Aidan O’Brien pair ruled out of Epsom Derby

French raider Epicuris has his sights set firmly on the Investec Derby as the field for the Epsom Classic began to take shape yesterday.

Aidan O’Brien pair ruled out of Epsom Derby

Dual 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles and the classy filly Found have been ruled out, but ante-post favourite Golden Horn was supplemented at a cost of £75,000, as was Irish raider Success Days, leaving 15 contenders.

Among them is the Criquette Head-Maarek-trained Epicuris, whose route to the blue riband has had one or two twists.

Unbeaten as a juvenile when his wins included the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 10 furlongs, he was successful on his return to action at Longchamp in early April.

He was due to have his prep run for the French Derby in the Prix Greffulhe last month, but refused to enter the stalls.

While he has since passed a stalls test, he will only enter them with the assistance of Nicolas Blondeau, a horse behavioural expert who also followed Goldikova all over the world.

French rules prevent anyone other than the official stalls handlers assisting down at the start, so Head-Maarek decided not to risk Epicuris refusing in the Prix du Jockey Club and switched her sights to Epsom instead.

The Khalid Abdullah-owned Rail Link colt will become Head-Maarek’s second runner in Epsom showpiece after French Guineas winner American Post finished sixth behind North Light in 2004

“He worked well this morning, I was very happy with him,” said Head-Maarek, who is on a high after the return of her brilliant filly Treve last week.

“He seems fine after it so he’s going to run at Epsom, he pulled a long way clear of his lead horse.

“Thierry Thulliez, his usual jockey, will ride him.”

Gleneagles and Found will instead head directly to Royal Ascot.

It had been expected that Gleneagles would at least be left in at the confirmation stage for Epsom, but owners Coolmore decided to keep him to a mile in the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal fixture.

Found, a Group One winner last season, missed the Guineas at Newmarket and was a narrow runner-up in the Irish version, but speculation had mounted in recent days that she could be supplemented to take on the colts.

She will now be prepared for the Coronation Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien is now likely to be represented by Giovanni Canaletto, Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro.

Trained by Ken Condon, Success Days has won the key Irish trials in the Ballysax and Derrinstown Derby Trial.

Both those wins came on soft ground, but Condon feels there will be sufficient give to allow him to run to his best.

“We’ve put him in,” said the County Kildare handler.

“There are thunderstorms due on Friday, someone tells me, and they are due some rain.

“Andrew Cooper (clerk of the course) does a superb job with the ground and it is always a little bit slower on the Friday, so if they get some rain I can’t see there being any sting in it.

“Saturday looks set to be lovely, a picture-perfect Derby day, and we’ll be there.

“He’s won the best two trials in Ireland and he certainly deserves his place in the line-up.

“People can say he’s been winning in small fields and on bad ground but the ground is always soft in Ireland in the spring.

“I’m sure he’ll run a good race.”

As well as Golden Horn, John Gosden will run Jack Hobbs, bought by Godolphin since his second-placed finish in the Dante at York.

Aside from Epicuris, Andrew Balding’s Elm Park is the only previous Group One winner in the field.

The Dermot Weld-trained Zawraq has looked impressive in winning the only two starts of his career, while William Haggas’ Storm The Stars also arrives with claims.

Moheet, Rocky Rider, Rogue Runner, Best Of Times and Carbon Dating complete the remaining possibles.

Coral make Golden Horn the 7-4 favourite followed by Zawraq at 9-2.

“After several weeks of ante-post uncertainty, the field for this year’s Investec Derby is beginning to take shape now, with the Dante winner Golden Horn and Frankie Dettori sure to start favourite for the biggest betting race of the Flat season, while Ryan Moore’s eventual choice of mount is sure to be of interest to punters as well,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

William Hill, meanwhile, have seen support for Giovanni Canaletto, cutting him to 12-1 from 16-1. Spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke said: “Punters have been snatching up the big odds on Giovanni Canaletto and he is attracting the each-way bets. Just over a month ago Aidan O’Brien had the top four in this year’s Derby betting, now he hasn’t got a contender at single figure odds.”

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