Europe Road to the Kentucky Derby kicks off with Beresford Stakes in Ireland

Sep 22, 2017 Vance Hanson/

A new pathway to the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) will wind itself through Europe over the next six months. The horse that accumulates the most points in the seven-race European Road to the Kentucky Derby series will receive an automatic entry into the Churchill Downs classic next May.

The first stop in the series, the one-mile Beresford (G2), is on Sunday at Naas Racecourse in Ireland, with points of 10-4-2-1 on the line for the top four finishers. The change in the Beresford venue this year from The Curragh, a right-handed course which is currently undergoing redevelopment, to Naas, a left-handed track, is an important one.

Naas is an almost triangular shape course approximately 1 3/4 miles in circumference. The Beresford will start from chute at the farthest point from the stands, and the horses will race more than three furlongs before making an approximately 90-degree turn into the long stretch.

The Beresford honor roll of winners is replete with superstars, including Nijinsky II, Just a Game, Sadler's Wells, Sea the Stars, and St Nicholas Abbey. The latter was trained by Aidan O'Brien, the maestro of Coolmore who's won 16 of the last 21 editions of the Beresford.

O'Brien had seven of the original 10 entries in the Beresford, but at Friday's declaration stage had decided only three would participate among a total field of five.

The likely favorite is Saxon Warrior (#4), who won on debut at The Curragh late last month by more than three lengths going one mile. He's by the great Japanese champion Deep Impact and out of the champion filly Maybe, and picks up the services of world-class rider Ryan Moore.

With the course condition expected to be soft to heavy in places, the O'Brien-trained KEW GARDENS (#2) might be worth a look in the Win and Place pools. The son of Galileo and Group 1 juvenile winner Chelsea Rose has already shown an affinity for cut in the ground with a 4 1/2-length maiden win at Killarney two back on soft going.

Exiting a second-place finish in a Group 3 on Irish Champions Weekend, he's reunited in the Beresford with Donnacha O'Brien, who rode him to victory in that maiden score.

Post time for the Beresford is noon (EDT) on Sunday. It can be viewed and wagered on at

(Photo courtesy of

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