Marengo enters Derby front line as Kingsbarns beats a retreat

O'Brien admits time running out for winter favourite but is pleased by Ballysax victor

Before racing at Leopardstown yesterday, Aidan O'Brien cast definite doubts over the Derby winter favourite, Kingsbarns, making the line-up for the Epsom showpiece. Once the sport started another of the Ballydoyle contenders for the premier Classic, The United States, did the same on the track for his own blue-riband prospects. It was left to Battle Of Marengo to pick up the standard for the powerful Co Tipperary stable, a task he completed in some style in the Ballysax Stakes.

The 10-furlong contest has a fine record as a second-season starting point for horses O'Brien holds in high regard; his previous six winners include Galileo, High Chaparral, Yeats and Fame And Glory. Whether Battle Of Marengo can emulate the first two named in the Derby remains to be seen, but his performance yesterday provided little to cavil about as he coped with a 5lb concession to his four rivals, rain-softened going and a strong headwind.

Such conditions would not be conducive to instant, brilliant acceleration but after being sent to the front early in the straight by his trainer's son, Joseph, the 8-11 favourite went up through the gears with an efficiently determined echo of his name and at the line had a length and three-quarters to spare over Sugar Boy, winner of his three previous starts.

"Very happy with that," O'Brien said. "The ground was not ideal at all but we needed to get going with him. He's always been one of our nicest, a lovely sort of horse who has passed pretty much every test. He's a beautiful-moving horse with a big, open stride and he'll be better on better ground."

Battle Of Marengo, likely to return to Leopardstown next month for Ireland's next traditional Derby trial, the Derrinstown, is now as short as 8-1 for the Epsom Classic. Two of his stable's other sons of Galileo are also prominent at the sharp end of the market: Mars, a possible for the 2,000 Guineas, and, despite his trainer's warnings, Kingsbarns.

The winner of last year's Racing Post Trophy, Kingsbarns had already been ruled out of the 2,000 Guineas after a training setback (a hoof became infected after he pulled a shoe off at exercise last month) but as recently as Friday, O'Brien was still bullish about getting him to Epsom on 1 June. Yesterday, however, he was much more guarded. "He was totally stopped in his work for 10 days," he said, "and when it happened was far from ideal. We are struggling a bit to get him 100 per cent and it's time we are now fighting with him."

If the colt makes it to a trial, it will be at the 11th hour. "We want to give him as much time as we can to get back," said O'Brien, who also won yesterday with Lockinge Stakes-bound four-year-old Declaration Of War and handicapper Justification. "He's in the pool a lot and we're forcing as much as we can without risking the horse. Of ours, he was the horse we were dreaming about but things just haven't gone well with him."

The United States had been the subject of some support at longer prices for the Derby, but his prospects effectively disappeared with a dull effort in the 2,000 Guineas trial. The winner, Fort Knox, considerably enhanced his Classic prospects but the main pointer it provided was to what a trainer his rider Johnny Murtagh will make in due course.

Fort Knox, a brother to 2011 Guineas runner-up Dubawi Gold, transferred as a maiden winner during the winter from Richard Hannon to Murtagh's operation, headed by Tommy Carmody, on the Currragh. Yesterday's victory, after a sweeping run from last to first in the straight, resulted in a cut to 20-1 from 50-1 for the Rowley Mile Classic next month.

Turf Account

CHRIS MCGRATH'S NAP: Destiny Blue (3.40 Redcar)

Failed to cut much ice as a hurdler last year but was useful on the Flat two years ago and, to judge by his reappearance in that sphere over today's course and distance, that ability remains ready to be tapped by his thoroughly capable new trainer.

NEXT BEST: Bitusa (3.10 Redcar)

Shaped with promise last year and on his reappearance two weeks ago and can offer more for return to seven furlongs on better ground.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works