The state of the ground at Epsom on Saturday could be a huge element in the outcome of the most famous Flat race in the world. Saxon Warrior has been all the rage since winning the 2,000 Guineas and looks like being the first odds-on favourite since Camelot in 2012. However, if the going worsens it becomes more about which horse can handle the underfoot conditions better than ability and form. Extreme ground levels the playing field but Saxon Warrior is still the selection based on form.
Aidan O’Brien knows what it takes to win the Epsom Derby. He has trained six winners of the premier Classic and his horses have won the race four times in the last six ears. The forecast is for rain before the 4.30pm race on Saturday which means the potential for heavy going in the Classic that matters most. Saxon Warrior will be ridden by Ryan Moore who is considered the best jockey in the world on the big occasion. He won the Derby in 2010 and 2013 and Saxon Warrior is his best chance since Ruler Of The World prevailed five years ago.
On good or even soft ground Saxon Warrior would be the right price even though O’Brien has concerns about the ground. In addition to the favourite the trainer has entered five other horses and he said in the Racing Post:
“We’d like good ground for our Derby horses as soft ground wouldn’t be ideal for any of them”
The forecasters predict already soft ground will be hit by more rain before Saturday so conditions for Saxon Warrior and his stable mates would not be ideal. There hasn’t been a soft ground Derby for 30 years because the late spring is often dry. The bizarre British weather has produced storms and rain this week and the track at Epsom has suffered and good ground is now a forlorn hope. There is now the element of demanding going added to the mix.
The 2,000 Guineas is often a good trial for the Derby and Saxon Warrior was an impressive winner over the Rowley Mile at Newmarket. The winner handled the undulations around the Dip and balance is vital on the unique Epsom course. Saxon Warrior was having his season start at Newmarket so there room for improvement in the Derby. Heavy ground should not prevent a winning favourite in the Derby for the first time since 2015.
Saxon Warrior will have completed two legs and could then run at Doncaster in the St Leger at Doncaster in September with the Triple Crown on the line. Oh So Sharp won three Classics for fillies in 1985 and you have to go back to 1970 to find the last colt’s Triple Crown when Nijinsky won the three Classics from May to September over one mile to one mile and six furlongs. Camelot won the first two in 2012 but came up short in the St Leger and finished second. Saxon Warrior has the scope to emulate Nijinsky this year and win the Triple Crown.
Roaring Lion was narrowly beaten by Saxon Warrior in the Racing Post Trophy last October. The winner identifies one of the leading juveniles and the horse can become the winter favourite for the Derby. Saxon Warrior was much too good for Roaring Lion in the 2,000 Guineas but then Roaring Lion won the Dante Stakes at York which is a significant pointer to the Derby. However, despite the outlook for heavy ground Saxon Warrior is still the horse to back to win Saturday’s big race.