06/04/2009 12:00AM

Sea the Stars ready for a double


Sea the Stars can complete a classic double on Saturday when he takes on one of the best fields in recent memory in the 230th running of the $2 million Epsom Derby.

The winner of the 2000 Guineas five weeks ago in a way that suggested that he will be able to handle the step up in distance from a mile to a 1 1/2 miles, Sea the Stars, trained by John Oxx, has been bet down to clear 5-2 favoritism this week despite the presence of a very strong six-horse battalion being sent out by Aidan O'Brien and his Coolmore backers.

Some are doubting that Sea the Stars has the bloodlines to stay the Derby course, which is all uphill for the first six furlongs and virtually all downhill for the last six. His sire, Cape Cross, is best known for milers, but he is the father of Ouija Board, who won the English Oaks over the Derby course in 2004. More importantly, Sea the Stars is out of the outstanding broodmare Urban Sea, the winner of the 1993 Prix d l'Arc de Triomphe, and so is a half-brother to Galileo, who just happened to win the Epsom Derby in 2001.

Sea the Stars was running away from them at the end of his 1 1/2-length victory in the 2000 Guineas. His rider, Michael Kinane, who rode Galileo to his Derby victory, is famous for his big-race performances, while trainer Oxx scored an Epsom Derby victory of his own with Sinndar in 2000. All of that points to Sea the Stars as the best of a very good bunch.

It is difficult to say which of the O'Brien sextet has the best chance. The trainer's first-call rider, Johnny Murtagh, has chosen to stick with Guineas fourth Rip Van Winkle, but the colt is unproven in this company and comes from a female family renowned for its sprinting ability.

The undefeated Fame and Glory has followed the path of O'Brien's two previous Derby winners, Galileo and High Chaparral, by winning both the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. By French and Irish Derby winner Montjeu, Fame and Glory could make the most trouble for Sea the Stars with the very capable Jamie Heffernan aboard. Black Bear Island is a full brother to Epsom and Irish Derby winner High Chaparral who took the 1 1/4-mile, 88-yard Dante Stakes, a race that has been won by three of the last five Derby winners: North Light, Motivator, and Authorized. The still improving Age of Aquarius, winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial, would benefit most if the expected good ground turned soft.

Masterofthehorse, another O'Brien trainee, is a half-brother to English Oaks winner Alexandrova who has yet to fulfill his potential, while the sixth Ballydoyle runner, Dee Stakes winner Golden Sword, is likely to be sacrificed in a pacesetting role.

Not to be forgotten is Gan Amhras, third in the 2000 Guineas. By Galileo out of a Darshaan mare, he is trained by Jim Bolger, whose Guineas runner-up New Approach proceeded to win last year's Derby. Godolphin Racing has Dante fifth Kite Wood, while John Gosden trains the J. Paul Reddam-owned Crowded House, but both are in the kind of deep waters for which Sea the Stars is better equipped than any of his 12 opponents.