May 31 (UPI) -- Seven of the 13 runners for Saturday's Group 1 Investec Derby at Epsom Down are trained by Aidan O'Brien, the Irish master trainer who already has six victories in the historic race.
And, if the oddsmakers have done their job, the 240th running of the historic race will be "lucky seven" for O'Brien as his band includes three or four of the most-fancied, starting with Sir Dragonet, the antepost favorite and jockey Ryan Moore's pick to ride. And O'Brien will give his son, Donacha, a leg up on Broome, the second-favorite going into the weekend.
Sir Dragonet shot to the top of the list for the Epsom Downs classic on the back of a visually stunning victory in the Group 3 MBNA Chester Vase May 8.With Donacha O'Brien up that day, the son of 2012 Derby winner Camelot tracked the pace, stormed to the lead in the final 2 furlongs and won going away, 8 lengths clear of his closest competition. Even more impressive, it was only his second career start.
Broome, by 2014 Derby winner Australia, earned his spot with a victory in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown in Ireland May 12, also under Donacha O'Brien.
O'Brien also fields Anthony Van Dyke, Japan, Circus Maximus, Norway and Soverign. Circus Maximus is owned by the Coolmore interests in partnership with the Niarchos family's Flaxman Stables.
If antepost odds are a guide, the biggest threat to the O'Brien herd is Telecaster, conquerer of Too Darn Hot in the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York May 16. Like Sir Dragonet, Telecaster had to be supplemented to the Derby as his most recent exploits significantly boosted his standing with owners and trainer.
Hughie Morrison trains the New Approach colt and Oisin Murphy will have riding duties. New Approach won the Derby in 2008.
Also of note are Bangkok, winner of the Group 3 bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown for trainer Andrew Balding; Madhmoon, fourth in the Group 1 Qipco 2,000 Guineas; and, not least, Line of Duty.
Line of Duty, Godolphin's sole representative is the Derby field, was available at odds as generous as 50-1 two days out from the race, thanks to a fading, seventh-place finish in the Dante Stakes. However, that race was his first since a thrilling stretch effort saw him home first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs.
Ironically, Line of Duty's sire is Galileo, the flagship property of Godolphin's archrival, Coolmore. Only a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Godolphin to campaign a top Galileo offspring. The irony would become profound should he give Godolphin its second straight Derby win with an upset of the Coolmore crowd Saturday.
O'Brien also has the favorite in Friday's Group 1 Investec Oaks, that in the form of Pink Dogwood, a Camelot filly who enters off a win in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Salsabil Stakes at Navan April 28. While her record is not compelling, O'Brien identified Pink Dogwood early on as his primary Oaks contender. Chief competitor would appear to be Mehdaayih, a Frankel filly trained by John Gosden. She won the Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks in her most recent effort. Josden also has Anapurna, another by Frankel and, as a bonus, Frankie Dettori gets the return call on the Lingfield Oaks Trial Fillies' Stakes winner.
Friday's Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom is 1 1/2 miles for older horses and features a fascinating matchup of Coolmore's Kew Gardens, Godolphin's Old Persian and the John Gosden-trained, Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber-owned La Ti Dar. Lah Ti Dar, a 4-year-old Dubawi filly, was second in last year's Group 1 St Leger and third in the Group 1 British Champions Filly & Mare Stakes. Old Persian, a 4-year-old Dubawi colt, was last seen winning the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup night at Meydan. And Kew Gardens, a 4-year-old son of Galileo, is the one who defeated Lah Ti Dar in the St Leger. There's plenty more talent in the nine-horse field, too.
Sunday's Group 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse is all about Almond Eye. The 4-year-old Lord Kanaloa filly is Japan's reigning Horse of the Year after sweeping the 2018 Fillies Triple Crown and the Grade 1 Japan Cup, the latter in record time while seeing off older males. She started her 2019 season with an impressive victory as the undisputed star of World Cup night in Dubai, defeating a classy field in the Group 1 Dubai Turf.
Still, there are question marks. In the immediate aftermath of the Dubai triumph, all the talk was about a showdown in the autumn in France in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc d'Triomphe, with Almond Eye taking on the two-time winner of that race, Enable. But before that story line grew wings, Silk Racing's Masash Yonemoto quickly pulled the plug. He cited "her appearance after the race and her change of physical condition after the long-distance transportation" in ruling out the Arc. Trainer Sakae Kunieda said Almond Eye was "leg weary and dehydrated" after the trip.
Should she not be fully recovered, her 14 foes in the 1-mile Yasuda Kinen, including six Grade 1 winners, will be ready to mix it up. Danon Premium is among the chief rivals.
Danon Premium, a 4-year-old Deep Impact colt, is 6-for-7 with his only loss coming in the Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby, where he finished sixth. He has a pair of Group 2 wins this season.
Mozu Ascot and Aerolithe finished 1-2 in last year's Yasuda Kinen but things have gone poorly since for both of them.
Mozu Ascot, a 5-year-old, American-bred son of Frankel, finished 13th in the Grade 1 Mile Championship in Kyoto Nov. 18, seventh in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile Dec. 7 and seventh in the Grade 2 Yomiyuri Milers Cup at Kyoto in his 2019 debut.
Aerolithe, a 5-year-old mare by Kurofune, won the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup in May of 2017 but hasn't lived up to the promise. She most recently finished fifth in the Grade 1Victoria Mile after returning from a trip to Florida where she finished ninth in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
The Godolphin blue may be underrepresented at Epsom but certainly not in Sunday's Group 1 Qipco Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, at Chantilly. There, in a field of 15, is Persian King. Entering the weekend as nearly even-money favorite, the Kingman colt will try to extend his winning streak to six with Pierre-Charles Boudot getting the customary leg up from trainer Andre Fabre.
Persian King is far from a "leftover" contender from the Irish-English-French 3-year-old prep season. In his final start last year, he won the Group 3 Masar Godolphin Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, edging Magna Grecia after a long stretch duel with Circus Maximus and Western Australia well astern. He prepped for this with a dominant victory in the Group 1 Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains, or French 2,000 Guineas, May 12.
The field does include three Coolmore-O'Brien horses who did not fit the Epsom bill -- Cape of Good Hope, Bleneim Palace and Mowhawk.