05/31/2010 12:00AM

O'Brien has half-dozen for Epsom Derby


Aidan O'Brien has six of the 15 horses left in the 231st running of Saturday's Epsom Derby at Monday's five-day entry stage. That one of them, Jan Vermeer, would go off the favorite is a certainty, but only if he runs in the race. O'Brien has stated that Jan Vermeer could run in the Prix du Jockey-Club, or French Derby, on Sunday instead. As a result, Ballydoyle's No. 1 rider, Johnny Murtagh, has not yet made up his mind whether his Epsom ride will be Jan Vermeer or his stablemate St Nicholas Abbey, who has been deposed as the Derby favorite.

O'Brien has a number of options at his disposal, although St Nicholas Abbey, the European champion 2-year-old who disappointed when sixth as the even-money favorite in the 2000 Guineas, will definitely run at Epsom. But after he threw in a lackluster work Friday, the betting market jumped off him like fleas off a dead dog. St Nicholas Abbey had been as low as 7-4 until then, but when news of his dull work broke, St Nicholas Abbey drifted to 4-1 with Ladbrokes, which has Jan Vermeer as its 7-4 favorite, despite his iffy status for Epsom. Like St Nicholas Abbey by Montjeu, Jan Vermeer impressed when landing his belated May 23 seasonal debut, the Curragh's 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Gallinule Stakes, by a handy 1 3/4 lengths. He had not run for nearly seven months before that, when winning the one-mile, Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on Nov. 1.

The market clearly believes that Jan Vermeer will be at Epsom on Saturday and that Murtagh will be riding him. St Nicholas Abbey will be joined for sure at Epsom by Midas Touch. A son of 2001 Epsom Derby winner Galileo, Midas Touch won the 1 1/4-mile, Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown in his seasonal debut. Like Jan Vermeer, Cape Blanco is still under consideration for both Epsom and Chantilly. Like Midas Touch a son of Galileo, Cape Blanco won his seasonal debut in the 1 1/4-mile, 88-yard, Group 2 Dante Stakes at York. The other two O'Brien horses, At First Sight and Bright Horizon, will be employed as rabbits in one or another of the derbies.

O'Brien has four of the first five favorites in the Epsom Derby as Midas Touch is 8-1 and Cape Blanco 12-1. The Michael Stoute-trained Workforce, a game second to Cape Blanco in the Dante in just his second start, is the 7-1 third favorite. Meanwhile, Godolphin has supplemented Rewilding and Buzzword at $109,000 apiece. Both are trained by the stable's new man in Newmarket, Mahmoud Al Zarooni, and Rewilding is clearly their favorite. Trained by Andre Fabre to finish second to French Derby hopeful Planteur in the Group 2 Prix Noailles, Rewilding was switched to Zarooni to win the listed 1 3/8-mile Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood on May 19 and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori on Saturday.

In a wide-open Prix du Jockey-Club, the Elie Lellouche-trained Planteur and whoever runs from O'Brien's stable will be joined by the Head family's Carlos Laffon-Parias-trained Silver Pond, winner of the Group 2 Prix Hocquart; Juddmonte's Pascal Bary-trained Group 2 Prix Greffulhe winner Ice Blue; the Aga Khan's Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Group 3 Prix de Guiche winner Behkabad; and Godolphin's Group 3 Prix La Force winner Simon de Montfort.