Cracksman camp express Derby doubts as Dante draws near
The prospect of a Betfred Dante Stakes big on both quality and quantity has served to suppress the enthusiasm of favourite Cracksman's connections, who remain unconvinced the embryonic star charged with following in the footsteps of Golden Horn will run in the Investec Derby.
Despite making heavy weather of winning Epsom's own trial last month, Cracksman is Britain's shortest-priced candidate for the Derby at 7-1.
He will bid to trigger a further shortening of that price on Thursday when contesting a Dante that seems certain to produce a major overhaul of the premier Classic's ante-post market.
Crystal Ocean plunge
A plunge on the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Crystal Ocean has led to Sir Evelyn de Rothschild's colt being cut to a general 12-1 for the Derby and 3-1 for the Dante, behind easy-to-back 2-1 market leader Cracksman.
Godolphin are set to field four in the York showpiece, for which Aidan O'Brien has seven possible runners prior to Tuesday's declaration stage. Son Joseph O'Brien's Rekindling is a best-priced 6-1, while the Mark Johnston-trained Permian, caught by Cracksman in the final stride of the Epsom trial before winning easily at Newmarket, is on offer at 10-1.
While owner Anthony Oppenheimer had to pay a £75,000 supplementary fee to put Golden Horn in the Derby two years ago, Frankel's son Cracksman was added for £9,000 in April.
"The opposition in the Dante looks as though it's going to be very strong with a bigger field than you might normally expect," said Oppenheimer.
"Godolphin are planning to send a big team to the race and I believe Sir Evelyn de Rothschild's horse has a very good chance.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we don't win at York but instead finish in the first three and then decide not to run in the Derby."
Oppenheimer continued: "Cracksman isn't like Golden Horn at all, in that he's been very laid-back, although he's now much better. I walked away from the Epsom trial only hoping he might be able to come back for the Derby.
"I don't feel at this stage the same as I felt about Golden Horn. Going into the Dante I didn't think Golden Horn would stay a mile and a half in the Derby.
"This year my worry is whether we're good enough to be running in the Derby. I'd like to see him win the Dante before I start thinking seriously about Epsom."
Gosden, whose Shutter Speed is an odds-on favourite for Wednesday's Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, said: "The Dante is closer to the Derby than usual, owing to a late Easter.
"We’ve lost a week, which isn't helpful. On the other hand Cracksman needs the experience to race if we're even to consider Epsom. He's had only two runs in his life.
"It’s the smartest trial, but I still see it as a trial. He came out of his last race well and he learned a lot."
The eye-catching move for Nottingham maiden winner Crystal Ocean continued on Monday, with almost every firm trimming him again for the Dante and Derby.
Hayley O'Connor of Ladbrokes said: "Either word has widely spread Crystal Ocean is an absolute machine, or the initial gamble over the weekend has sparked a chain reaction. One way or another, the wave of money we're seeing for him continues."
Those keen for the Queen to have a runner in the Derby will be hoping to see her Newbury maiden winner Call To Mind produce a sparkling performance in Newmarket's Listed Betway Fairway Stakes on Saturday.
Trainer William Haggas is, however, keeping his feet firmly on the ground, noting the son of Galileo has raced just once.
"We're seeing where we are with him," said Haggas. "He's won only a maiden, not very impressively, by a head, but on his breeding there's a chance he might get further. We'll find out more about him on Saturday."