Leading fancy Military March ruled out of Investec Derby after injury setback
Investec Derby third favourite Military March was on Thursday ruled out of the Flat season’s premier Classic after Saeed bin Suroor’s big hope suffered a setback.
Military March had been as short as 5-1 to give Bin Suroor his first Investec Derby success since striking with Lammtarra in 1995, but will now be out of action until the autumn.
Bin Suroor told the Racing Post on Thursday: "Military March has had a setback but it's not a major problem. He'll miss the Derby and we'll give him a bit of a break now. He's going to come back at the end of September for an autumn campaign.
"It was something that happened a few days ago so we were monitoring that. There's no major damage which is the good thing, but unfortunately he'll miss Epsom next week."
Military March won both starts as a juvenile, including the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket in which he beat stablemate Al Suhail by half a length under Oisin Murphy.
He made his seasonal return over the same course and distance in the 2,000 Guineas when he finished fourth behind Kameko, who is now a best-priced 5-1 second favourite with Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral behind general 5-2 market leader English King for next Saturday’s Classic.
Trainer Andrew Balding could not be happier with dual top-level winner Kameko and suggested on Thursday his Guineas winner possesses different gears to any horse he has ever trained.
"We'd like to think he's our best opportunity to win it but we've had five runners in the past and had five big disappointments," said Balding, whose father Ian trained the 1971 Derby winner Mill Reef.
"I don't want to get too excited like I did last year but he's a strong candidate and any Guineas winner warrants respect in the Derby.
"It would mean everything to win it. It's the holy grail for everybody who holds a training licence. A horse only gets one crack at it and sometimes the best horse of the generation doesn't even make it."
Kameko worked at Kempton on Wednesday under champion jockey Oisin Murphy, the retained rider for his owners Qatar Racing, and has also impressed Balding with his speed figures at home.
"He's a pleasure to train and a total professional," said Balding. "We went to Kempton for a gallop, which we did before Newmarket. It was an encouraging piece of work and he had a good blow.
"We had the opportunity to go to Epsom but felt that even a bit of practice at the track wouldn't prepare him for match day. He'll either handle Epsom under race conditions or he won't.
"He has different gears to any horse I've ever trained. We time our fast work and he's got exceptional ability. He can maintain a long stride and achieve sprinting fractions without really being asked."
Balding is confident Kameko should handle the step up to a mile and a half but admits English King holds the advantage in that regard after impressively winning the Lingfield Trial this month.
"The key is Kameko relaxes very well, which must give him a chance," said Balding. "It's an extra half mile and there are mixed messages in his pedigree but he hit the line powerfully in the Guineas.
"English King beat a nice horse of ours, Berkshire Rocco, at Lingfield who then ran well in the Queen's Vase. The Derby Trial is a good test so he should handle the track and we know he stays. Those two question marks over Kameko have been answered by English King.”
Tom Marquand has been replaced on English King by Frankie Dettori but he could still have a firts ride in the race aboard Kameko's stablemate Khalifa Sat, who won the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.
"Tom has been offered the ride on him," added Balding. "We think a lot of Khalifa Sat. He stays well and will run if the ground is fast."
Hukum, who provided Owen Burrows with his first Royal Ascot winner in the King George V Stakes, will not take up his engagement in the Classic.
"He got struck into at Ascot, which required stitches after the race," said Burrows. "He's only been trotting since then. Even without that, it probably would have been a bit too much for him at this stage.
"He showed us enough last year to justify his entry. We hold him in high regard and I spoke to Sheikh Hamdan, who felt we shouldn't go mad with him this year with a view to a big four-year-old campaign."
Highest Ground, who is a general 16-1 shot for Derby glory after beating Waldkonig at Haydock on Wednesday, may not run at Epsom.
Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family, said: "I'd have thought the Derby might be too soon. He could stay a mile and a half and I think the trip on Wednesday was ideal, but we’ll have to see what Sir Michael [Stoute, trainer] would like to do."
Derby betting (William Hill): 5-2 English King, 5 Kameko, 13-2 Mogul, Russian Emperor, 10 Vatican City, 20 Armory
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