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Monday 18 December 2017

History beckons for the O’Briens

ODDS-ON Camelot saddled with father and son’s Derby dreamRealistically, you wonder deep down what connections of the other seven horses, the non-Aidan O’Brien horses, in tomorrow’s Epsom Derby are wondering.

Not in over 100 years have there been so few runners in the blue riband race of the British Flat Racing Calendar as just nine go to post, and not since 1997 has a horse been such a short-priced favourite as Camelot will be tomorrow.

Back in 1997, though, it also looked as if all Michael Stoute’s 2000 Guineas winner, Entrepreneur, had to do was turn up and he would be remembered as a Derby winner, but fourth was the best he could finish and the hot pot was foiled.

Despite punters plunging in during the week at skimpy odds and already preparing to make Camelot the shortest-price winner of the Derby since Shergar, the horse still has to go and do it.

As impressive as Camelot was in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, his unbeaten record still has to go on the line tomorrow, though connections of some of his rivals are quietly bullish despite acknowledging his apparent superiority.

Champion Jockey Paul Hanagan (pictured right) will be having his first ride in the Derby tomorrow as he rides the Richard Fahey-trained Mickdaam and he’s looking forward to the occasion after “spending 16 years watching the race in the weighroom”.

Hanagan added: “Mickdaam has been working really well and came out of Chester in great form. He’s got to step up again and we don’t know if he’s good enough but he has the temperament. I also think the quicker conditions will suit the horse.”

William Buick rides the well-supported Thought Worthy who was backed during the week at big odds and is a listed winner over 10 furlongs for John Gosden.

Buick said: “It’s all about Camelot and Bonfire, but he deserves his chance and it’s the Derby so anything can happen. He’s still relatively inexperienced and he’s never run at a mile and a half.

The extra distance will benefit him, but the track is a worry with an inexperienced horse.”

Thought Worry is joined by outsiders Minimise Risk and Rugged Cross as well as Camelot and Bonfire in only having three runs so far in their careers and only Mickdaam and Main Sequence have won over tomorrow’s Derby distance of 1m4f when they claimed the Chester Vase and Lingfield Derby Trial respectively.

Tomorrow is all about Aidan and Joseph O’Brien and their powerful colt Camelot.

Aidan O’Brien didn’t want to say much about his son’s ride on Camelot when he got up late from a position in the rear of the field to get the colt up by a neck at Newmarket for the sole reason of modesty.

Aidan preferred to let the press blow up the uncanny timing from the then 18-year-old who showed immense coolness to judge such |an important ride.

Everything about that win would deservingly make Camelot favourite for his next assignment, but whether 4/7 is going to be an overstatement of his chances, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Never before have a father and son won the Epsom Derby together, but with Aidan being |a genius and with Joseph having improved 10-fold as a jockey over the last 18 months, it would be little surprise to see the current occupiers of Ballydoyle create another first shortly after 4pm tomorrow.

Joseph O’Brien is no stranger to the big stage. Already a seven-time Group One-winning jockey and he’s only just started his final year as a teenager, the softly spoken youngster enjoyed Breeders’ Cup success just last November and has ridden in the richest race in the world, the Dubai World Cup.

For anyone interested in Flat racing growing up, the Epsom |Derby is the race you want to win. However, when the aforementioned Entrepreneur failed to win the Epsom Derby as an odds-on shot for Stoute in 1997, Joseph O’Brien was only four.

Fresh from a Group One double last weekend, the |ever-maturing jockey will be hoping to live a childhood dream by riding the winner of the Epsom Derby for |his all-conquering father, who, despite all his worldwide success, would surely rank this as the highest.

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