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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018

Aidan O'Brien says Australia is the best Derby horse he's ever had - now he has to prove it

Three-year-old is the 11/8 favourite to give O’Brien his fifth Derby triumph.

Australia was third in the 2,000 Guineas last month but the extra half-mile at Epsom is expected to suit him.
Australia was third in the 2,000 Guineas last month but the extra half-mile at Epsom is expected to suit him.
Image: Barry Cronin

ALL EYES WILL be on Epsom Derby favourite Australia this afternoon to see if he is as good as trainer Aidan O’Brien believes he is.

The three-year-old son of Galileo and Ouija Board was as short as 11/8 this morning as he bids to give O’Brien his third straight win in the blue riband of flat racing — and his fifth in all.

It’s a packed field with 15 rivals, including two useful stablemates in Geoffrey Chaucer and Orchestra, but O’Brien is confident that he is the best Derby runner he has ever saddled.

“He’s a Derby horse we’ve not had the like of before,” he said in May.

“I thought Camelot [winner in 2012] was the best horse we had for the Derby, but this horse is another step up.

The very first time he worked as a two-year-old we knew he was exceptional and the lads always rated him. I’ve never had a horse like this. I’m not trying to blow him up, I’m just saying how it is.

Australia was an excellent third in the English 2000 Guineas last month over a distance that is half a mile shorter than the one he travels today at Epsom.

Although none of the past 10 winners of the Derby had finished outside the first two in their race prior to the classic O’Brien — whose son Joseph will ride him — has no fears about that statistic.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s chances of landing the Derby looked a distant hope when he was third of six to Fascinating Rock — who also runs on Saturday — in the Derrinstown Derby trial in early May.

However, his camp were not too downhearted about that performance as it was a messy race and he got a boost this week when Ryan Moore, who has won the race twice including last year on O’Brien’s Ruler of the World, was booked to ride him rather than Orchestra, whom he rode to victory in the Chester Vase.

Moore will be looking for his second Derby win in a week having landed the French version last Sunday on The Grey Gatsby, and connections of another of Saturday’s runners Arod took great heart from his win in France as they had finished runner-up to him on his previous start in the influential Derby trial the Dante Stakes.

While Arod holds a chance of upsetting the odds the host nation’s best hopes of preventing an O’Brien victory probably lie with Kingston Hill, trained by Roger Varian.

While he was only eighth in the 2000 Guineas, his first defeat in four starts, Varian believes that there were mitigating factors to take into account.

“On reflection it was a pretty good run, particularly looking at it as a Derby trial,” said Varian.

“He was staying on really well at the end and will certainly appreciate the step up in distance. The form seems to be the best among three-year-olds of the season and I suppose that points to Australia having a huge chance in the Derby.

“But we’ll be happy to take him on again, and we won’t mind at all if the ground comes up soft.”

- © AFP, 2014

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