Aidan O’Brien is firing a seven-strong raid at the Epsom Derby as he bids to become the leading trainer in the race’s 240-year history, writes Will Jennings.
The Master of Ballydoyle currently sits level with Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling on seven victories in the Classic, but will send Mogul as the spearhead of his charge as he vies for a third Derby triumph in just four years.
Mogul finished a lacklustre fourth in his prep run at King Edward VII Stakes but has long been O’Brien’s chief Derby hope, with Hampton Court Stakes winner Russian Emperor also being entered.
Irish 2000 Guineas second Vatican City is another runner O’Brien will be hoping can fire on the Downs, supported by the quartet of Mythical, Amhran Na Bhfiann, Armory and Serpentine.
Mythical finished second in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October, while Amhran Na Bhfiann came fourth in his last run at Leopardstown and will now make a two furlong step up in trip.
Armory has triumphed in three of his first eight starts while Serpentine comes into the 1m4f joust with momentum after winning at the Curragh on Irish Derby weekend.
O’Brien’s craic squad will duke it out with 2000 Guineas winner Kameko - with Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy on board - while recently-crowned Royal Ascot leading jockey Frankie Dettori will ride John Gosden’s English King.
Paul and Olivia Cole’s Highland Chief, William Muir’s King Edward VII winner Pyledriver and Andrew Balding's Khalifa Sat will also pose a threat among the competitive 17-strong field.
O’Brien remarkably saddled the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th positions in last year’s Epsom Derby as Anthony Van Dyck stormed to victory, and has watched a Ballydoyle horse finish in the top four places of the Downs showpiece in every year since 2009.
And the trainer has celebrated five Derby winners during the past decade, with Wings of Eagles, Camelot, Ruler of the World and Australia reigning supreme since 2010.
The king of Ballydoyle is also launching a four-pronged raid on the Epsom Oaks, where 1000 Guineas winner Love arrives as favourite.
The Derby and the Oaks will be run on the same day this year and O’Brien is also bidding for an eighth triumph in the fillies’ Classic, after Qualify, Minding and Forever Together soared to victories in the previous five renewals.
Ryan Moore piloted Love to an imperious victory at Newmarket but Love will be challenged by stablemate Peaceful, who won the Irish 1000 Guineas with Irish Derby-winning jockey Seamie Heffernan on board.
Ribblesdale Stakes second Ennistymon will bolster the Ballydoyle charge in the race while stablemate Passion will also go to post ahead of the 12 furlong contest.
O’Brien’s Oaks hopes will be challenged by Gosden’s Frankly Darling, however, who was partnered to Ribblesdale glory by Dettori at Ascot earlier this month.
Roger Varian’s Gold Wand will also pose a threat but it’s all eyes on O’Brien on Saturday, who hopes to take a further decisive step into the terrain of training greatness.