'He has tactical speed and a change of gear' - Youth Spirit team back for more
Ahmad Al Shaikh came close to realising a lifelong dream in the Derby last year when Khalifa Sat was second to Serpentine, but those connected to the owner's Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit insist he has a better chance this time round – so much so the Dubai-based Epsom enthusiast will endure a quarantine period to be at the track on Saturday.
Trained by Andrew Balding, who was also responsible for saddling Khalifa Sat, Youth Spirit is as big as 33-1 for the Cazoo-sponsored Classic, but his stablemate defied odds of 50-1 when chasing home runaway winner Serpentine last summer.
Bloodstock agent Federico Barberini bought Youth Spirit as a yearling and, speaking on behalf of the owner, said: "We were confident Khalifa Sat would run a good race, and we knew he was a stayer, while the pace would be guaranteed by one of Aidan O'Brien's, although nobody expected Serpentine to stay where he was.
"Youth Spirit has a better chance because he's shown more class than Khalifa Sat at the same stage and he's more of a Derby type. He handled the tight bends at Chester, which is often a good indication for Epsom.
"We had doubts about stamina before running at Chester, but I'd say there are no doubts he'll stay the trip now. He's by Camelot, but there is a lot of speed on the female side of the pedigree. You cannot be confident ever, but he deserves a shot and has a fair chance.
"He'll handle any ground. He'd want to avoid extremes, which applies to most horses, but soft ground would be an advantage because we know he handles it, although he doesn't need it to perform."
Related to classy sprinters Blaine and Bogart, Youth Spirit was a maiden winner at Newmarket last year before finishing third in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.
He was fourth in the Feilden Stakes on his first outing of 2021 and stepped up on that to land the Chester Vase, which Henbit, Shergar and Ruler Of The World also won before Derby glory.
Barberini describes the three-year-old as a "lovely, good-looking horse" blessed with the athleticism for Epsom's unique undulations.
He added: "The owner is absolutely in love with the race and it's a lifetime dream to win it. We're always keeping an eye to buy horses to win the race and it's a great chance for him; to have a horse with a live chance.
"Youth Spirit has tactical speed and a change of gear. He has a fair chance because he stays and has the characteristics to suit the race and track. They are advantages we shouldn't underestimate, although on pure form there are horses in front of him."
Al Shaikh is due to be at Epsom and Barberini said: "It is complicated with Covid, but he's completing his quarantining and all the necessary requirements, so fingers crossed he should be there. He's based in Dubai, which is on the government's red list, but he's complying with all the requirements.
"He was gutted not to be there last year for Khalifa Sat and, without the pandemic, he'd have been at Epsom, despite the fact that horse was 50-1. He loves his racing.
"The Derby is the mother of every race and maybe at this stage it's a less commercial race, but it's still the one everyone wants to win."
Balding, based not far from Newbury, has never won the Derby, although his father Ian landed the great race in 1971 with the mighty Mill Reef.
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