Investec Derby: Sir Dragonet out to stamp class on field for Ballydoyle
Investec Derby (Group 1) | Colts and Fillies | 3yo | 1m4f | ITV/RTV
It's a situation nobody, not even his immediate connections, could possibly have foreseen. Unraced and unheard of at the start of the season, Sir Dragonet heads the market to give Aidan O'Brien a record-equalling seventh victory in the Investec Derby.
Only one of O'Brien’s Derby winners – Ruler Of The World in 2013 – failed to race as a two-year-old, but such has been the impression created by Sir Dragonet, especially when routing his rivals by eight lengths in the Chester Vase, that he heads the market and Ballydoyle's seven-strong challenge for further Epsom glory.
An unconsidered 14-1 shot when scoring on his debut at Tipperary in April, Sir Dragonet swept through from the back of the field to run his rivals ragged at Chester.
From zero to potential Derby hero in the space of 13 days and, although both his wins were achieved on easy ground, O'Brien is unconcerned about the quicker conditions for the son of Camelot, on whom Ryan Moore takes over from Donnacha O'Brien.
He said: "Although Sir Dragonet's two runs were on slow ground, that's just the way things worked out. We don't think he has to have those conditions.
"As he didn't run last year we sent him to Tipperary as we needed to get a run into him.
"The only times we've really asked anything of him were in his two races and he performed very well both times, showing a lot of class.
"We haven't done a whole lot with him since Chester but what he has done has been very good. He handled Chester well and that is often a guide to how a horse will act at Epsom."
Pros Very impressive at Chester and every chance he could improve significantly on that performance
Cons His relative lack of experience and whether he will be as effective on quick ground
Broome out to sweep another Classic for O'Brien jnr
With three British Classic victories to his credit, 20-year-old Donnacha O'Brien, rider of Broome, will be bidding to add the Investec Derby to his wins in last year's Oaks and the last two runnings of the 2,000 Guineas.
Broome landed the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, the Leopardstown races which his trainer won with his first two Derby winners, Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002).
O'Brien senior said: "We always thought middle distances would suit Broome well. He was very good winning his trials and we've been very happy with him since the Derrinstown. He should have learned a lot from that race with Epsom in mind by racing on the inside and then coming through to win well."
The colt's rider said: "Riding Broome is very exciting and I'm really looking forward to it. The Derrinstown seems to have been a good race and Broome's form is solid. He's a very uncomplicated horse."
Pros Consistent and experienced performer who should be suited by the step up in trip
Cons A question mark over whether the track will suit his style of racing
Van Dyck ready after Lingfield triumph
No winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial has gone to achieve Derby glory since High-Rise became the eighth colt to do so in 1998 and Anthony Van Dyck will be on a similar mission here following his two-and-a-quarter-length win earlier this month.
Seamie Heffernan, who rides the colt for the first time, will be having his 12th Derby ride and has had three top-three placings in the race.
O'Brien said: "We were very pleased with Anthony Van Dyck at Lingfield as he was only just ready to start having had a little hold-up.
"He had good form at Group 1 level last season and we always thought that middle distances would suit him well this year.
"He was running on well at the finish at Lingfield and has been in good form since. We're very happy with him."
Pros The highest-rated on official figures. Was expected to need the run going into Lingfield but got the trip well and there should be improvement on the cards.
Cons He is arguably more exposed then some of the other runners
Dettori bidding for third Derby win with Maximus
Frankie Dettori will be bidding for a third Derby win as he teams up with Aidan O'Brien, for whom he won the 2005 St Leger on Scorpion, on Dee Stakes winner Circus Maximus.
Carrying the colours of the Niarchos family's Flaxman Holdings, the son of Galileo performed creditably at a good level last season and will be attempting to become the first winner of the Chester trial to succeed in the Classic since Kris Kin in 2003.
Circus Maximus wears cheekpieces for the first time and O'Brien said: "He can be quite lazy – he raced that way at Chester – and we think the cheekpieces might help.
"He showed good form last season and everything has gone the right way since Chester. He's in good form."
Pros Decent efforts behind Persian King and Magna Grecia last year and can improve on his workmanlike win at Chester
Cons Will need to significantly improve from Chester if he is to finish in the money
Japan to step up on Dante effort
But for Japan's defeat in the Dante Stakes last month, Aidan O'Brien would have swept up all the recognised Derby trials bar Sandown's Classic Trial.
Fourth behind Telecaster at York, Japan, a Group 2 winner over a mile last year, takes his place among the Ballydoyle team, with connections expecting him to step up considerably on his first run of the season.
O'Brien said: "Japan had a hold-up and was just ready to start in the Dante. We knew he would come on a good bit from the run. We've been happy with him since and, hopefully, he will show improvement."
Wayne Lordan, who finished third on Galileo Rock in 2013, will be having his fifth Derby ride, while stamina will not be an issue for Jamie Spencer's mount Norway, who won over 1m2f last season.
"We know he stays and he ran quite well when second to Sir Dragonet at Chester. He's very uncomplicated and will like the better ground," O'Brien added.
Padraig Beggy, who hit the headlines when winning on Wings Of Eagles two years ago, will partner Sovereign, who was ridden prominently when placed behind Broome in both the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.
Madhmoon steps into unknown for Prendergast
Victory for Madhmoon in the Derby would be a fairytale result – for his 86-year-old trainer Kevin Prendergast, for jockey Chris Hayes, who will be riding in the race for the first time, and for owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum on the 25th anniversary of Erhaab providing him with a second Derby win.
Fourth in the 2,000 Guineas, Madhmoon is a seventh runner in the race for Prendergast and his first for 23 years.
The son of Dawn Approach, who was a Group 2 winner last year, has never raced beyond a mile but Prendergast is optimistic about the colt's prospects of staying the distance.
He said: "We can’t be certain Madhmoon will stay but both his wins last year were over a mile and when a horse wins over a mile at two they often go on and stay middle distances.
"When he won a Group 2 at Leopardstown in September it took him a good furlong and a half to pull up. He's never shown any signs of stopping in his races and that was the case in the Guineas at Newmarket."
Hayes, who has ridden Madhmoon in all of his four races, said: "The trip will be unknown territory and to me he feels and rides like a mile-and-a-quarter horse. But I've been told many times that's what you need for the Derby. He'll like the fast ground and stall six is a nice draw. I think he'll be very competitive."
Pros Has done little wrong and ran a fine race in the 2,000 Guineas
Cons Far from certain to stay the distance
Bangkok bids for emotional win
The Balding name is already on the Derby roll of honour courtesy of Ian's great champion Mill Reef and the former trainer's son Andrew has aims of joining him with the promising Bangkok, who runs in the colours of late Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Without a win as a juvenile, the son of 2014 Derby hero Australia has been flawless this term, beating fellow Epsom contender Telecaster in a Doncaster maiden on Lincoln weekend and then winning Sandown's Classic Trial.
He would provide owners King Power Racing with by far its biggest win, which would cue emotional scenes following the death of Srivaddhanaprabha in a tragic helicopter crash in October.
"I'm very happy with him and his work's been excellent since Sandown, so fingers crossed," said Balding, whose best Derby finisher was Bonfire, sixth in 2012.
"What Telecaster has done since gives that maiden a strong look and I think the horse deserves to be in the race. If he runs his race, he'll be competitive. He's got a bit of stamina on the dam's side, so I hope the trip won't be a problem and he might even enjoy the extra two furlongs.
"You don't know about the track until you try it, but he's a well-balanced horse who usually travels strongly. He does get warm in the mornings exercising and it's going to be a warm day, but he got warm at Sandown and it didn't stop him running his race."
Pros: progressive and unbeaten this season including defeat of Telecaster
Cons: lots to find on Racing Post Ratings and Topspeed
Supplemented Telecaster out to repay connections' faith
Even by finishing fourth, Telecaster will repay connections, who shelled out £85,000 on Monday to add him to the Derby field.
By New Approach, who won the famous race in 2008, and out of Shirocco Star, who was second in the 2012 Oaks, Telecaster burst on to the Classic stage with an impressive win at Windsor before denying Too Darn Hot in the Dante.
"We're happy with him and he's eating, moving and looking well, so I'm hoping he's got a squeak and can find some more improvement somewhere," said Hughie Morrison, who trains the colt for Castle Down Racing.
"That's not out of the question, but it normally comes with more time between races. I hope he can keep going for a mile and a half and if he can he'll go very close. I don't envisage the track being against him, but experience is important as well.
"I haven't thought about tactics. He's a young horse – I know they're all young – and it's whether he can keep backing up; he's done it twice already this spring, though."
Morrison, never the most bullish, thinks plenty of Telecaster and added: "He looks like the best horse I've trained, but I've had and have got others rated higher. We're looking at his potential and tomorrow tells us a lot and if it doesn't work out I'm sure we'll have other big days."
Pros: won the Dante, which is often the best trial
Cons: steps up in trip and was keen up with the pace at York
Can Humanitarian outrun his odds?
There are few more daunting forays into Group 1 company than the Derby, but trainer John Gosden is confident Humanitarian can outrun his 66-1 odds on just his fourth start.
Running in the name of Sheikh Mohammed's seven-year-old son Zayed in the silks carried by Godolphin’s first Classic winner Balanchine, Humanitarian steps up two furlongs after winning a novice contest at Salisbury earlier this month.
"Humanitarian missed much of the spring with a sinus problem and was still half asleep when winning on his reappearance at Salisbury," said Gosden. "He's come forward but will need to and is a real mile-and-a-half type. He's a big price but it's not a wild idea to run him and I don't expect him to be disgraced."
Appleby bids for back-to-back wins
Line Of Duty has big boots to fill and is a general 50-1 shot to emulate stablemate Masar, who provided trainer Charlie Appleby with his first victory in the Epsom Classic last season.
The sole Godolphin representative, Line Of Duty sparkled as a two-year-old with victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last November but managed only seventh behind Telecaster on his reappearance in the Dante.
Appleby said: "We know he'll have to improve significantly on his run in the Dante Stakes to be a contender, but he’s definitely come on for his first start of the year and brings good two-year-old form to the table. We've always hoped that the track at Epsom will suit him and cheekpieces will help him travel through the race."
Ryan taking a chance with 250-1 shot
Owner and Koi Carp collector Graham Smith-Bernal bought Hiroshima for just 28,000gns with the ambition of having a Derby runner and trainer John Ryan believes the 250-1 shot has more than earned his chance after finishing eighth at Lingfield.
He will be ridden by Brett Doyle, who has had only one ride in the Classic but knows what it feels like to ride a Derby winner as the work-rider for last year's Epsom hero Masar.
"You buy a horse in the hope they will have the ability to get to the Derby and it's a great opportunity," said Ryan.
"He was caught for a bit of early toe at Lingfield but stayed on well up the straight and wasn't beaten too far. He's come on for the run so we thought we'd take our chance."
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