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O'Brien ponders surprise Derby tilt for Henry; Classic news.

Byline: By Tony O'Hehir and David Lawrence

AIDAN O'BRIEN yesterday underlined the importance of the Derby to his Coolmore backers when he raised the possibility of his 2,000 Guineas winner Henrythenavigator heading to Epsom next month.

While plans for the Newmarket Classic hero have yet to be finalised, O'Brien told the Racing Post from the Curragh yesterday: "The Derby has been an important race for Coolmore down the years with a lot of the horses who went on to do well as stallions going there, and we're certainly not ruling out the possibility of Henrythenavigator going to Epsom."

O'Brien's comment is in stark contrast to the one issued last month by Jim Bolger about his 2,000 Guineas runnerup New Approach, when he revealed that his star is unlikely to run in the Vodafone Derby, his preference being the Irish 2,000 Guineas and then the Irish Derby.

Bolger stated that the Derby did not, in his view, enhance a colt's stallion prospects, an opinion echoed by owner Princess Haya's bloodstock adviser John Ferguson.

O'Brien suggested yesterday that saddling Henrythenavigator for the Irish 2,000 Guineas did not necessarily mean he could not also run at Epsom. He said: "Henrythenavigator seems to be fine after his race on Saturday and there is two weeks between the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, so we will wait and see. Nothing has been decided and won't be for another few weeks."

O'Brien added: "Before Saturday, the staff in the yard had different views about what Henry wanted, from a mile and a quarter and dirt, to him being a five-or six-furlong horse.

"But Johnny Murtagh was confident after the Guineas that he would get further than a mile. He said that although he got a bit tired in the last furlong, he galloped on past the line. You would expect him to come on for the run."

Henrythenavigator and New Approach are sponsor Boylesports' joint-favourites at 7-4 for the Irish 2,000 Guineas on May 24. Henrythenavigator is 12-1 with the same firm for the Derby on June 7.

Ballydoyle's whittling down of potential Derby runners will continue this week, with runners pencilled in for Chester, Lingfield and Leopardstown.

O'Brien said: "Vivaldi and Wassily Kandinsky will go for the Chester Vase on Thursday, while Achill Island and Sligo are likely to run in the Dee Stakes on Friday."

Alessandro Volta and King Of Rome, fourth and fifth in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month, will be given another chance to stake their Classic claims in the Lingfield Derby Trial on Saturday.

Washington Irving, who lost out in a photo on his reappearance last month, will return to Leopardstown on Sunday when he will attempt to lose his maiden tag in the Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, in which he may be joined by stablemates Hebridean, winner of the Classic Trial at Gowran Park on Sunday and Hindu Kush, another maiden who finished fourth in the Leopardstown race in which Washington Irving was second.

Outlining his plans for other races at Chester, O'Brien said: "Sail goes for the Cheshire Oaks on Wednesday, while Macarthur may go for the Ormonde Stakes on Friday. Soldier Of Fortune is in the Ormonde and also the Huxley Stakes, but he isn't a definiterunner."

O'Brien added that Jupiter Pluvius, who missed the 2,000 Guineas after an unsatisfactory scope last week, may make his reappearance in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

"The problem we had with Jupiter Pluvius was very minor and he could start off in the Irish Guineas," he said.

Winker Watson, also forced to miss the 2,000 Guineas, in his case because of a muscular problem, may take on Henrythenavigator and New Approach and company in the Irish equivalent.

Trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam reported last season's July Stakes winner to be "coming along nicely" yesterday, and added: "He has started back cantering and will be racing again soon."

Chapple-Hyam added: "It's always disappointing to miss a race you have been aiming for, and Winker's form entitled him to go close, but it's history now and we're looking forward to his next run.

"That could be in Ireland, as we certainly have not given up hope of getting him there, but, if he has to wait for Royal Ascot and the St James's Palace Stakes, that'll be fine too."

Irish 2,000 Guineas

Boylesports: 7-4 Henrythenavigator, New Approach, 10 Ibn Khaldun, Jupiter Pluvius, Raven's Pass, 25 Plan.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 6, 2008
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