Saxon Warrior tops a field of 12 for the Investec Derby at Epsom – where the going is now soft, good to soft in places.
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 Derby success.
The going had been soft, but clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said on Thursday evening: “It’s been a dry day – there’s been the odd spit-spot of rain but nothing measurable.
“I think the last mile of the course is soft, whereas the first four furlongs are on the better side, and I think there is enough to call it soft, good to soft in places.
“There seem to be some sharpish showers to the south of Epsom and we’ve lived a charmed life thus far.
“I think we are going to be at risk of a shower this evening – I don’t think we are out of the woods until tomorrow, and there’s still a risk then.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.