It had been expected that Japan, a best-priced 7-1 for the premier Classic, would make his eagerly awaited return in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown on Sunday.
But after saddling the first two home in the Dee Stakes at Chester on Thursday, O’Brien revealed that the Dante Stakes was under serious consideration for Japan, a son of Galileo who signed off last season with successive wins at Listowel and Naas.
“We had a choice of running Japan in Lingfield, Leopardstown or the Dante. It’s very possible he could go to the Dante – the lads will make up their minds in the morning,” he said.
Too Darn Hot, the champion two-year-old of last season, is all that stands in the way of O’Brien runners dominating the ante-post market for the Derby.
The unbeaten John Gosden-trained colt, winner of the Dewhurst on his final start last season, is a general 9-2 to triumph at Epsom but will head to York on the back of a setback, having missed the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last Saturday because of a splint problem.
In his absence, Magna Grecia provided O’Brien with a tenth success in the colts’ Classic and afterwards he was promoted to 3-1 Derby favourite.
However, he seems likely to stay over a mile and, given the depth of riches at his disposal, perhaps it is no surprise that his connections are in no hurry to test him over farther.
O'Brien 25 Derby entries do not include Sir Dragonet, who looked every inch a Group One performer when trouncing his rivals in the Chester Vase on Wednesday. He is set to be supplemented, at a cost of £85,000, and is a general 9-2 to follow up at Epsom on June 1 when his trainer will be seeking a seventh win in the race.
O’Brien said at Chester on Thursday: “The lads will decide want they want to do, but it is very possible (supplementing for the Derby). It’s great, as we have time decide, but you couldn’t be more impressed.
“I don’t think he needs soft ground. He is a lovely, well-balanced horse – it has just been that he has run well on soft ground twice. He obviously has a massive engine.”
Twenty-four hours later, Circus Maximus and Mohawk filled the first two places in the Dee Stakes for O’Brien and on Saturday his Anthony Van Dyck will go off hot favourite for the Lingfield Derby Trial.
It now seems likely that Broome will be his No 1 challenger for the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on Sunday with Japan on duty at York on Wednesday.
With the exception of Too Darn Hot, the British challenge for Epsom is looking thin at this juncture and those hoping O’Brien may prune his squad are likely to be disappointed. He favours safety in numbers and has run as many as eight in the race (2007) in the past.
O’Brien’s shortest-priced Derby runners: 9-2 Sir Dragonet, 6-1 Magna Grecia, 7-1 Japan, 10-1 Broome, 12-1 Anthony Van Dyck, 20-1 Circus Maximum, 33-1 Mohawk, Norway.