NEW ‘EUROPEAN ROAD TO KENTUCKY DERBY’ KICKS OFF SUNDAY WITH GROUP II BERESFORD – The new seven-race “European Road to the Kentucky Derby” kicks off Sunday in Ireland with the Beresford Stakes (GII) for 2-year-olds at one mile on the turf.

Much like the “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby,” the new “European Road to the Kentucky Derby” is a stand-alone series of seven races that is separate from America’s 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby” sequence. Only one position in the Kentucky Derby starting gate will be awarded to the horse that accrues the most points in the “European Road to the Kentucky Derby” and accepts an invitation to compete.

Carded as Race 7 at Naas, with a post time at 12 p.m. (all times Eastern), the Beresford features a field of five juveniles seeking their first group stakes victory.

Leading the charge in the Beresford is top European trainer Aidan O’Brien. The Ireland native has three horses entered including morning line favorite Saxton Warrior. The Japanese-bred son of Deep Impact was an eye-catching debut winner last month at Curragh.

O’Brien will be seeking his record-extending 17th victory in the Beresford and has won the race six consecutive years.

Saxton Warrior will be joined by fellow O’Brien trainees Delano Roosevelt (3-1 morning line odds) and Kew Gardens (7-2). Saxton Warrior will be ridden by Ryan Moore while O’Brien’s son, Donnacha, is signed on to ride Kew Gardens and Seamus Heffernan has the call on Delano Roosevelt.

The Beresford is well-known for producing extremely-talented horses. In 1969, eventual English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky was victorious in the Beresford. The Canadian-bred, Irish-based horse, was the eventual British Horse of the Year in 1970 and eventually became a leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland.

In 2016, the Beresford produced Irish Derby champion Capri. The now 3-year-old son of Galileo was ridden by Moore and trained by O’Brien.

The Beresford will award points to the Top 4 finishing positions: 10 points to the winner, four points to the runner-up, two points to the third-place horse and one-point to the fourth-place finisher.

The other 2-year-old races on the “European Road to the Kentucky” are the Sept. 30 Juddmonte Royal Lodge (G2) at England’s Newmarket Racecourse; the Oct. 1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère (G1) on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe undercard at France’s Chantilly Racecourse; and the Oct. 28 Racing Post Trophy (G1) at England’s Doncaster Racecourse.

Two one-mile races for 3-year-olds in early March over synthetic “all weather” racing surfaces – the Road to the Kentucky Derby Condition Stakes at England’s Kempton Park Racecourse on March 1 and the Patton Stakes (Listed) at Ireland’s Dundalk Stadium on March 2 – will be awarded points on a scale of 20-8-4-2.

The series will climax March 30 with the one-mile Burradon Stakes at England’s Newcastle Racecourse, in which points will increase to 30-12-6-3 for the Top 4 finishers.

CHURCHILL DOWNS CONNECTIONS READY FOR BIG WEEKEND AROUND COUNTRY – Several Churchill Downs-based jockeys and trainers will be out of town Sunday for Remington Park’s Oklahoma Derby (GIII) card.

“Weekends like this keep me really busy,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “We have horses at Churchill, Delaware, Ellis Park, Laurel, and Remington Park. We have a few horses in at Churchill this weekend but also running Petrov in the Gallant Bob (GIII) at Parx and Torrent in the Remington Park Oaks (GIII).”

Jockeys Robby Albarado, Jon Court, Julien Leparoux, C.J. McMahon, and Ricardo Santana Jr. are all scheduled to make the journey to Remington Park in Oklahoma City to ride.

McMahon, who was dropped after the start of Race 5 Friday at Churchill Downs, was cleared to ride after further evaluation.

Scheduled to join Moquett at Remington Park are trainers Steve Asmussen, J.R. Caldwell, Bret Calhoun, William “Jinx” Fires, Chris Hartman, Mike Maker, Joe Sharp, Mike Tomlinson, Donnie K. Von Hemel, and Ian Wilkes.

The 1 1/8-mile Oklahoma Derby features three horses that were in Kentucky Derby 143: Battle of Midway (2-1 morning line), Girvin (7-2), and Untrapped (5-1).

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