Aidan O'Brien Tops Epsom Derby Nominees with 30

Edited from an Epsom Downs release

The countdown to the world's most famous flat race begins today after the horses remaining after the first forfeit stage for the 2003 Vodafone Derby (Eng-I) are announced. A total of 143 horses remain in the premier Classic, worth £1.2 million and run at Epsom Downs on Saturday, June 7, and this compares with 135 entries at the same stage 12 months ago.

Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, who has won the last two renewals of the Vodafone Derby with High Chaparral (2002) and Galileo (2001), has an amazing 30 engaged as he bids to become the first trainer to win the Derby three years running since the first running in 1780.

Prominent among O'Brien's challenge is the current ante-post favourite Brian Boru, bidding to follow in the footsteps of High Chaparral, who won the group I Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster as a two-year-old before going on to triumph at Epsom. O'Brien is also responsible for the group I winners Hold That Tiger and Alberto Giacometti, as well as a whole host of unexposed types.

While the colours of Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor, O'Brien's main patrons, have twice graced the Epsom winner's circle, the royal blue silks of great rival Godolphin have yet to come home in front in the great race. Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin's trainer, has a dozen to choose from at this stage. The Maktoum family's operation could be represented by the hugely-impressive Champagne Stakes winner Almushahar and also the filly Hi Dubai, who would be attempting to become the first filly to win the Classic since Fifinella in 1916. Hi Dubai is a full sister to the dual Emirates World Series champion Fantastic Light.

Other well-represented trainers include Sir Michael Stoute who has 13 entries and John Gosden, who has eight. Barry Hills has seven entries as he attempts to train his first Vodafone Derby victor, having sent out the runner-up on four occasions.

In addition to Aidan O'Brien's 30 entries, there are 10 further hopefuls fromland. John Oxx, successful with Sinndar in 2000, has four horses engaged while there are two entries from Charles O'Brien, whose father Vincent sent out six winners of the great race. Six horses from France are possibles at this stage, including the Aga Khan's Dalakhani, a half-brother to champion Daylami, who was unbeaten in his three starts last season.

Closer to home, trainer Terry Mills could attempt to keep Flat racing's ultimate prize within Epsom with his two entries - Let Me Try Again and Mill Byre.

There are two further chances to enter a horse for the 2003 Vodafone Derby--at a cost of £9,000 on April 9, or for £90,000 shortly before the race on May 29.

Stephen Wallis, Managing Director of Epsom Downs Racecourse, commented: "This is the first time that owners who entered their horses as yearlings have had to declare their hand and we are pleased that an increased number have stayed in--some we already know about from their 2-year-old days and others that are still unknown quantities. What we do know is that one will leave Epsom crowned as the king of his generation."


b c Sadler's Wells (USA) - Sweeten Up (Shirley Heights)
Owner: Sue Magnier
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
The homebred Alberto Giacometti was unbeaten in two starts last season. He made his debut at the Curragh on October 31, winning a 24-runner maiden by a neck from stable companion Mingun and nine days later took a big step in class to contest the group I Criterium de Saint-Could over 10 furlongs at Saint-Cloud in France. He came through that test in fine style when staying on well to defeat Sumerland by a head.

ch c Diesis - Imroz (USA) (Nureyev (USA))
Owner: Khalid Abdullah
Trainer: Henry Cecil
Hailing from the stable of four-time Vodafone Derby winning trainer Henry Cecil, Apex Star was unbeaten on his two starts in 2002. He started off in a maiden over seven furlongs at Leicester on August 11, when defeating the odds-on Dalaram by a length. His next outing was in a novice stakes at Lingfield on August 29, when he was two lengths too good for Western Fling.

b c Sadler's Wells (USA) - Eva Luna (USA) (Alleged (USA))
Owner: Sue Magnier
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
Bred by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, Brian Boru is the current ante-post favourite for the Vodafone Derby. His career began at the Curragh on June 28, when he was successful in a maiden over seven furlongs. His next appearance was in the Group Beresford Stakes over a mile at the Curragh on September 1when he went down by a head to John Oxx's Alamshar. Brian Boru's final run of 2002 was a hugely impressive display in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy over a mile at Doncaster on October 26. He was not inconvenienced by the soft ground that day, proving a length and a quarter too good for stable companion Powerscourt.

gr c Darshaan - Daltawa (IRE) (Miswaki (USA))
Owner: HH Aga Khan
Trainer: Alain de Royer Dupre FR
The grey Dalakhani is from one of the Aga Khan's best families, being a half-brother to Daylami. He began his career at Deauville on August 29, winning a maiden over seven furlongs, before stepping up to Group company, when an impressive winner of the Prix des Chenes over a mile at Longchamp on September 22. A group I victory capped Dalakhani's first season, when he defeated Chevalier in the Criterium International over a mile at Saint-Cloud on November 2.

ch f Rahy (USA) - Jood (USA) (Nijinsky (CAN))
Owner: Godolphin
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Hi Dubai is a full-sister to Godolphin's Fantastic Light - twice a winner of the World Series. Trained by David Loder in 2002, Hi Dubai made one appearance when shaping with considerable promise to be second to Nayzak in a seven-furlong maiden at Newmarket on August when it looked as if a step up in trip would suit her. The last of the six fillies to win the Derby was Fifinella in 1916, although Nobilliary came close when second in 1975. Cape Verdi was the last filly to run in the Derby, finishing ninth for Godolphin in 1998.

ch c Storm Cat (USA) - Beware Of The Cat (USA) (Caveat (USA))
Owner: Michael Tabor & Sue Magnier
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
Hold That Tiger had a busy campaign in 2002, competing in three different countries. His first two races (he won both) were inland - a six-furlong maiden at Leopardstown on June 12 and the Group Railway Stakes over six furlongs at the Curragh on June 30. A disappointing effort followed, when he finished last behind stable companion Spartacus in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes over six furlongs at the Curragh on August 11. However, he was subsequently found to be suffering from a respiratory infection that day. Hold That Tiger returned to action in the Group 1 Grand Criterium over seven furlongs at Longchamp on October 6, when he showed an amazing late burst of speed after a slow start to land the spoils by half a length. He was again slowly away in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Arlington on October 26, but stayed on well to finish third to Vindication on his first race on a dirt surface.

Class A, Group One, Showcase Race, Epsom Downs, Total Prize Fund £1,200,000 Saturday, June 7, 2003 one mile, four furlongs and about ten yards. Weights: colts 9st; fillies 8st 9lb, closed December 5, 2003 (537 entries), first forfeit stage March 4, 2003 (14entries remain), £9,000 second entry stage April 9, 2003 second forfeit stage May 21, 2003 £90,000 supplementary entry stage May 29, 2003 five-day confirmation stage noon, June 2, 2003 final declaration stage 10am June 5, 2003.

Click here to view the entire list of horses eligible for the 2003 Vodafone Derby and a breakdown of the trainers with entries.