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Defiance ready to take on Derby Trial opposition

Defiance ready to take on Derby Trial opposition
Defiance ready to take on Derby Trial opposition

Defiance is among those looking to book their ticket to Epsom in the William Hill Lingfield Derby Trial at Lingfield on Saturday.

A winner on his Sandown debut last summer for trainer Roger Varian, the Camelot colt rounded off his juvenile campaign by finishing sixth behind the high-class Ghostwriter in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket.

He made an encouraging start to his three-year-old season when finishing strongly to fill the runner-up spot behind Bellum Justum in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom and connections hope he can go one better this weekend to earn himself a tilt at Betfred Derby glory on June 1.

“We were thrilled with him at Epsom, especially as that race really wasn’t run to suit at all,” said Harry Herbert, managing director of owners Highclere Thoroughbred Racing.

“There was a very slow pace that day, we wanted him to relax in behind and they quickened from the front and we were on the outside. He still nearly won, so I think he’s run a very good race off a pace that didn’t suit him.

“He’s in great form according to Roger and I’ve seen him myself, he looks marvellous the horse.”

Herbert admits Saturday’s Listed event is a crucial test for Defiance, with dreams of a Derby bid very much on the line.

He added: “I think he’s come on for that run at Epsom and on Saturday, we’d love to think that he’ll be very competitive. We’ll know afterwards whether we’ll be throwing our cards into the Derby ring or going elsewhere.

“We want to know, albeit it could be painful, but the worst thing in the world is running a horse in the Derby that shouldn’t be there, so let’s find out.

“Right now I think he’s a live contender. He’s a beautifully balanced horse who has shown he can act around Epsom and he’s going to stay well, so he’s ticking some good boxes, but first of all we’ve got to see if he can win a race like this. If he can, he’ll certainly be lining up at Epsom.”

Defiance is joined at the head of the market by Aidan O’Brien’s pair of The Euphrates and Illinois, who finished second and third respectively in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month.

Aidan O'Brien saddles two runners in the Lingfield Derby Trial
Aidan O’Brien saddles two runners in the Lingfield Derby Trial (Mike Egerton/PA)

Illinois was a beaten odds-on favourite that day but Ryan Moore keeps the faith, with Declan McDonogh coming in for the ride on his stablemate as O’Brien chases a seventh win in the race.

O’Brien said: “The two of them have been on a pretty similar programme which is why they both started off in the Ballysax.

“Illinois had the better form at two, but The Euphrates finished in front of him the last day.

“We think they’ll both get further and they’ve both had a run now, so it is going to be interesting. We’re looking forward to it.”

Karl Burke also fires a twin assault, with Blue Riband Trial fourth Arabic Legend joined by stablemate Imperial Sovereign, who makes his turf debut following two outings on the all-weather.

“They’re two good horses, I think,” said Burke.

“Imperial Sovereign will definitely get a mile and a half, I think he’s crying out for it, whereas with Arabic Legend, his pedigree suggests he’s more of a mile-and-a-quarter horse but Sheikh Obaid (owner) is keen to see if he stays a mile and a half.

“If he doesn’t stay and looks good enough for a French Derby, we could go down that route.”

James Fanshawe is represented by Ambiente Friendly, who steps up in distance after finishing a creditable fourth in Newmarket’s Feilden Stakes.

Fanshawe said: “He ran well at Newmarket, and the Karl Burke horse ahead of him (Caviar Heights) went on and won again at Newmarket last week.

“The form has worked out well from that, we’ve got a bit to find on some of them but he’s in very good form himself.”

Jane Chapple-Hyam’s pair of Salamanca and At Vimeiro and Meydaan from Simon and Ed Crisford’s yard complete the line-up.

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