One horse from the Aidan O’Brien stable replaced another on Sunday at the top of the market for the Derby next month, as Stone Age was cut to 3-1 favourite for the Classic following an easy win in Leopardstown’s Derby Trial just half an hour after the trainer had ruled out Luxembourg, third in last month’s 2,000 Guineas, due to a muscular problem.
Stone Age, sent off favourite at 10-11, made most of the running under Ryan Moore and was a couple of lengths ahead turning for home. When Moore asked him for a finishing kick he quickly moved further clear of his field, eventually crossing the line five-and-a-half lengths clear of Glory Daze, an 18-1 outsider.
It was O’Brien’s 15th success in the Leopardstown trial, though only two of his previous winners – Galileo and High Chaparral in 2000 and 2001 respectively – have followed up at Epsom.
“I’ve always liked the horse,” Moore said afterwards. “He was very impressive at Navan and he’s beginning to put it together now. I think today’s trial was a good race and I think he’ll probably improve again, so he’s a very exciting colt.
“He gave me a very good feel at Navan and he gave me a very good feel as a two-year-old, he ran in the [Group One] Lagardere at seven [furlongs] on bad ground and he wasn’t beaten far and wouldn’t have been seen to best effect in the conditions.”
Stone Age was cut from 12-1 to a general 3-1 for the Derby on 4 June after Sunday’s race and seems sure to start favourite for the Classic unless Sir Michael Stoute’s Desert Crown (6-1) puts up an equally emphatic performance in the Dante Stakes at York on Thursday.
Luxembourg, the winner of last season’s Vertem Futurity at Doncaster, had earlier been ruled out been ruled out of the Classic due to a muscle problem and is likely to be out of action for much of the summer.
“Luxembourg has to have a month or six weeks of box rest,” O’Brien said. “It’s a muscular problem behind and the tests revealed that he had to have a month or six weeks box rest to let it heal and do the right thing by the horse.
“Hopefully he’ll be back for the autumn, that’s the plan anyway.
Sometimes with muscular [issues] you can keep going, and sometimes you can’t. Rest was the only cure for it.”