It is seven years since Roger Varian last saddled a runner in Epsom’s showpiece and the trainer is looking forward to Lingfield Derby Trial winner Third Realm taking his place in what he believes is an “intriguing” Derby on Saturday week.
The Newmarket handler’s last Derby contender was Kingston Hill, who went toe-to-toe with Australia before finishing second in the 2014 renewal. Varian said: “It’s a fascinating Derby and a very good Derby. Time will tell, of course, but if you look at the horses coming from Ireland and the horses in Newmarket you could make a case for different reasons, it looks intriguing.
“We’re delighted to be involved in it. I think it’s a Derby that if I wasn’t involved, I’d be super excited to watch, because there are lots of different types of horses in the mix.
“I truly believe the Derby is one of the most iconic races our industry across the globe has on offer. It will always be the pinnacle of the test of a horse, the ability of a horse, the jockey’s ambition and the trainer’s ambition.”
Third Realm produced a taking performance at Lingfield last time out and that has earned Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s homebred son of Sea The Stars the right to take his chance in the Group 1.
Varian, who was speaking ahead of the Cazoo Derby Festival hosted by the Jockey Club on Thursday, added: “I did think he’d go and run a nice race [at Lingfield], but he only had two starts – and when you jump from a novice straight into a Derby trial, often the come up short because it’s a big ask on a horse and they’re hard races to win.
“Having trained horses long enough and been disappointed often, I don’t think you ever go into those races too confident, but I really liked how he trained between Nottingham and Lingfield and I was obviously delighted with how it panned out and the ability he showed.
“He came down the hill [at Lingfield] very well. What I was really impressed with was the ese with which he took himself into contention. The visual impression he gave me at the bottom of the hill was that he just looked the best horse in the race.
“When he got to the front, he probably got a bit lonely and he had to dig deep in the end, but it was only his third start and I thought if David (Egan) had waited longer and produced him with a furlong to run, he might have won even more impressively.
“I think he’s got an outstanding attitude for a race like the Derby. He seems to conserve energy – he’s not a flashy worker at home and just does what you ask him to.
“He wasn’t distressed after Lingfield in any way and his recovery was very quick. He’s got a very relaxed way of racing and I think that’s vital in these big races.
“We’re still to learn whether he’s got the engine to bring home the Derby, but I think he’s got the mind for it.
“A lot of the boxes you want ticked going into the race he ticks. We’ve been very happy with his training since Lingfield – Andrea [Atzeni] actually rode him on Wednesday morning in his last serious bit of work and was very impressed with the horse.
“We’re very much looking forward to the day. He’s a relaxed character and a bit of a cool dude, so I would be hopeful he’ll handle whatever Epsom throws at him.”