Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Magic Derby ahead?

Will Joseph O'Brien use Battle of Marengo in his Derby bid?

Aidan O'Brien has the magic touch when it comes to Classic success and his decision to keep the Irish 2000 Guineas winner Magician in Saturday's Epsom Derby line-up adds to the intrigue surrounding the biggest race in the British racing calendar.

It has always been assumed Battle of Marengo was the Coolmore number one for the mile-and-a-half race on the helter-skelter course that's unique to the Epsom Downs.

But after Saturday's comfortable success at the Curragh, Magician is now one of six still left in by O'Brien and he has been cut from 8/1 to 6/1 in places to complete what would be a remarkable double, last achieved in 1975 by the great Grundy.

It will be interesting, if Magician takes his chance, to see which one Joseph O'Brien decides to ride. If he switches from Marengo, the hint should be taken and for those who believe Magician holds the Derby ace card, should avail of the 4/1, non-runner no bet, as stakes will thus not be lost if he doesn't go. However, all the indications are that he will.

Having won the Dee Stakes over 1m 2.1/2f, there is every chance he will stay the extra two furlongs, but that doubt surrounds the strong favourite Dawn Approach, who attempts to repeat his sire New Approach's Derby glory five years ago.

At 10/11, Dawn Approach will be too short now for many punters, but that price will drift if Magician gets the thumbs up. A short-priced winner is better than a long-shot loser and there's no doubt Dawn Approach is the best horse in the race and his class can see him through .

Trainer Jim Bolger is quietly confident his unbeaten colt will have the necessary stamina, although the O'Brien team will make sure it's tested to the limit.

Tyrone's Andrew Oliver has declared First Cornerstone, who was a respectable fifth behind Magician, but it would be the upset of upsets if this 100/1 chance lands the prize.

It is very difficult to oppose Dawn Approach, and he's taken to oblige from the French challenger Ocovango (8/1) handled by the shrewd Andre Fabre, who obliged with Pour Moi in 2011. Fabre would not be travelling if he didn't believe his horse had a chance of at least reaching the frame.

O'Brien is unlikely to depart the weekend without major victories, and these can come via St Nicholas Abbey with the Coronation Cup at his mercy for a third year in a row, while Moth, taken out of last weekend's 1000 Guineas, to wait for Friday's Oaks, is tipped to oblige at 3/1.

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