Johnny’s the man for Vermeer

AIDAN O’BRIEN finalised his Investec Derby plans yesterday and will take a team of three to Epsom.

It has been a pretty traumatic few days at Ballydoyle after the great white hope for the season St Nicholas Abbey was ruled out of the premier Classic after a minor setback.

Thankfully for O’Brien, he appears to have a ready-made replacement in the shape of Jan Vermeer.

The betting markets gave some indication of what was about to happen and it came as no surprise when O’Brien released the news that Johnny Murtagh would ride Jan Vermeer in the big one.

What did still need clearing up was the destination of Cape Blanco, such an impressive winner of one of the key trials, the Dante Stakes at York, and the only unbeaten entry left at the five-day stage.

However, Epsom racegoers will miss out as the Galileo colt heads for the French Derby 24 hours later instead, along with Viscount Nelson.

Joining Jan Vermeer will be Midas Touch, the Derrinstown Derby Trial winner and the mount of Colm O’Donoghue, and the likely pacemaker At First Sight, to be ridden by Seamie Heffernan.

John Gosden’s sole Derby success to date came in the shape of Benny The Dip in 1997 and this year’s representative is Azmeel, winner of the Dee Stakes at Chester.

“He’s a progressive horse. He ran three times last year but we probably shouldn’t have run him the third time,” Gosden told At The Races.

“Fortunately he was ridden by Mick Kinane who looked after the horse properly as he was still at the weak stage.

“I think the experience of running round Chester helps a horse grow up a lot and we think he has come on mentally since then and his work has been pleasing.”

Godolphin moved to book Kieren Fallon for Al Zir on Tuesday and trainer Saeed bin Suroor expects a big improvement from his run in the Guineas.

“We’re happy to use Kieren, he’s a very good jockey. It’s great to use him and he rides Epsom very well. He’s won many races there,” said Bin Suroor.

“He’s a great jockey and he’s in good form now. We’ve talked to him and he’s happy to ride for us.

“I’ve liked this horse since last year. He’s a good looking animal and his work always showed some class. He won at Newmarket and Doncaster and was third in the Racing Post Trophy.

“I was disappointed with him in the Guineas, but he’s come back from the race very well. He’s the best he’s ever been and if he’s good enough, he’ll win. I’m so happy with the horse, he’s running over the right distance, is in good condition and good form and we are looking to see a good run from him. He’s a big horse. I’m hope he gets into a nice position and I think he will handle the course,” he said.

Investec Derby – William Hill bet: 15-8 Jan Vermeer, 5-1 Workforce, 6-1 Bullet Train, 13-2 Midas Touch, 8-1 Rewilding, 11-1 Azmeel, 20-1 Coordinated Cut, 25-1 Al Zir, 33-1 bar

Meanwhile, the battle for supremacy in tomorrow’s Investec Oaks remains ongoing as punters to struggle to decipher a tricky renewal of the fillies’ Classic.

Henry Cecil has trained no less than eight previous winners of the Group One prize and he has two leading contenders in Musidora Stakes heroine Aviate, who heads totesport’s market at 9-2, and the much-vaunted Timepiece, who is a 6-1 chance.

Sandwiched in between them is Marcus Tregoning’s Rumoush at 5-1, while Sajjhaa is another at 6-1 in a fiercely competitive betting heat.

A total of 15 fillies are due to go to post, with Aidan O’Brien holding a strong hand with Awe Inspiring, Cabaret and Remember When, the choice of stable jockey Johnny Murtagh, all representing Ballydoyle.

The only two absentees from the five-day stage in Godolphin’s Hibaayeb and Lady Lupus.

Investec Oaks, totesport bet: 9-2 Aviate, 5-1 Rumoush, 6-1 Sajjhaa, 6-1 Timepiece, 8-1 Akdarena, 8-1 Remember When, 12-1 Ceilidh House, 12-1 Gertrude Bell, 14-1 Snow Fairy, 20-1 Champagnelifestyle, 25-1 Awe Inspiring, 33-1 bar.

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