Updated on 09/16/2011 7:32AM

Soft turf could favor High Chaparral at Epsom


High Chaparral can take advantage of the soft ground at Epsom and give trainer Aidan O'Brien his second successive win on Saturday.

A deluge of rain at Epsom on Wednesday morning turned the 1 1/2-mile Derby course soft. With the possibility of light showers on Friday, the going will be no better than good to soft for the 223rd running of this storied classic which, with a purse of $2,058,000, is Europe's richest race.

High Chaparral, by Sadler's Wells out of a Darshaan mare, is perfectly bred for the demands of the Derby. Moreover, his victory in the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown last month was achieved in a time considerably faster than those of the last two Derby winners, Galileo and Sinndar.

Michael Kinane, O'Brien's first-string rider, has opted to ride 3-2 favorite Hawk Wing, although if the ground remains soft he may switch to High Chaparral. Hawk Wing, by Woodman, was a fast closing runner-up to stablemate Rock of Gibraltar in the 2000 Guineas, but has never been farther than a mile.

Johnny Murtagh, who partnered Sinndar to his Derby triumph two years ago, has the call on High Chaparral, but would ride Hawk Wing if Kinane changes his mind.

Hamdan Al Maktoum was so impressed with Bandari's 13-length cakewalk in the Group 3 Lingfield Derby Trial that he bought the son of Alhaarth and supplemented him to the Derby for $130,000. He is extremely dangerous at a tempting 6-1.

Fight Your Corner, like Bandari trained by Britain's leading conditioner Mark Johnston, is another supplementary entry. He was bought by Sheikh Mohammed for his son Hamdan after a solid score in the Group 3 Chester Vase.

Saeed bin Suroor will saddle two for the Derby. Naheef is the choice of Frankie Dettori, but his dismal 10th in the 2000 Guineas leaves much to be desired. So if Godolphin is to win its first Epsom Derby, it may come from its Group 2 Dante Stakes winner Moon Ballad. Moon Ballad finished fourth on dirt in the UAE Derby, but has improved since being switched back to turf.

Coshocton's victory in the listed Predominate Stake was at the expense of weaker foes, while Tholjanah, by Darshaan out of a Sadler's Wells mare, is coming off an eight-month layoff.

Rain or shine, it is a good bet that the winning owner will be either a Maktoum or a member of the Tabor/Magnier partnership, as those two account for eight of the 12 starters.

for Epsom Derby past performances and Alan Shuback's graded entries.