King Of Steel will attempt to break Amo Racing’s Classic duck when he lines up in the Betfred Derby at Epsom on Saturday.
Kia Joorabchian’s operation has yet to taste success in the sport’s truly flagship contests – but came close to Derby glory with their only other runner so far in the race, Mojo Star, who finished second to Adayar at 50-1 in 2021.
Now hopes are pinned on Roger Varian’s strapping colt defying similarly long odds when he tackles the undulations of the Surrey Downs.
Although an impressive winner on debut at Nottingham in the autumn before going on to run in Group One company at Doncaster, he has not been seen yet since joining his new trainer at Carlburg Stables having been withdrawn at the start after getting upset in the stalls when due to run in the Dante at York.
However, having passed a required stalls at Leicester earlier this week, he will now attempt to become the first horse to win the Derby on their first start at three since the William Haggas-trained Shaamit in 1996.
“We’ve always been a huge fan of the horse,” said Tom Pennington, racing and operations manager at Amo Racing.
“It was unfortunate what happened at York, but he came through his stalls test at Leicester on Monday with flying colours and Roger has been pleased with his work throughout the spring and likes the horse.
“It’s a big ask to run in the Derby on your seasonal reappearance, it’s the biggest three-year-old race of the year, but we would like to think he will outrun his odds.
“We genuinely thought he was overpriced in the Dante and he had been working well before that. Both Kevin (Stott, jockey) and Roger had been happy with him and that race would have been an ideal springboard for the Derby. It just didn’t happen.
“I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason and maybe he would have had gone to York and had a really hard race and that might have affected his run this weekend. So you have got to try to take the positives out of it, he went up there and had a nice away day, he’s since been to Leicester and been through the stalls and you’ve got to take things as they come.
“Touch wood he will have a blind on in the stalls and he won’t repeat what he did at York.
“Whatever he does on Saturday will be a bonus for the remainder of the season. He’s a lovely big horse who is still filling his frame and maturing and I think he will improve as the season goes on.”
The Amo silks will also be represented in the Betfred Oaks on Friday afternoon when the Richard Hannon-trained Maman Joon takes the ‘Mojo Star route’ to Epsom, lining up in a Classic as a lightly-raced maiden.
In fact Maman Joon has been sighted just the once, when second to Gather Ye Rosebuds at Newbury, but connections are happy to roll the dice with the daughter of Sea The Stars.
“She’s a lovely filly and Richard has always held her in high regard,” continued Pennington.
“It looks a massive task to go there as a once-raced maiden, but she goes there in good form and has been working well. We’re hoping she can outrun her odds.
“She’s a lovely filly but you’re up against some of the best three-year-olds of a generation and the way Aidan’s (O’Brien, Savethelastdance) won at Chester she looked very good and obviously John Gosden’s filly (Soul Sister) who won at York has to be respected – understandably the competition looks very strong.”