The oldest and most iconic Flat race in the world is fast approaching with the Epsom Derby taking place one Saturday. It is the world’s premier Classic contest and will be preceded by The Oaks on Friday amid two days of stunning action on the Downs. We look ahead to this weekend’s action.
There are many races around the world with claims as being standout. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Melbourne Cup, Breeders’ Cup Classic but the Derby at Epsom is something quite unique. Only three-year-old’s car partake in the contest, ensuring a horse gets just one shot at the prize.
Victory in this race is also a launchpad for future stallion duties and so, whilst winning is supposedly all that matters, it’s also a huge moment for connections to know they’ve got a Derby-winning colt bound for the breeding sheds and the stud fees he will command.
Galileo, convincing winner of the Derby in 2001, went on to become the outstanding stallion of his generation. He was trained by Aidan O’Brien and the Irish handler once again comes to Epsom this year with an unbelievably strong hand. No less than eight of the 15 remaining possibles are trained at his Ballydoyle yard.
They are headlined by Chester Vase winner Sir Dragonet, the 3/1 favourite for the Derby. He could also rely on Broome, Anthony Van Dyck, Japan, Circus Maximus, Cape Of Good Hope and Sovereign.
Best Of British
Leading the British challenge is Dante Stakes winner Telecaster for trainer Hughie Morrison. He ran out a gutsy and determined winner of that key trial at York and has rapidly improved in his short career having only debuted this spring. Telecaster, like Sir Dragonet, was added to the Derby field this week at a supplementary cost of £85,000. Morrison suggested that connections felt a sense of duty to have the Dante winner in the race, thus protecting the heritage of the Derby by ensuring the best colts are there to take each other on.
It is a noble call to line-up so close to York, where Telecaster had a tough race in fending off Too Darn Hot. Oisin Murphy rides and there are few brighter stars in the weighing room right now.
Keep Johnston on side
Ahead of Friday and racing starting, there are some pointers for punters to take into account that may help make it a profitable two days. Over the last five years, trainer Mark Johnston has saddled considerably more winners (20) than anyone else at this track. The Middleham handler has won no less than six renewals of the Woodcote Stakes and his runner Monoski is currently 5/2 to score on Friday afternoon.
SOS for SDS
Three-time champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa is the winning-most rider at Epsom over the last five years (all meetings). Given the unique nature of the circuit, having a jockey on board that know how to ride Epsom is vital and the Brazilian has certainly proved himself in that regard, with 34 winners from 123 rides. De Sousa will ride Bangkok in Saturday’s main event. Andrew Balding’s charge has always been highly regarded and broke his maiden at Doncaster on reappearance in April, beating Telecaster, though he proved no match for Sir Dragonet in the Chester Vase since.
O’Brien and trainer John Gosden have won the last five renewals of the Epsom Oaks, with 6-7 all told going their way. The betting strongly suggests they may well extend that duopoly over the Fillies’ Classic this time around, with O’Brien’s Pink Dogwood currently sharing favouritism alongside Gosden’s Mehdaayih. The latter blitzed the field in the Cheshire Oaks recently and commands serious attention for a trainer with a remarkable track record with his big contenders in big races.
Pink Dogwood on the other hand won a Listed race in Ireland on her seasonal bow and hasn’t run since, with this race the target from some way out. She’s a full sister to Irish Derby winner Latrobe but struggled in her only previous start in Group One company, leaving here with something to prove.
This could be another Oaks triumph for Gosden.
Coronation Cup cracker
Friday’s Coronation Cup has got the potential to be a sizzler with Kew Gardens, Lah Ti Dar, Old Persian and Magical in shake-up at this stage. Kew Gardens will bid to give O’Brien an incredible ninth career success in the race while last year’s runner-up Salouen will hope to go one better.
Sylvester Kirk’s stable star nearly caused one of the shocks of the season when coming within a head of beating Cracksman 12 months ago and is priced at 15/2 to land the prize now.
The trainer suggests all has gone well in their preparations while Kirk anticipates a race that may become ‘quite tactical’.
Saturday’s forerunner to the Derby is the Investec Dash, a five-furlong sprint across the down with a proper blink and you’ll miss feel to it.
The market leader is now Denis Hogan’s Hathiq at 4/1. He would be making a very quick appearance at Epsom after an emphatic victory at the Curragh on Sunday. That success saw him raised 11lb by the handicapper, enough to guarantee him a shot in the field for this cavalry charge. Despite that, and the quick turnaround, his shrewd Irish trainer appears keen on the idea of running at Epsom.
Stoute bids for Diomed success
While the big race hogs a lot of the limelight on Saturday, there’s also plenty to look forward to on the rest of the card, which features two Group Three contests in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes (14.35) and the Investec Diomed Stakes (15.10).
Sir Michael Stoute won the latter contest twice in the 1980s with Hardgreen and Scottish Reel, though he hasn’t been able to add to the tally since.
He will hope to equal the late great Sir Henry Cecil’s tally of three on Saturday when Ryan Moore partners Zaaki, last spotted taking the scalp of one-time Group One-miler Barney Roy on the latter’s comeback race at Ascot.
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