Martyn Meade eager to get Derby prep run into 'serious horse' Gloucestershire
A quarter of a century after Shaamit went from winning a maiden to capturing the Derby on his seasonal reappearance, Martyn Meade could be forced to follow that blueprint with Gloucestershire, a "serious horse" who is facing a late battle to make it to the Cazoo-sponsored Epsom Classic on June 5.
Owned by Team Valor and Manton Park, Gloucestershire was a 22-1 shot for a 1m3f maiden at Kempton just before Christmas, but defied those odds to win well under Tom Marquand.
Meade, based at the historic Manton training complex in Wiltshire from where Dr Devious won the Derby in 1992, had hoped to take the wraps off the son of Flintshire by now but his reappearance has been held up by an infection. He is back to health now and the trainer is searching the programme book for a race in which to prepare Gloucestershire for a last-minute shot at Epsom glory.
Should one not arise, connections could take heart from the example of the William Haggas-trained Shaamit, who won a Doncaster maiden in the November of his two-year-old career before a memorable Epsom triumph under Michael Hills in 1996.
Gloucestershire can be backed at 100-1 for the Derby, but those odds do not go hand in hand with the faith Meade has in him.
"He got an infection in his off-hind about two months ago, which was really annoying," he said. "It was some sort of viral infection and has just taken a long time to clear up.
"He's been on strong antibiotics and all that sort of thing, but he's been fine for the last month or so, although it means he lost all of that early impetus, so we're taking it slowly, week by week.
"We're running out of time, but if I can possibly get a run into him before the Derby I would do, because it'd be a big ask, having just won a maiden, to go straight to Epsom. I've entered him a couple of times, thinking maybe we can run, but I don't want to unless he's absolutely 100 per cent.
"It's no good running and saying he'll need it and I'm just giving him experience; he's a serious horse and has to be spot on to run, so it's been very frustrating."
Meade, who also has Friday's Goodwood runner Lone Eagle in the Epsom showpiece and saddled Eminent to be fourth in the 2017 Derby, added: "The race Gloucestershire won worked out well afterwards, but we can't get too giddy about it as it was a winter all-weather jobby, but he's perfect in his form at home and I think he's a very talented horse, hence the reason for waiting and waiting and waiting – one just has to be patient."
With Gloucestershire more commonly associated with jump racing, the name needs an explanation. Meade revealed: "I was trying to sell him to a chap who lived in Gloucestershire, who decided he didn't want to buy him, so I had to sell him to a man in America and Team Valor."
'He was always going to be a Derby horse'
Gloucestershire is out of a dam by the Canadian-bred Saint Ballado – something not lost on Meade given that nation's influence on the Derby via Northern Dancer, and his grip on the race through firstly Nijinsky, The Minstrel and Secreto, and then Sadler's Wells, Montjeu and Galileo.
"It's so frustrating all round and, as you can imagine, I'm just desperate to get him on the track and I wouldn't discount running him in a novice race, not necessarily from a fitness view, but to get his head into racing mode," he said.
"After the winter he was always going to be a Derby horse – that was the whole idea of him – and hopefully by now we'd have had a trial under our belt and getting excited about Epsom, but it wasn't to be.
"I'm watching on a week-by-week basis and if I can get him to run before that's fine. I'm not ruling out running him straight there, but it's unlikely without a prep, and if he misses it, he misses it – there are plenty of other races."
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