O’Brien hat-trick

Bill Esdaile
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But Orchestra not Australia could seal historic Derby treble

THIS afternoon’s Investec Derby, run over one mile and four furlongs on the most unique of racecourses, remains the ultimate test for any three-year-old colt. It is the richest race for that age group in Europe, as well as being Britain’s most valuable contest with a prize fund of £1,380,000.

Aidan O’Brien will today bid to become the first trainer to saddle three consecutive winners of the historic race in its 235th year.

The Irish handler will be represented by four of the 16 runners going to post at 4.00pm, who are bidding to join an illustrious roll of honour that include household names like Nijinsky, Mill Reef, and Shergar.

Ballydoyle’s quartet is led by the impeccably-bred Australia, whose parents both tasted Epsom Classic success. The colt has headed the betting market since running out an impressive six-length winner of an Irish Group Three at the back end of last season.

He was third, beaten less than a length, in the 2000 Guineas on his seasonal reappearance and, on paper, will relish the half mile step up in trip.

O’Brien has made no secret about his admiration for the colt and has suggested that his team has never trained one as good. However, his ludicrously short price is based purely on his reputation, rather than what he has actually achieved on the racecourse.

Shortly after 4.00pm this afternoon we will find out whether or not all the hype has been justified. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you are prepared to take around 6/4 to find out whether the horse is actually a superstar.

The reality is that he may well run out an emphatic winner, but I genuinely believe that there is better value from a betting perspective siding with his two stablemates ORCHESTRA and GEOFFREY CHAUCER.

The pair may well be the Aidan O’Brien second and third string on paper, but that really doesn’t put me off. If you look at the last four years, only Camelot in 2012 finished first home of the Ballydoyle contingent as the stable’s number one hope.

In 2010, favourite Jan Vermeer could finish only fourth to Workforce and in doing so also finished a couple of places behind the lesser fancied O’Brien-trained 100/1 shot At First Sight. The following year, the yard’s leading hope Recital was not only beaten into sixth by winner Pour Moi, but also by two lesser-fancied stablemates who finished second and fourth.

Let’s not also forget that 12 months ago O’Brien won with second string Ruler Of The World with the supposedly better-fancied Battle Of Marengo only fourth.

Orchestra really caught the eye when holding off the strong challenge of Romsdal at Chester last month and travelled sweetly throughout. Ruler Of The World took the same trial en route to Epsom glory 12 months ago and this fellow looks cut from a very similar cloth.

He put the race to bed so quickly at Chester that I’m sure he was just idling in front when Romsdal closed in late on. That said, he seemed to pull out more in the final strides which demonstrates he has the necessary battling qualities and, more importantly, a hunger to win.

I’d far rather be taking a chance on him each-way at 14/1 with Coral than siding with the favourite at a fraction of that price.

At shorter odds, I’m also keen on the chances of Geoffrey Chaucer who had no luck in-running when third in the Derrinstown. Joseph O’Brien, jockey that day, was forced to snatch up on at least two occasions. He also carried a penalty on what was his first run of the campaign, and has reportedly come on a bundle in recent weeks.

If you can sniff out some 8/1 each-way somewhere this morning, he’s worth adding to the portfolio.

He finished behind Fascinating Rock and Ebanoran in the Derrinstown and I can certainly see the former going well if the rain does stay away. However, I can’t help but feel that Geoffrey Chaucer would have won relatively comfortably with a clear run and he is a strong contender.

If the heavens do open this morning, then a case can be made for Kingston Hill, but that precipitation looks a must for him, and I’ll take Australia to snatch third.

Incidentally, Coral are offering 33/1 that Aidan O’Brien saddles the Derby 1-2-3 and I’ve certainly backed worse 33/1 shots in my life. If you are feeling less brave, the same firm are 9/2 that Ballydoyle are responsible for the first two home and 8/11 they win the race.

■ Pointers…
Orchestra 14/1 ew
Geoffrey Chaucer 8/1 ew