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: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory