The Dermot Weld-trained Hazapour outlined his Investec Derby credentials with a smooth success in the G3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The 16/1 shot, making his seasonal debut, travelled kindly in fourth in the early stages of the 10-furlong contest as the Aidan O'Brien-trained Nelson (Donnacha O'Brien, 5/2) set a steady gallop at the head of the eight-strong field.
The three-year-old son of Shamardal made stylish headway towards the outside of the field under Declan McDonogh in the home straight and quickened up smartly to take the lead approaching the furlong-pole.
Hazapour, owned by His Highness the Aga Khan, kept on willingly in the closing stages. There was a late challenge from Delano Roosevelt (Wayne Lordan, 9/2), also trained by O'Brien, who snatched second but never threatened the winner who triumphed by three quarters of a length in 2m 8.58s on ground described as good, good to firm in places
Another O'Brien contender The Pentagon (Seamie Heffernan), the well-supported 6/5 favourite, went to front ahead of Nelson a furlong and a half out and had every chance, but finished a neck further back in third.
Hazapour's uncle is 2016 Investec Derby winner Harzand, who won the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown before capturing the premier Classic at Epsom Downs for Weld, the Aga Khan and jockey Pat Smullen.
Weld, registering his ninth victory in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, is relishing the opportunity to head back to Epsom, as he looks to gain a second success in the G1 Investec Derby, Britain's richest race, on Saturday, June 2.
The Aga Khan is after his sixth winner in the Investec Derby, following on the victories with Shergar (1981), Shahrastani (1986), Kahyasi (1988), Sinndar (2000) and Harzand (2016).
Hazapour is a 16/1 shot for the Investec Derby with Unibet, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival, who initially went 20/1 for the Classic immediately after today's trial, with O'Brien's Saxon Warrior the 4/5 favourite from Evens.
Weld said: "Hazapour is a lovely horse to train. He worked beautifully the other morning and he handled ground conditions really well today.
"He is a medium-sized balanced colt and is a nephew of Harzand's, so there is only one place to go with him - Epsom is the plan!
"He is a stayer with speed and this race has always been the target. Harzand was one of the bravest horses I have ever trained as he was in a lot of pain when he injured his foot on Derby Day morning, yet he still went on and won the race.
"We then had to get him right again for the Irish Derby a few weeks later, and he duly went and won that.
"Hazapour has very similar characteristics - he is very tough and pretty adaptable ground-wise. He would not want really fast ground, but it was beautiful ground here at Leopardstown today - I think his preferred ground is good to soft.
"He had been working very well and all our horses are in very good form. He got home well there and he has a lovely way of galloping low to the ground and those sort of horses stay.
"Hazapour settles nicely and you can put him anywhere in the race, so he has a whole lot of advantages to him.
"He does have plenty of pace and I even toyed with the prospect of running him in the G3 Amethyst Stakes earlier on this afternoon over a mile, but because of the piece of work he showed me the other morning, I thought we were definitely going the right way by running here."
Weld's charge was third on his final start of 2017 in the G3 Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown on October 28, after winning an extended mile maiden at Galway the previous month on his second outing, and the master of Rosewell expects further improvement from the colt, following today's performance.
He continued: "We've had a wet spring and he'll improve for today's race. This was his first race of the season and he was only just ready to go today.
"His work in the last two weeks has been excellent and he's only really come into himself in that time. He was a worthy winner today and Epsom is the logical target with him.
"Saxon Warrior is an exceptionally good colt. He was an outstanding two-year-old and the leading colt of the moment - he is the horse to beat."
Hazapour and Declan McDonogh, picture Epsom Downs Racecourse
Unibet spokesman Ed Nicholson commented: "Investec Derby trials have come and gone this week with some exciting performances at Chester, Lingfield and now Leopardstown, yet Saxon Warrior has hardened in the Unibet betting to win the Investec Derby and is now at his shortest price to date - 4/5.
"Dermot Weld firmly believes today's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner, Hazapour, is a contender and it could well be that this well-related colt may see further support at 16/1 with Unibet."