Aidan O’Brien’s remarkable run through the first week of trials for the Epsom Classics continued here on Saturday as United Nations, the 9-4 second-favourite, stayed on strongly up the home straight to beat Walk Of Stars, the 11-10 market leader, in the Lingfield Derby Trial and earn a quote of around 10-1 for the Classic on 4 June.
With just four runners going to post, there were concerns that it might be a slowly-run, tactical affair, but Natural World, a stable-companion of the favourite at the Charlie Appleby stable, set a strong gallop from the off, with United Nations settling in behind and William Buick, on Walk Of Stars, unable to get any cover on the outside in third.
Natural World was still in front around the home turn but Ryan Moore stoked up United Nations – a 50-1 chance for the Derby before the off – to run him down and take charge over a furlong out. Walk Of Stars narrowed the gap under a strong drive from his rider but started to hang to his right in the closing stages and was three-quarters of a length down at the line.
“Ryan was delighted with him,” Paul Smith, the son of United Nations’ co-owner, Derrick, said. “The trip suited, the conditions suited, he was very complimentary.
The attitude’s there, he’s got the pedigree for a championship race and he’ll be in the mix now with all the other horses.”
The track and trip in Lingfield’s Derby Trial provide a fair approximation of what will await its runners if they make it to the Classic at Epsom in June, including a downhill run to the home turn and a sharpish left turn into the straight. Its usefulness as a guide to the Derby has varied widely over the years, however, with a 21-year gap between the follow-up Epsom victories of High-Rise (1998) and Anthony Van Dyck (2019) before Adayar took last year’s Classic having been beaten into second when favourite for the Trial here.
United Nations arrived at Lingfield with experience of the real thing, having finished fourth in the Blue Riband Trial, over 10 furlongs rather than the 12-furlong Classic trip, at Epsom in April. The winner there was Nahanni, another Godolphin-owned runner from the Appleby yard, and while he is not entered for a further trial before Epsom, his form looks a good deal stronger after Saturday’s race.
This latest success in a Derby trial leaves O’Brien with six of the nine horses currently quoted at 16-1 or below for the Epsom Classic.
Luxembourg (6-1), third home in the 2,000 Guineas, suffered a setback on the gallops on Friday and his participation hangs in the balance, but his Ballydoyle stable-mates Changingoftheguard (7-1) and Star Of India (16-1) were both solid winners at Chester this week.
O’Brien is also due to saddle Stone Age (14-1) in Ireland’s main Derby trial at Leopardstown on Sunday and has four entries in the Dante Stakes at York on Thursday, including Point Lonsdale (14-1), 10th of 15 behind Coroebus in the 2,000 Guineas last month.
Appleby, on the other hand, has seen two live prospects for the Derby – New London and now Walk Of Stars – finish behind runners from Ballydoyle in the space of four days. He may take heart from the fact that Walk Of Stars showed his inexperience here, and also from the memory of Adayar’s second at Lingfield before his Epsom victory, but his path towards a third Derby winner in five years seems far trickier than it did on Wednesday morning.
O’Brien’s filly Emily Dickinson was odds-on for the Oaks Trial on the same card but faded tamely in the final quarter-mile as Tom Clover’s Rogue Millennium, the winner of a Wetherby maiden a fortnight ago, claimed a narrow win from Mystic Wells.
Owned by a 200-strong syndicate, Rogue Millennium will now be supplemented for the Oaks at Epsom on 3 June, for which she can be backed at around 20-1.