Can Aidan O'Brien Land An Oaks-Derby Double At Epsom Downs?

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Can Aidan O’Brien land an Oaks-Derby double at Epsom Downs?

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The Derby Festival at Epsom Downs is on the horizon, and the top trainers from all around the world will be hoping to get their hands on the two prestigious British Classics that are on offer at the two-day meeting ⁠— the Oaks and the Derby itself.

Aidan O’Brien is a name that has become synonymous with the Derby Festival over the last two decades or so, as the Irish trainer has won the Oaks on nine occasions — six of which have been in the last 10 years — while he has won the Derby eight times — therefore holding the record for the most wins in the world’s biggest contest.

The master of Ballydoyle has also completed the Oaks-Derby double on an impressive three occasions, with Gallieo landing O’Brien his maiden Derby triumph in 2001 after Imagine’s victory in the Oaks the day before. It was 11 years before he’d complete the feat again, Was (Oaks) and Camelot (Derby) sealing the deal in 2012.

O’Brien secured the hat-trick at 2020’s behind-closed-doors renewal of the Classics — Ryan Moore landing his third Oaks victory aboard Love before Emmet McNamara became the unlikeliest of Derby heroes aboard the unfancied Serpentine, who was a 25/1 outsider prior to the race in the horse racing betting exchange.

After failing to win any of the British and Irish versions of the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas already this season, the Irish handler will be keen for a major victory at Epsom. However, he has suffered some setbacks in the build up to the Derby Festival, which could prove costly.

A long-time favourite in the Derby’s ante-post market, Luxembourg has been forced to withdraw from the premier Classic after picking up a muscular injury following his third-place finish in the 2,000 Guineas at the end of April.

That blew the Derby market wide-open, with Stone Age, another horse from O’Brien’s Ballydoyle, briefly rising to the fore. The three-year-old is two for two this season, most notably winning the Group 3 Derby Trial at Leopardstown earlier this month, but has since been overtaken by Sir Michael Stoute’s Desert Crown, who won the Group 2 Dante on his reappearance.

Third favourite Changingoftheguard is another interesting entry from Ballydoyle. The three-year-old is also unbeaten in two contests this season, with a stunning victory over Charlie Appleby’s highly-rated New London in the Group 3 Chester Vase last time out, while United Nations and Star Of India means four of the top six in the betting are O’Brien entries.

In terms of the Oaks, the absence of John & Thady Gosden’s unbeaten Inspiral looked to have opened up the race. But the father/son duo still seem on course for a victory, as the exciting Emily Upjohn has lived up to the hype surrounding her this season — most notably winning the Group 3 Musidora Stakes at York by a commanding five-and-a-half-length lead.

O’Brien’s Tuesday, a full sister of 2016 Oaks winner Minding, is now third favourite in the Classics’ ante-post market. She will have to show stark improvement to beat Emily Upjohn after finishing third in the 1,000 Guineas before being well beaten by Homeless Songs in the Irish version of the race at the Curragh.

Concert Hall, third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, is next in line as the fourth favourite at 8/1, and O’Brien horses certainly aren’t as prominent in the Oaks’ ante-post market as History and Thoughts Of June are someway out at 16/1.

Such is the quality of O’Brien’s Ballydoyle, and the excellence of his stable jockey Ryan Moore, who has shown fantastic form this season, that it would be foolish to rule out any of his entries in the Oaks and the Derby. However, he doesn’t boast a clear favourite in either, so a fourth Oaks-Derby double doesn’t look very likely.

 

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