It’s no surprise to see an Aidan O’Brien-trained runner win a Classic Trial but what may have surprised many about Imperial Monarch’s win on Saturday was the route taken by jockey Joseph O’Brien to steer his mount to victory.
The Bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown was run on the kind of ground usually only seen at National Hunt courses in the middle of winter and the ever-meticulous trainer had walked the course with his son before the race to decide on the best route for his horse.
With heavy, chewed-up ground on the inside of the track, O’Brien opted to keep his colt wide throughout the race, startling the commentator as he held his course around the bend and giving away ground to his competitors, but ultimately getting up to deny Thought Worthy by a length and three-quarters having stayed on the better ground on the stands’ side.
As with every Ballydoyle Classic contender, Imperial Monarch, by Galileo, hails from a talented family, which includes his three-parts brother, 2003 Derby runner-up The Great Gatsby, and that colt’s full-sister Roman Empress, who was third to Dar Re Mi in the Yorkshire Oaks. Their dam Ionian Sea, who like Thought Worthy raced in the colours of George Strawbridge, is by the Derby winner Slip Anchor and is a half-sister to leading National Hunt sire Oscar.
Despite having raced only twice, the unbeaten Imperial Monarch is now at odds of around 20/1 for the Derby. While the prospect of Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas favourite Camelot may be more enticing for Epsom, the Sandown trial winner is clearly a horse with the talent and resolution to be worthy of consideration.