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Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Questions answered: big views on the hot topics and key races

Rhododendron: Guineas runner-up is a short-priced favourite for the Oaks
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First things first, who’s going to win the Derby at Epsom on Saturday?

Clive Cox, trainer

Cracksman looks a worthy favourite, but I’m going to go off piste a bit as I like the look of Douglas Macarthur, very much as an each-way bet. He won his Irish trial well and I think his style of racing will suit the track.

Chris Hayes, jockey

Probably whatever Aidan O’Brien runs and fancies, so whatever Ryan Moore rides. It is still too open a race to form a judgement on at this stage. A couple of Aidan’s looked all right at Chester but certainly nothing that you were in awe of at the time.

Charles Hitchings, Sporting Index odds compiler

The two at the front of the market look too short. There could be some value in backing either Venice Beach or Permian. Both have won decent trials, and yet both are available at double-figure prices. The latter may be an unfashionable winner, having been previously beaten in handicaps, but with William Buick now free to ride this could be a fairytale result for Mark Johnston.

Paul Mulrennan, jockey

Nothing stands out this year – it’s the most open Derby I can remember in all the time I’ve been riding. You’d probably side with whatever Ryan Moore picks – he usually gets it right, so it’s a bit of a tip in itself. At a bigger price, you could make a case for Permian getting in the first three. He’ll handle the track and runs through the line, he’s a typical Mark Johnston horse.

Chris Wall, trainer

It’s a very open year and nothing has established itself as a clear-cut candidate in the trials. It might be a year for a relative outsider to win and I think Godolphin have a good hand. If you gave me a fiver I’d go for Best Solution, who won the Lingfield Derby Trial. I know Cracksman beat Permian, but he took his time to get going and won’t have that luxury in the Derby.


And who do you fancy to land the Oaks on Friday?

Clive Cox, trainer

I was very impressed with Roger Charlton’s filly Natavia, who we finished second to with Flood Warning in a Listed race at Newbury recently. It’d be great if Natavia could uphold that form. She gave me the impression Epsom would be a suitable track to continue her progress.

Chris Hayes, jockey

After the Irish 1,000 Guineas, I’d be fancying Rhododendron. She had a troubled passage at Newmarket and Winter has franked the form, so it’s very hard to look beyond her.

Charles Hitchings, Sporting Index odds compiler

Rhododendron will be very tough to beat. As a two-year-old she looked as though she wanted further than a mile and the Guineas appeared to confirm that. She had no luck in running that day and it augurs well for her chances in the Oaks. Enable looked impressive at Chester and rates a danger, but she will need to improve bundles to beat the favourite.

Paul Mulrennan, jockey

I like Rhododendron, who was second in the 1,000 Guineas to Winter. She looks like she’s crying out for the step up in trip. She has a top pedigree, as you’d expect, and will have Ryan Moore on board.

Chris Wall, trainer

I like Sobetsu and it must be quite tempting for Godolphin to run her rather than go to France because I think the British Classics are the prime ones to win. Rhododendron is the highest rated and proven, so I’d like those two to clash, while Horseplay and Enable are probably the improvers going into the race.


Tougher one but who catches the eye in the Dash?

Clive Cox, trainer

I think previous form here is a big help. Paul Midgley has done very well with Desert Law, who was impressive when he won at Musselburgh last time, so I’d be keen on him, while Duke Of Firenze and El Astronaute have good records at Epsom and ran well on their last starts.

Chris Hayes, jockey

No strong view on it but David O’Meara does well in this sort of race and his Edward Lewis might be happier if the ground comes up good. He looked really progressive prior to struggling on soft ground at Thirsk.

Charles Hitchings, Sporting Index odds compiler

Stuart Williams won this race in 2007 with Hogmaneigh and in 2010 with Bertoliver. He has an interesting contender in Shamshon, who will be suited by the furious pace of this race. This hold-up performer has dropped to a competitive mark and he could be a real contender at a decent price.

Paul Mulrennan, jockey

I rode Line Of Reason at York on Saturday for Paul Midgley. He was unlucky, he got taken out a bit in his run but he’s just coming to the boil now and if they get fast ground it will suit him. I’ll be riding him and I think he’s got a chance. Paul has won the race before. Kimberella would be a danger, Richard Fahey has taken him up a gear this season.

Chris Wall, trainer

Often the draw is important and it’s more helpful to be near the stands, although that’s not to say you can’t win without it. El Astronaute is on the up and all ground seems to come alike. He won at Chester so he’s got plenty of boot, and that’s what you need at Epsom. Paul Midgley has his sprinters in good form so Desert Law would have a chance and he’s won at Musselburgh, which is sharp.


What do you think about Epsom’s decision to rebrand the public area Poundland Hill?

Clive Cox, trainer

Any sponsorship at racecourses should be welcomed with open arms. Epsom’s got an image all of its own and I think it’ll become irrelevant in the scheme of things. It’s a welcome gesture and should be received in that manner.

Chris Hayes, jockey

I have no strong view but obviously the people who are putting their money towards it will want their name on it. You can’t argue with that, and it is money coming into racing at the end of the day.

Charles Hitchings, Sporting Index odds compiler

It’s all a major fuss about nothing. Commercially it makes sense to maximise all possible advertising revenue. Albeit the choice of sponsor could have negative connotations for some, most racegoers will enjoy the day equally whether they are on Harrods Hill or Poundland Hill.

Paul Mulrennan, jockey

I must admit I don’t know a lot about the situation, but it does seem bizarre to associate a race of the Derby’s prestige with Poundland. It would certainly be England’s most prestigious race, if not the world’s, so it is strange. But you don’t know what’s gone on behind the scenes.

Chris Wall, trainer

I don’t have a problem with it. It’s only the public enclosure and it’s not like it’s going to be called Poundland Hill on the commentary. It might attract some more people in, it might not, but I don’t have a view against it.


Any chinks in Churchill’s armour or do you think he could go unbeaten this year?

Clive Cox, trainer

Churchill has got the most amazing temperament to match his outstanding ability and he’s showed he doesn’t have any going issues and performed on a completely different surface on Saturday. He’s a world-class performer trained to perfection by the Ballydoyle team and I don’t think there are any chinks in him.

Chris Hayes, jockey

I’d say he could go unbeaten. He is never flashy, as in he will never win ten lengths, but that is a good thing as it means he will save himself. I’d say he could go unbeaten up to the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes anyway. The time of this year’s Irish Guineas was five seconds faster than last year, and Awtaad, Galileo Gold and The Gurkha were very good, so he is obviously as good as we have seen for a while. 

Charles Hitchings, Sporting Index odds compiler

There doesn’t appear to be an Achilles heel. He looks to have class in abundance, settles extremely well in races, looks to have a bombproof temperament and is tough having run six times at two. He has always been held in high regard and I look forward to seeing him run over ten furlongs, perhaps in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Paul Mulrennan, jockey

He was pretty impressive, he got away from them smartly. He’s got the right way of going about things, he relaxes and picks up and seems straightforward. I think he’ll stay a mile and a quarter no problem, he might even be better at it, so I’d be stepping him up sooner rather than later.

Chris Wall, trainer

He’s going to find it more difficult against older horses but I think against his own age group there is nothing his superior. It’ll be stiffer taking on Ribchester or even Galileo Gold if he comes back, but I think Churchill would stack up against them. He’s fairly battle hardened, so will know what’s going on and won’t be a baby. He’s a horse to look forward to and savour.


Do you think we have seen any Royal Ascot winners over the past week or so?

Clive Cox, trainer

I was thrilled with Harry Angel’s success on Saturday. He goes to the Commonwealth Cup, while Priceless, who also won at Haydock, is thriving and heads for the King’s Stand along with Profitable. My Dream Boat is in the Hardwicke and Prince of Wales’s, while we ran two nice juveniles at Bath last week. Heartache goes for the Queen Mary and Prince Of The Dark could have a Coventry entry.

Chris Hayes, jockey

Apart from Churchill, I was very impressed with Jessie Harrington’s filly Alpha Centauri at Naas, and Gordon Elliott’s Beckford at the Curragh. The maiden he won rode like a good race, and the third Would Be King was second in the Marble Hill and the fourth Commander Grigio won yesterday, so the form is getting franked all the time. 

Charles Hitchings, Sporting Index odds compiler

Order Of St George returned to form on Friday, winning the same Listed race as he won before landing last year’s Gold Cup. He is deservedly a short price to retain his crown. Frozen Angel finished well against Havana Grey at Sandown on Thursday and would have a good chance of reversing placings in the Norfolk. Crucially, he already has course form in the book.

Paul Mulrennan, jockey

There were a couple I’ve seen that I’ve liked. Harry Angel looked really impressive at Haydock on Saturday. He’s a bull of a horse and would be one for the Commonwealth Cup, which looks a cracking race now. I also liked Michael Bell’s filly Main Desire, who won at York and had broken the track record at Nottingham before that.

Chris Wall, trainer

The Clive Cox pair Harry Angel and Priceless. Harry Angel looks a serious player for the Commonwealth, while Priceless is going to be in the King’s Stand mix. Talking of that race, I thought Marsha’s Palace House win was high class and she’s a big player. Ribchester is another in the Queen Anne, while Sir Michael Stoute has a few nice horses for the Hardwicke.

Rhododendron looks like she is crying out for the step up in trip
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