The film Catch-22 was just about to be released the last time a horse completed the English Triple Crown, 1970 to be exact, when the Vincent O’Brien-trained Nijinsky landed the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger.
Aidan O’Brien – no relation – has a dilemma of a different type on his hands thanks to Saxon Warrior being drawn in stall one in Saturday’s Derby at Epsom, due off at 16:30.
Along with jockey Ryan Moore, O’Brien and ‘the lads’ will have to make a decision whether to stick or twist as the gates open. However, they certainly have the horse to do it, Saxon Warrior appearing to possess the perfect mix of speed and stamina.
Like Camelot, who failed at the final Triple Crown hurdle in 2012, Saxon Warrior won the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on his final start as a two-year-old, and made a successful reappearance in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Representing a yard that has won the Derby six times, he is a deserving short-priced favourite and is fancied to see off Roaring Lion, a horse who has lost his voice when twice beaten by Saxon Warrior in the past.
The day begins with a competitive handicap at 14:00 in which Ship of The Fen can prevail. The ship of the Fens is not actually a ship at all, but the imposing Ely Cathedral which looms up out of the flat landscape of Cambridgeshire, and Martyn Meade’s colt made a similarly big impression when winning nicely at Doncaster last time.
He was well on top that day and already looks a strong stayer over this trip, so he could be the way to go. The biggest danger could be Poet’s Prince who looks a typical Mark Johnston type, an uncomplicated sort who is thriving in his racing of late.
According to Genesis (bible, not band), Arod was one of 70 souls who migrated to Egypt with Jacob. The horse version was sent to Australia after winning the Diomed Stakes in 2015 but he’s back for another crack in this year’s renewal at 15:10.
He finished fourth in the Derby (2014) on his only other start here and is preferred to last year’s winner Sovereign Debt who seems to be building his way back to full fitness. The much younger – but progressive – Century Dream could also pose a big threat.
Caspian Prince must know every horse when he goes racing. He’s had 81 runs – his 18 wins including three successes in the ‘Dash’ (15:45) – and has had more stables than Roseanne Barr has had sleeping pills.
He’s now onto his eighth yard, and is respected in his bid for another win. However, it’s his former stablemate Boom The Groom who is preferred at 8/1. He looks potentially well handicapped and seems certain to be near the front if getting a clear run off a strong pace. Dark Shot, another who has run well in this race, also boasts excellent claims after a pleasing return.
*All odds Correct at time of posting