Big derby hope Cliffs of Moher heads strong squad at Epsom for Aidan O'Brien

Big derby hope Cliffs of Moher heads strong squad at Epsom for Aidan O'Brien

Cliffs Of Moher leads a six-strong Aidan O'Brien team into battle for the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday.

The Galileo colt slammed talented stablemate Orderofthegarter on his final juvenile appearance at Leopardstown and warmed up for Epsom with victory in the Dee Stakes at Chester.

Cliffs Of Moher is the chosen mount of dual Derby-winning jockey Ryan Moore.

O'Brien, who has saddled five previous winners of the race, said: "We were a little bit worried with him going to Chester as he had a very soft run the first time and won very easily on his second run as a two-year-old.

"We were just hoping that we'd be able to get a run into him and find that he could go to the Derby.

"He was a little bit slowly away (at Chester) and Ryan got him into a good position fairly quick.

"He was a little bit green on the bend and into the straight and picked up really well in the last half a furlong.

"He's a horse that always showed plenty of pace, so we weren't even sure about going up to a mile and a half, but he galloped out well to the line at Chester."

O'Brien is also represented by Douglas Macarthur (Colm O'Donoghue) and Capri (Seamie Heffernan), who were first and third in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

Chester Vase one-two-three, Venice Beach (Donnacha O'Brien), Wings Of Eagles (Padraig Beggy) and The Anvil (Ana O'Brien), also take their chance.

He said: "The Derrinstown two, their preparations have gone very well. They came forward from their first to their second run and we think, and hope, that they should come forward again.

"Douglas Macarthur is a horse we always thought would stay more than a mile and a quarter and that is what he showed at Leopardstown when he came back on the line and put his head down in front. He will improve for going the mile and a half.

"Capri has had two runs this year. He ran first time in the Ballysax and we were very happy with his run. Then he progressed nicely to his second run. Everything seems to be fine since with him.

"The three horses that ran in the (Chester) Vase are solid mile-and-a-half horses. They will get the mile and a half well and they might get further."

O'Brien's son, Joseph, won the Derby twice as a jockey aboard Camelot (2012) and Australia (2014) and has his first runner in the race as a trainer with Rekindling.

Formerly trained by the now-retired David Wachman, the High Chaparral colt won the Ballysax Stakes on his debut for O'Brien before finishing fourth in the Dante at York.

"The ground was not ideal at York and on reflection he didn't run a bad race, he was staying on again," said the Kilkenny-based trainer.

"As for the track, you just don't know. He has a good action and there's no reason to believe he won't act round there, but, like I said, until they try it for the first time, you just don't know. I hope it's no issue.

"There's no substitute for the hustle and bustle of the Derby day experience, though, you can't replicate it anywhere else.

"That's why whoever wins is always regarded as the best. As well as having to beat the best horses, they have to deal with all that as well."

The Mark Johnston-trained Permian was beaten in a handicap at Bath on his seasonal reappearance, but has since made giant strides since to establish himself as a credible Derby contender.

The son of Teofilo was beaten just a short head by Cracksman in a trial at Epsom in April and then bolted up in a Listed event at Newmarket before claiming the Dante.

Johnston told At The Races: "Everything has been very smooth and straightforward since the Dante. We haven't changed anything with him.

"It's obviously quite unusual for a Derby contender to have run so often in the run up to the race, he's had four races already this season.

"That might not be orthodox, but, in many ways, there's got to be a lot of advantages to that, particularly in a big-field Derby, as it is this year.

"It can be a rough race and it can be difficult and that might play into our hands. We're one of the most experienced horses in the race and he demonstrated in the Dante that when horses are struggling and not settling, he can just do his own thing and settle wherever the jockey wants him.

"We know he's got lots of speed to get a position and we're very, very confident that he'll stay the trip.

"I have the utmost respect for Aidan O'Brien and John Gosden as well and if they're saying their horses are live contenders for the Derby, I'm not going to question that.

"It's very encouraging to me that Cracksman is favourite. I hope the punters and the bookies have got it almost right.

"If Cracksman is the one to beat, we've got an extremely good chance of beating him."

Permian carries the colours of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the son of Godolphin supremo Sheikh Mohammed, who has three runners.

Benbatl was runner-up to Permian at York, Best Solution won the Lingfield Derby Trial and Dubai Thunder made a big impression on his Newbury debut just a fortnight ago.

Godolphin chief executive and racing manager John Ferguson said: "Benbatl is a horse that has been going so well.

"He was placed in a Craven and has progressed again to be second in a Dante. He' a horse that is progressing.

"Best Solution is a Group winner as two-year-old, which is important. He has won a Lingfield Derby trial in devastating fashion and I think he will be in the shake-up.

"The manner in which Dubai Thunder did it surprised me, but he has always shown he was a talented horse at home. He is by Dubawi and comes from a really good family. He is a brother to Farhh, so he has got the pedigree that can get the job done.

"It is a big ask to come here on your second run. We did it with Lammtarra (1995 Derby winner) many years ago. It's a big ask from an experience point of view, but if Saeed (bin Suroor) thinks it's the right thing to do, who I am to tell him no? He knows more about the horse than I do.

"It's a great punt, but Sheikh Mohammed loves having horses in the Derby and he loves coming to Epsom."

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