31 May 2023

O’Brien hoping ‘sense’ will prevail on Derby day amid threat of protests

31 May 2023

Any delay to the Betfred Derby caused by protesters would be a “big negative” for everybody involved, according to Aidan O’Brien.

The animal rights group Animal Rising has made no secret of its intention to cause as much disruption as possible at Epsom on Saturday.

Some of its members made it on to the track at Aintree before the Grand National, causing around a 10-minute delay, but while there was an attempt to repeat that at Ayr and the Scottish National the following weekend it was quickly thwarted by police and security staff.

The Jockey Club, which owns Epsom and Aintree, among other courses, has admitted it may well be harder to prevent the protestors from gaining access to the track this weekend due to the public areas around Epsom.

However, it was granted a High Court injunction last week which means those that do attempt to enter the track itself or other prohibited areas could be subject to proceedings for contempt of court, which may lead to a fine and/or imprisonment.

In the National, Hill Sixteen suffered a fatal fall at the first fence, with trainer Sandy Thomson adamant afterwards the delay caused by what he called “ignorant” protesters had been a contributing factor.

“It’s out of our control,” said O’Brien.

“Any delay would be a big negative. Things happen every day to test us all and you just have to make the best of a situation whichever way it has fallen and it will be the same for everybody, that’s all any of us can do really.

“Obviously it is not ideal for anybody (if there is a delay). The horses, the people involved, everybody.

“Hopefully everybody will see sense and it won’t be like that, but all any of us can do is our best and hopefully everybody will see sense and look at the welfare of the animals and people and everybody first.”

O’Brien appears to have finalised his Derby plans, with Adelaide River and Chester winner San Antonio getting the go-ahead to join favourite Auguste Rodin.

O’Brien usually flies his runners in on Derby day, but has been forced to rethink with the race moved to a 1.30pm start time to avoid a clash with the FA Cup final.

“I think we’re going to run three, Auguste Rodin, Adelaide River and San Antonio at the moment,” he said.

“They all came out of their last races well, the two from Chester seem fine and Auguste Rodin seems fine.

“They are leaving Ballydoyle on Thursday afternoon, I think that’s the plan. We usually travel on the day, but with the early start we couldn’t take that risk.

“We don’t have any choice other than to take them earlier this year, we think it’s the sensible thing to do and the responsible thing to do.

“The fillies’ race (Oaks on Friday) is not as early as the colts, but we’re sending them early so they are doing the same route as the colts.

“We just think it’s the responsible thing to do for everybody involved and we’ll see what happens.”

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