London (AFP) – Joseph O’Brien rode two Epsom Derby winners and on Saturday he could become only the second person to also train a winner of the great race, in so doing denying his father Aidan.
Joseph rode Camelot and Australia, both trained by his father, to victory in 2012 and 2014 respectively and this time saddles Rekindling in what is his first runner in the ‘blue riband’ event of flat racing in England.
His father is bidding for his sixth win and has six runners due to go to post, headed by Cliffs of Moher — almost a third of the 19 runner field in what will be British racing’s richest ever race with the winner picking up just over £920,000 ($1.1m, 1m euros).
Should Joseph’s runner win and his father finish second it would evoke memories of the 1984 Derby and a showdown between another duet of trainers called O’Brien, who are no relation to the modern day duo.
David O’Brien trained Secreto to edge out El Gran Senor, trained by his father the legendary six-time winning Derby handler Vincent.
While they could provide drama in the positive sense, organisers will be praying rank outside Diore Lia does not provoke mayhem.
Owner Richard Aylward is running it in the hope of picking up prize money to go to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, but some feel his money spent on entry fees would have been better being donated directly to the prospective beneficiary.
However, while the race may lack top quality, according to two-time Derby winning trainer John Gosden at least six of the field could win, including his chief hope Cracksman.
“This is a very open Derby, which is why a lot of people are giving it a chance,” Gosden told AFP.
– ‘World’s most important race’ –
Rekindling may not be one of the six Gosden thinks of as a live contender but Joseph O’Brien is more than happy for him to be under the radar.
The 24-year-old — who is bidding to join 1961-winning trainer Harry Wragg in the club of Derby winning jockey and trainer — draws confidence from an excellent win in the influential Derby trial The Ballysax Stakes.
However, he is cut from the same cloth as his father in that he is not one for soundbites or hyperbole.
“I’ve never really thought about creating history or anything like that, to be honest,” he said.
“When you train racehorses it’s a 24-7 job, you don’t really get much time to think of things like that.
“You can’t allow yourself to, really, as you’d put too much pressure on yourself.”
Gosden has four other runners in the race but Cracksman not only has the bonus of Frankie Dettori being on board but also the formbook is on his side having won on the tricky Epsom track.
Gosden says Cracksman resembles his workmanlike 1997 winner Benny The Dip and not his magnificent 2015 champion Golden Horn.
“He deserves his chance in the race,” said Gosden.
“I think he will be favourite come race time as the once a year punters will lump on Frankie.
“I had my eye on him for if there was a Derby horse in my yard it was him,” added the 66-year-old.
Outside of the big stables, Eminent trained by veteran Martin Meade and ridden by champion jockey Jim Crowley has a live chance.
His career didn’t get off to the most auspicious of beginnings as despite his sire (father) being the unbeaten Frankel he was friendless when put up for public auction.
Meade, though, persuaded New Zealander Peter Vela to purchase him and two wins from three runs later he has a good chance in the Derby.
“It is in my view the world’s most important race and if you win this you don’t have much to prove after that,” said the 69-year-old.