Aidan O’Brien expects Ryan Moore to choose the impressive winner of Leopardstown Stone Age as his Cazoo Derby ride.
Although long-time outpost favorites Luxembourg were ruled out with a muscle problem, O’Brien still hold plenty of aces in the Epsom Classic.
He won both Derby events at Chester through Changingoftheguard in the Vase and Star Of India in the Dee Stakes and continued his dominance when United Nations beat Charlie Appleby’s famous Walk Of Stars at Lingfield.
Arguably the deepest test came closer to home, however, and as Stone Age crossed the finish line five and a half lengths ahead in the Leopardstown contest, it was installed as the new favorite.
“I think Ryan would have a hard time not riding yesterday’s horse,” O’Brien told a morning press at his Ballydoyle stables.
“We know how they will be ridden – the changing of the guard will continue and that would suit the horse who won yesterday.
“The one who won at Chester over a mile and a quarter (Star Of India) will also go forward but he’s a bit lazy so he might end up tucking in a bit. The horse that won at Lingfield will go from the before as he is doing well, Charlie’s horse (Natural World) galloped well.
“I imagine Ryan will have a hard time not riding at Stone Age, but I don’t know.
“You should have been impressed with him. You wish something had driven him. disturb him so we let him play.
“The good thing about him is he got a lot of experience at two, he was always happy to be dropped off and he learned a lot, but we weren’t racing him for teach him.”
He continued: “In all testing we were very happy to race and set a good pace to see if they were going to stay the trip or not and that’s what Ryan did, he did them all. bounce and if someone else wanted to direct then great, otherwise he would go.
“I have no idea which horse is the best, that’s how we find out – they’re all bred and bred to be in the Derby. It’s very hard not to give a horse a chance.
“I was never worried that they (Stone Age and Changingoftheguard) would never win at two, not at all. If we wanted them to win at two, we could have, but we always treat two as an indication for three.
“That’s why Stone Age was racing all these big races, he even raced in a one-of-seven (stadia) group. He had a two-man group shape, so it exposed him enough for the breeders to see that he was a very good two-year-old.
“He didn’t surprise us yesterday, I was delighted with him but we always liked him and thought he was a very classy horse. If you go back and look at his two-year-old form, he got beaten in a group race at Leopardstown and crossed the line and was the same in France over a mile and a quarter in soft ground.
“If you went through this form again, you could see that there was always better to come.
“I would never be surprised if a horse wins (the Derby) because there are so many variables and there are so many things that can happen.
“Obviously I’m delighted to have horses that can be competitive, especially with Luxembourg on the sidelines. They’ve now had their trials and the three-year-olds need to keep improving.
“It’s never settled that we know what’s going to happen. We try to prepare them for their races, talk to their riders about the trip and the track, and then everyone chats with details, data and everything. .
“You learn at the same time as everyone else. The only time you really discover it is when they are put together.”
A three-year-old O’Brien who didn’t quite live up to expectations for the first time is Point Lonsdale, but he still remains as part of the Derby despite finishing on the pitch in the Guineas.
“We always thought last year that he wanted to go a mile, but we never went a mile, because we were keeping him at seven because he was the best horse we had at that distance at the moment. Looking at him, you’d always tell he was going to be a middle-distance horse this year,” O’Brien said.
“He is a very good horse and I would expect him to come a lot from the Guineas and we give him the time to help him do that, rather than rushing him into the Dante – there would be no reason for Obviously we thought he would run a little better than Newmarket and he was a little disappointing, but he’s still in our plans for the Derby.