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Australia heads 16 in the Investec Derby, Britain's richest race

Horse racing: Jockey Joseph O'Brien riding 2014 Epsom Derby favourite Australia

Australia may be a warm favourite for the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs on Saturday - and rightly so after his excellent third in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas over a mile with his breeding signalling that he should excel over the Derby trip of a mile and a half - but soft ground could yet be an issue.

There is the potential for heavy rain on Saturday morning but it is just a question of how much.

Australia is the one on breeding, being by a Derby winner, Galileo, out of an Oaks winner, Ouija Board.

The speed he showed in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas to be just three-quarters of a length behind the winner, Night Of Thunder, with subsequent Irish 2000 Guineas winner, Kingman, in between was remarkable.

In theory he should have the Investec Derby at his mercy and it would give Aidan O'Brien a record in the race - no trainer has won it three times in a row before and O'Brien won it with Camelot in 2012 and Ruler Of The World last year.

O'Brien also runs Orchestra, winner of the Chester Vase, as well as Kingfisher and Geoffrey Chaucer.

However, there are plenty of other very good rivals to take into account, not least the Roger Varian-trained Kingston Hill.

Varian said today:“Kingston Hill looks very well and we haven’t had a hitch with him since the Guineas – I am anticipating plenty of improvement for that run.

“He has got a good head on him so he should handle the excitements of Derby Day.

“We took him for a school around Epsom during Breakfast With The Stars and that was a worthwhile exercise. Andrea [Atzeni] rode him and he went over the undulations very smoothly.

“I am not doing a rain dance, we will just take the ground as it comes.

"But it is comforting to know that if a storm hits Epsom, we already know that Kingston Hill goes on very soft ground. The ground will not be any faster than good whatever happens, which is fine.”

“Like the weather, the draw is out of our hands so there is no point in worrying about him getting stall two.

"A mile and a half is a long way for them to sort themselves out and we will just have to hope that he gets a slice of luck at the right time.”

Another threat is Arod, second in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York behind the subsequent French Derby winner, The Grey Gatsby, but he is another that would not want soft ground.

Arod's trainer, Peter Chapple-Hyam, said:“Arod has been in really good form since the Dante – we are really happy with him.

"We think that he has improved and he has definitely improved physically.

“He should enjoy the step up to a mile and a half, we think that is what he wants even though he has got a lot of speed.

"But you do need speed too – a horse has to travel well around Epsom.

“He would not want the ground too soft but he should handle the hullabaloo of Derby Day – I am sure that he will handle it a lot better than I will!”

Irish trainers Dermot Weld (Fascinating Rock) and John Oxx (Ebanoran) have chances, while the John Gosden-trained pair, the unbeaten Western Hymn and the supplemented Romsdal, could also be serious threats.

Another not be discounted is the Betfred Dante third, True Story, who should thrive over this longer trip.

From QIPCO British Champions Series


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