Seven is the magic number for Aidan O’Brien at Epsom on Saturday as he sends out seven runners in search of his seventh victory in the Investec Derby.
Three trainers have saddled a septet of winners in the race’s 238-year history, so O’Brien would be joining an elite club if he can emulate that achievement.
Chester Vase winner Sir Dragonet spearheads this year’s challenge in the hands of Ryan Moore, as he tries to continue what has been a rapid upward trajectory over the last month.
The Camelot colt did not make his racecourse debut until April 25, and O’Brien is hoping that patience can pay dividends after the Coolmore team paid the £85,000 required to supplement him for the race on Monday.
O’Brien said: “He was always a very easy horse at home and does what is asked of him. He would just be going along there. He was kind of a reserved type of horse.
“He didn’t run last year, so we just minded him. The reason he ran first time at Tipperary was just in case there was something special in there. Sir Dragonet’s work has been lovely since he last ran and he shows he gets a mile and a half well.”
Broome has followed O’Brien’s traditional Ballysax-Derrinstown Derby Trial route and will be ridden by his son, Donnacha, with Seamie Heffernan on Lingfield winner Anthony Van Dyck.
“Broome has had two runs and we have been very happy with him. Ryan was very happy with him the first day and Donnacha was very happy the second day and everything has gone well since then,” said O’Brien.
“Anthony Van Dyck is a horse we always thought would get a middle distances well. We kept him short enough last year as we didn’t have any other two-year-olds really ready to go into battle.
“He won the Futurity and those races and was third in the Dewhurst. We were very interested in watching him run at Lingfield and Ryan was very happy with him and that he got the trip well.”
Frankie Dettori has been called up for the ride on Circus Maximus, with Wayne Lordan on Japan and Norway partnered by Jamie Spencer. Sovereign also runs for the team and will be ridden by Padraig Beggy, who gave O’Brien his last win when causing a 40-1 shock on Wings Of Eagles in 2017.
“We think Circus Maximus will come forward a good deal from Chester and Japan went to the Dante just to have a run. You would imagine he’ll get the trip well,” said O’Brien.
Hughie Morrison came close to winning the Oaks in 2012 with Shirocco Star and it is her son, Telecaster, who gives him a real chance of Derby glory, after his victory in the Dante over Too Darn Hot prompted connections to supplement him back into the race after taking him out in March.
Another who did not run at two, he was second to Andrew Balding’s Bangkok on his debut at Doncaster.
“Charlie Bennett rode him at Doncaster on his debut and gave him a very sensible ride, he didn’t get stuck into him against Bangkok. As much as we’ve always liked him, we never got stuck into him at home,” said Morrison.
“Oisin (Murphy) made sure he did learn plenty at Windsor and that paid dividends at York, but we’ve had three races in a short space of time and that is hard on a horse. He’s come a long way very quickly and giving a three-year-old three runs before Ascot is unusual.
“It was hard making the decision in March, obviously you don’t have that much conviction, especially as he hadn’t run by then, but since he has run he’s done very little wrong.
“As for the track, we won’t know until we try. He handled Windsor and that can be a challenge. He’s bred to stay this far and hopefully he’s got more improvement in him.”
Balding’s family is steeped in Epsom history, with the great Mill Reef winning the Derby in 1971 for his father, Ian, while the trainer himself saddled 2003 Oaks winner Casual Look.
“I couldn’t be happier with the horse – it will all come down to what happens on the day. The team at home have done a great job and it’s now up to the horse and Silvestre de Sousa. He’s drawn 12, which is fine,” said Balding.
“We had Elm Park in the race and he was very good, and he and this colt would be the two best colts I’ve had during my training career. For this horse, we have always had this race in mind and it is very exciting for us all.
“The reason we ran at Sandown was to give us the option to go again if things didn’t work out and we didn’t feel it necessary to go again.
“He is a horse that gives generously in the mornings. He is a lovely horse to watch out on the gallops. He is very well balanced and he is the ideal type for the race.”
There would be no better story than if 86-year-old Kevin Prendergast could win the race for the first time with Madhmoon and he has a realistic chance after his fourth place in the 2000 Guineas.
“Good ground would be ideal, not quick or hard or soft, but we usually have that at Epsom,” said Prendergast.
“My dad had seven placed horses in it, he never won it but he won every other programmed race in England and Ireland. It would be a great thing for me if the horse could run well and be placed or win.
“There were a couple of impressive horses at Chester, but the ground was very soft. We’ve beaten Broome two and a half lengths in a Group Two at Leopardstown and he is nearly favourite now. If we get the trip, we have every chance.”