All eyes will be on favourite Australia on Saturday to see if he is as good as his trainer Aidan O’Brien believes he is and win the Epsom Derby to give the record-breaking Irishman a third successive win in the blue riband of flat racing and fifth in all.
Australia will face 15 rivals — including two useful stablemates in Geoffrey Chaucer and Orchestra and a pacemaker in Kingfisher — with his 44-year-old trainer confident that he is the best Derby runner he has ever saddled.
Australia, who is superbly bred with his sire being 2002 Derby winner Galileo and his dam 2004 Oaks champion Ouija Board, produced an excellent performance in the English 2000 Guineas in May, just being edged into third place over a distance that is half a mile shorter than the one he will travel at Epsom.
Although none of the past 10 winners of the Derby had finished outside the first two in their race prior to the classic O’Brien — whose son Joseph will ride him — has no fears about that statistic.
“He’s a Derby horse we’ve not had the like of before,” he said in May.
“I thought Camelot (the 2012 winner) was the best horse we had for the Derby, but this horse is another step up.
“The very first time he worked as a two-year-old we knew he was exceptional and the lads always rated him. I’ve never had a horse like this. I’m not trying to blow him up, I’m just saying how it is.”
Geoffrey Chaucer’s chances of landing the Derby looked a distant hope when he was third of six to Fascinating Rock — who also runs on Saturday — in the Derrinstown Derby trial in early May.
However, his camp were not too downhearted about that performance as it was a messy race and he got a boost this week when Ryan Moore, who has won the race twice including last year on O’Brien’s Ruler of the World, was booked to ride him rather than Orchestra, who he rode to victory in the Chester Vase.
Moore will be looking for his second Derby win in a week having landed the French version last Sunday on The Grey Gatsby, and connections of another of Saturday’s runners Arod took great heart from his win in France as they had finished runner-up to him on his previous start in the influential Derby trial the Dante Stakes.
Arod’s trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam has tasted glory at Epsom twice and he admits that his runner, owned by Qatari Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, differs significantly from his previous two champions.
“Faster ground will suit him, as will the step up to a mile and a half. Whether he’s good enough to win the Derby, we’ll find out on the day. This horse still has to go and prove himself, in some ways, and he’s been a bit slower to mature than the other two (Derby winners), but he’ll get there,” he said.
While Arod holds a chance of upsetting the odds the host nation’s best hopes of preventing an O’Brien victory probably lie with Kingston Hill, trained by Roger Varian.
While he went down to his first defeat in four starts when only eighth in the 2000 Guineas Varian believes that there were mitigating factors to take into account.
“On reflection it was a pretty good run, particularly looking at it as a Derby trial,” said Varian.
“He was staying on really well at the end and will certainly appreciate the step up in distance. The form seems to be the best among three-year-olds of the season and I suppose that points to Australia having a huge chance in the Derby.
“But weâ€™ll be happy to take him on again, and we wonâ€™t mind at all if the ground comes up soft.