herald

Saturday 22 September 2018

Warrior is the one to beat

Aidan's star fancied to take Irish Derby spoils

Saxon Warrior, with Donnacha O’Brien on board, wins the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Saxon Warrior, with Donnacha O’Brien on board, wins the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket

Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby could be set for its biggest field this century after 14 colts were among the entries revealed yesterday afternoon.

Dylan Thomas beat a dozen rivals to win the race in 2006 and his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, is responsible for the ante-post odds-on favourite Saxon Warrior in Saturday's race.

Three horses were added to the field at the final supplementary stage, as expected, with Epsom Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee, Royal Ascot winner Old Persian and the locally trained Platinum Warrior all set to take their chance in the famous Curragh showpiece.

There is expected to be three British-trained runners, with Knight To Behold set to join Dee Ex Bee and Old Persian, and Harry Dunlop revealed yesterday morning that Frankie Dettori will ride Knight To Behold for the first time.

"The hope is that Frankie will be free to ride Knight To Behold and we are very much looking forward to it," Dunlop said.

A winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial, Knight To Behold finished down the field in the Epsom Derby but Dunlop is hopeful of a more fruitful outcome at the Curragh.

"Things at Epsom didn't really go his way and I feel that a mile and a half at the Curragh, a galloping track, will be much more his scene. He won at Newmarket when it was very fast ground there and he didn't seem to mind it.

"We might just ride him a little bit differently than last time and you just have to be aware of what goes on. We have to take on the maestro (Aidan O'Brien) and wherever you go he'll be there. With the amount of prize money on offer, it is a race we ought to be targeting."

Another trainer confident of the Curragh bringing about more improvement is Mark Johnston, who sends over Dee Ex Bee.

Dee Ex Bee still has a long-term target of the English St Leger and Johnston hopes his colt will be able to outstay Saxon Warrior for a second time.

Johnston said: "I've got the utmost respect for Aidan O'Brien and his team, and he wouldn't be running Saxon Warrior if he didn't think he could reverse the form, but we are going there more than hopeful that he (Saxon Warrior) can't reverse the form."

Old Persian won at Royal Ascot last week and despite the obvious concern of running again just eight days later, Charlie Appleby added the colt to the line-up yesterday and will monitor his progress before tomorrow's 10am declaration time.

"He's eaten up and exercised well. He bounces back from his runs very quickly and we are confident we can come to the Curragh at the weekend with a horse that is going to be very competitive," said Appleby, who is looking to complete the Derby double after Masar gave him a first European Classic victory at Epsom.

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