Horse Racing
Ancient Wisdom and Ambiente Friendly may prevent more Derby glory for Aidan O’Brien

31/05/2024 16:51

Sixteen colts have been declared for the Derby Stakes on Saturday (1 June) and it appears a deeply competitive version of this historic Classic run over the testing 2405m gradients and cambers of Epsom racecourse at Group 1 level.

If City Of Troy (Ryan Moore), Los Angeles (Wayne Lordan) or Euphoric (Declan McDonagh) pass Epsom’s celebrated winning post in front, Aidan O’Brien will have stretched his record-extending Derby winning hoard to ten.

Two rivals attracting momentum to block that are the Charlie Appleby-trained, William Buick-ridden Ancient Wisdom and James Fanshawe-trained Ambiente Friendly – with highly-respected veteran Rab Havlin riding for the first time.

When Ancient Wisdom, winner of the G1 Futurity Trophy (1600m) at Doncaster last October, got left behind by Economics, who is not running on Saturday, in the closing stages of May’s G2 Dante Stakes (2051m) it was analysed as a bitter blow to hopes of Epsom glory.

But instead of disappointment Godolphin’s Appleby – twice a Derby-winning trainer – sounded satisfied, and even more so this week.

He said: “William (Buick) sat on him on Wednesday (29 May) and the whole team are delighted with how he has progressed since that first three-year-old start. We know he relishes slower ground (than York) and it looks as though we should get that.”

Lingfield Park’s contours require about the same balance needed at Epsom which is partly why Ambiente Friendly - who glided over good ground in May’s Listed Lingfield Derby Trial Stakes (2321m) for a four and a half lengths winning romp - is being advertised as a serious contender.

And unlike many Epsom rivals this bay son of Gleneagles does not have stamina to prove. “He has really got it together this year. He doesn’t need much work and we are very excited about Saturday,” said Newmarket-based Fanshawe.

No shortage of long odds horses who have won or been placed in the Derby – even O’Brien has won it with outsiders such as Serpentine and Wings Of Eagles.

Outsiders attracting plenty of interest this week include MacDuff (Rossa Ryan), who comes from a stable in much better form now than when the colt finished second in Sandown’s G3 Classic Trial (1990m). And Dallas Star (David Egan), who bossed his rivals in April’s G3 Ballysax Stakes (2000m) at Leopardstown suggesting a rewarding 2024 was in store.

Derby victory after just one previous start is not unprecedented which has encouraged interest in Richard Hannon-trained Voyage (Pat Dobbs).  He quickened away from his rivals in a 2000m novices’ event at Newbury in April.