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O'Brien holds strong interest in French Derby

Tue 28th May 2019, 14:19

© Photo Healy Racing

Aidan O’Brien has seven contenders to pick from in Sunday’s French Derby at Chantilly following the latest forfeit stage.

The Ballydoyle handler is responsible for nearly half of the 20 runners in the 10-furlong heat with Mohawk, Norway, Van Beethoven, Anthony Van Dyck, Blenheim Palace, Cape Of Good Hope and Sovereign still in the mix.

However, four of those colts are also entered at Epsom on Saturday, with only Mohawk, Blenheim Palace and Van Beethoven having just the Chantilly option.

Andre Fabre’s French 2000 Guineas hero Persian King is the leading candidate as he tries to join an elite list to have won both Classics.

Brametot achieved the double in 2017, while Fabre’s Lope De Vega completed the feat in 2010, giving the trainer a fourth overall win in the race following Peintre Celebre (1997), Intello (2013) and New Bay (2015).

Persian King beat subsequent Newmarket Guineas winner Magna Grecia last season, but has remained at home so far this year and Fabre feels a Royal Ascot bid is unlikely as it comes less than three weeks after the Prix du Jockey Club.

However, he did admit that Champions Day later in the season could be an option for his top-class colt.

“Everything has been good since his last run and he’s coming along well ahead of Sunday, I think,” Fabre told Press Association Sport.

“I was hoping he could have won the Poulains (French Guineas) by 15 lengths, but in the end he just won by nearly two!

“Obviously we all like to dream that we have the new Frankel, but he did it well.

“If everything goes well on Sunday, I would imagine that Royal Ascot would come a bit quick for him, but Champions Day would certainly be an option later in the season.”

Fabre also has Roman Candle and Slalom, while Charlie Appleby’s Breeders’ Cup winner Line Of Duty and Roger Varian’s Surfman are entered at both Epsom and Chantilly.

Andrew Balding’s impressive Newmarket winner Raise You and John Gosden’s Kick On still have the option.

Among the home team is Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Zarkallani, a son of the brilliant Zarkava who only won his maiden last Sunday.