamit prevailed.

Ryan Moore will be on Saxon Warrior as expected, with Donnacha O’Brien riding Kew Gardens, Seamie Heffernan on Delano Roosevelt, Wayne Lordan getting the leg up on The Pentagon and last year’s winning pilot Padraig Beggy on Zabriskie.

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper is hoping there is no significant rain on Thursday after a deluge earlier in the week.

He told Racing UK: “Tuesday took an unexpected turn. We expected five, maybe 10 millimetres, but it really kicked off in the afternoon and we ended up with 22 and it remains soft ground as we speak.

“At the moment, having looked at the radar, it looks like the M25 is acting as a force field for us and the rain that has come over from France so far has dissipated before it gets to us and long may it continue to do that.

“I think we’d be at or near good to soft if it stayed dry between now and Saturday. The last mile is a bit softer, but it’s not quick drying conditions. There is a chance of showers today, but fingers crossed we’ll be near good to soft.”

Saxon Warrior heads 12 contenders for Derby honours

Epsom Downs 16:30, 2 June 2018

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