Aidan O’Brien is poised to win his third English Derby on Saturday despite losing three of his original entrants for the time-honoured classic.
The Ballydoyle trainer caused a stir in betting circles when he scratched one-time favourite St Nicholas Abbey (Montjeu) and re-routed Bright Horizon (Galileo) and Cape Blanco (Galileo) to the French Derby to be run on Sunday.
O’Brien’s reduced team is headed by new favourite Jan Vermeer (Montjeu) with support from Midas Touch (Galileo) and At First Sight (Galileo). Jan Vermeer has firmed into 2-1 while Derrinstown Derby Trial winner Midas Touch is on the third line at 6-1. At First Sight is the outsider of the 12 runners at 150-1. Johnny Murtagh will partner both Jan Vermeer on Saturday and Cape Blanco on Sunday.
Jan Vermeer was a Group 1 winning juvenile – an asset the last five Derby winners all possessed – and he earned a high rating when taking the Gallinule Stakes in effortless fashion. The step up in trip is expected to suit on both sides of his pedigree.
Jan Vermeer (3c Montjeu – Shadow Song by Pennekamp) is owned by the Coolmore partnership of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Sue Magnier. He is the first foal Shadow Song who won up to 2200m in the French provinces. She is a half-sister to May Hill Stakes winner Midnight Air.
O’Brien won the classic with Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) and is hell-bent on adding to his record in the race that has earned a rightful reputation as the most important in the world.
Sir Michael Stoute, who has won the Derby four times, will be represented by Juddmonte colt Workforce. He was runner-up in the Dante Stakes last month and is a son of former Darley shuttler King’s Best who supplied last Sunday’s Japanese Derby winner. “He will stay and I hope the ground isn’t too quick,” Stoute stated. “He’s sharpened up since the Dante and the good thing is there are 12 runners not 24 – that’s a help.
Henry Cecil has also prepared four English Derby winners and he will saddle up Bullet Train (Sadler’s Wells). He was an impressive winner of the Group 3 Derby Trial at Lingfield Park on May 8.
Sheikh Mohammed has three runners – Rewilding, Buzzword and Al Zir – with the last-named coming in for late support this week. Frankie Dettori rides Rewilding, while Ahmed Ajtebi is on Buzzword. Al Zir will be partnered by Kieren Fallon.
Rewilding (Tiger Hill) won the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood by four lengths on May 19, while Buzzword (Pivotal) stayed on well towards the end of the Group 1 French 2,000 Guineas at Longchamp on May 16.
Al Zir (Medaglia D´Oro) disappointed when unplaced in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 1 but he was placed behind St Nicholas Abbey in the G1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October.
Derby betting: – 2/1 Jan Vermeer 5/1 Workforce 6/1 Midas Touch 6/1 Bullet Train 15/2 Rewilding 12/1 Azmeel 20/1 Al Zir 20/1Coordinated Cut 33/1 Ted Spread 50/1 Buzzword 50/1 Hot Prospect 150/1 At First Sight