One of the biggest days on the British racing calendar will occur this Saturday when the Investec Derby (Eng-I) will be run for the 232nd time. Also known to those of us on this side of the Atlantic as either the Epsom or English Derby (and pronounced ‘dar-bee’ for those neophytes out there), the Derby Stakes has been sponsored by the Investec Specialist Bank and Asset Manager since 2009.
Until just recently, most of the early favoritism has been directed toward Carlton House, the impressive winner of the Totesport Dante Stakes (Eng-II) on May 12. The handsome son of Street Cry captured the 10-furlong Dante-a key Derby prep-by a decisive 1 1/2-lengths, improving his record to two wins in three starts.
Carlton House not only boasts the same Derby-winning connections as last year’s winner, Workforce (trainer Sir Michael Stoute and jockey Ryan Moore), he is owned by perhaps the most well-known owner of Thoroughbreds in the world—Queen Elizabeth II.
The Derby has been the one classic that has eluded the Queen in her 59 years as monarch. In fact, it’s been 102 years since the Derby winner sported the royal colors, when King Edward VII’s Minoru triumphed in 1909. The last time the Queen had a runner in the Derby was in 1981, when Church Parade finished fifth behind the star-crossed Shergar.
To say that there’s a lot riding on Carlton House might be a bit of an understatement. When the news arrived that the colt exited a workout on Monday with a swollen ankle, it caused many fans and supporters to reach for the nearest bottle of antacid. The veterinary exam and x-rays have not shown any sort of injury, other that what appears to be a bit of a sprained ankle. Stoute and Moore put Carlton House through a light jog Thursday morning, and the report was positive afterward. The colt headlines a field of 13 runners that were officially declared to run on Thursday, when post positions were drawn. The final decision to run, however, will not be made until late Thursday night/early Friday morning.
The Derby field, on paper, appears to be an evenly-matched one. The Coolmore connections will run five in the Derby, four of which are trained by Aidan O’Brien. The fifth Coolmore runner is trained by Andre Fabre, who also conditioned the brilliant Hurricane Run for the same connections.
The second choice in the early wagering so far is the Fabre-trained Pour Moi, who captured the 10-furlong Prix Greffulhe (Fr-II) at Saint-Cloud May 7. The son of Montjeu, who has won two of his four starts, will be ridden once again by the talented Mickael Barzalona.
O’Brien’s best bet appears to be Recital, another son of Montjeu who boasts a record of three wins from four starts. Winner of the Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I) at two, Recital was third in the Ballysax Stakes (Ire-III) in his 2011 debut. He captured the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes (Ire-II) over fellow Derby runner Memphis Tennessee on May 8. Kieren Fallon will be in the saddle.
Seville is another O’Brien trainee who really should not be overlooked. The son of Galileo finished a good second to Carlton House in the Dante Stakes May 12, and will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon.
Trainer Ed Dunlop will run the talented Native Khan on Saturday. The grey son of Azamour most recently was third to Frankel in the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) April 30. The hard-knocking colt, who has won three of his five starts, will have a new jockey in the saddle on Saturday, with Johnny Murtagh taking over the reins from Kieren Fallon.
The Godolphin connections will also be represented in the Derby, when trainer Mahmood al Zarooni sends out Ocean War. The son of Dalakhani enters the race off of a victory in the listed Newmarket Stakes April 30. Ocean War will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
The remainder of the field consists of Pisco Sour, Treasure Beach, Castlemorris King, Marhaba Malyoon, Vadamar, and Masked Marvel.
[If Carlton House is in, do you expect him to win Saturday's Investec Derby?]
Guineas Winners Square Off in Oaks
Classic winners Blue Bunting and Misty For Me will square off on Friday when a field of thirteen 3-year-old fillies go to the post in the Investec Oaks (Eng-I).
Blue Bunting (Dynaformer-Miarixa, by Linamix) enters the Oaks off of a three-quarter length victory in the QIPCO One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket May 1. The Godolphin-owned filly started her career with a second-place finish in a maiden race, and has since rattled off three straight wins. She will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
One of the fillies Blue Bunting defeated in the Guineas was the highly-regarded Misty For Me (Galileo-Butterfly Cove, by Storm Cat), who finished a disappointing eleventh that day. The Aidan O’Brien-trained filly, who was a dual group I winner as a juvenile, rebounded from that poor showing with an impressive victory in the Etihad Airways Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) May 22. Jockey Seamie Heffernan will once again ride Misty For Me.
Another O’Brien contender (the trainer has four entered) is the Kingmambo filly Wonder Of Wonders. The bay filly is out of the Sadler’s Wells’ mare, All Too Beautiful, who is a full sister to Galileo (and a half-sis to Sea The Stars). ‘Wonder’ broke her maiden going 12 furlongs at Tipperary on April 28, and followed that up with a victory in the listed Cheshire Oaks (at 1 3/8-miles) May 4. Kieren Fallon will be aboard.
Morning line odds have Beatrice Aurore listed at 15-1, but there are a few reasons why one should ‘take a chance’ on her. The 3-year-old filly has won three of her five starts, with her most recent victory coming in the 10-furlong Height of Fashion Stakes (listed). John Dunlop trains Beatrice Aurore for Benny Andersson, a singer/songwriter who is known to many as ‘one of the B’s’ in the super group, ABBA. ‘Mamma Mia’ indeed!
The remainder of the field consists of the fillies Blaise Chorus, Dancing Rain, Eirnin, Havant, Fork Handles, Izzi Top (who is out of the group I-winning mare, Zee Zee Top), Siren’s Song, Why, and Zain Al Boldan.
Midday Takes on the Boys in Coronation Cup
Juddmonte Farms’ Midday will face colts for just the second time in her career when she lines up in the 12-furlong Investec Coronation Cup (Eng-I) on Friday. The 5-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream, who enters the race off of a victory in the Middleton Stakes (Eng-II) last time out, will face four runners. The ultimate goal this season for the Henry Cecil-trainee is a return trip to the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. Tom Queally once again will ride.
Midday’s stiffest competition appears to be the highly-regarded St Nicholas Abbey (Montjeu-Leaping Water, by Sure Blade). Aidan O’Brien trains the 4-year-old colt, who was a group I winner as a juvenile. After suffering an injury in the 2010 Stanjames.com Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), ‘St Nick’ missed the remainder of that season. The colt returned to the races April 3 at the Curragh, finishing third in the listed Alleged Stakes. He romped by nine lengths in his next start, the Ormonde Stakes (Eng-III) at Chester May 6. Ryan Moore will be aboard.
The field is rounded out by the hard-knocking Dandino, Indian Days, and Clowance.