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Horse Racing - Racing: Plenty to ponder ahead of Epsom

It was another informative weekend of racing when it comes to the British Classics at Epsom next month with the Derby picture shaken up, but it is still an Aidan O'Brien runner who tops the betting.

(This article was originally published on 16.05.2022)

Here is a look back at the action over the last couple of days.

Ballydoyle Derby pecking order reworked

The biggest news over the weekend with regards to the Derby at Epsom was that 2,000 Guineas third, Luxembourg, will miss the race due to a setback. O'Brien announced that the horse will need four to six weeks rest to recuperate and is unlikely to be seen again until autumn.

Not long after the news was announced, Stone Age jumped to the top of the Derby betting following an impressive performance in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown. It was the second straight race that the son of Galileo had prevailed by a large margin and he is 5/2 to win the most prestigious British Classic next month.

Changingoftheguard and Star Of India were both successful earlier in the week at Chester to put themselves in the Derby picture, and they were joined by United Nations on Saturday. The Ballydoyle colt won the Derby Trial at Lingfield, getting the better of Godolphin runner Walk Of Stars in the closing stages of the 1m3½f contest, scoring by less than a length.

He is now 12/1 to follow up with victory in the three-year-old race on the Downs.

Tranquil Lady showcases Epsom claims

Joseph O'Brien has won some huge international races as a jockey and trainer and has a great chance of landing the Oaks this year, based on Tranquil Lady's performance at Naas on Saturday.

The Australia filly won a Group Three contest over 1m2f by four lengths, finishing powerfully to suggest she could improve again over the Oaks trip.

The Naas winner is 12/1 in the betting for Epsom, which continues to be headed by Tuesday and Emily Upjohn at 7/2 and 4/1 respectively.

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On Sunday, Joseph's father Aidan also saw one of his fillies do her reputation no harm, with victory in the Group Three Cornelscourt Stakes for History, who got the better of Agartha in a close tussle. It was another major success for O'Brien and Ryan Moore in what has been a fantastic week for the pair.

The daughter of Galileo is bred to appreciate further and now looks on course to feature at Epsom. She is 14/1 to give O'Brien his 10th success in the Classic for fillies.

One of the rare disappointments for O'Brien over the weekend. however, was Emily Dickinson's performance in the Oaks Trial at Lingfield. The race was won by Rogue Millennium on what was just her second career appearance but Tom Clover's runner does not have an entry in the Oaks and her next appearance may be the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.

Vafortino lands Victoria Cup at Ascot

The biggest handicap of the weekend came at Ascot with the Victoria Cup. It was won by 16/1 shot Vafortino, who is trained by Kevin Philippart De Foy in what was the biggest success of his training career so far.

The four-year-old gelding, who used to be in the hands of Joseph O'Brien in Ireland, was ridden to victory by Benoit De La Sayette on his first ride at Ascot - and it's one he will never forget.

On future plans for the horse, Philippart De Foy said after the race: "We will give him a bit of time and come up with a plan. We won't think of anything yet, we'll rest and enjoy today."

Shadwell pair Al Aasy and Aldaary make winning returns

The Shadwell Racing silks were carried to victory on Saturday by Al Aasy and Aldaary with Al Aasy returning to action at Ascot in a Listed race.

Last season's Coronation Cup runner-up lost his way a little at the back end of 2021, but he did the job nicely at the Berkshire racecourse over the weekend, which will give his connections a lot of confidence about the year ahead. He is likely to be seen in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot next up.

Later in the afternoon, Shadwell number one jockey Jim Crowley rode Aldaary to victory at Haydock. The 2021 Balmoral Handicap winner scored at Listed level for the first time in his career and the victory could be a stepping-stone towards Group action next.

Huge Kentucky Derby shock

The Kentucky Derby is the opening leg of the US Triple Crown and there was a huge upset at Churchhill Downs on Saturday evening, as the complete outsider of the field, Rich Strike, prevailed at 80/1.

Trained by Eric Reed, he came home faster than any of the three-year-olds in the race, reeling in the favourite Epicenter in the final 100 yards.

The result is the biggest upset in the race since 1913. The horse was claimed for just $30,000 last year and he was able to land one of the most prestigious races on the US calendar.

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