The 2017 Investec Derby has 129 three-year-olds going forward for glory on the first Saturday in June, following the 7th March scratchings deadline, details of which have been revealed.
Run at the iconic Epsom Downs Racecourse on Saturday 3rd June, the 2017 renewal of the premier British Classic, the 238th running, maintains its position as the richest race in Britain, with an increased total prize fund of £1.5 million on offer for the mile and a half spectacular.
This is the first acceptance stage for the 2017 Investec Derby since horses were entered as yearlings on 1st December, 2015. There are three other ways three-year-olds can be added to the line-up on 3rd June – at the £9,000 second entry stage on 4th April, at the £85,000 supplementary entry stage on 29th May, or by succeeding in the £50,000 Investec Derby Trial at the Investec Spring Meeting, which is staged at Epsom Downs on Wednesday 26th April.
Last year’s Classic went to Harzand, who handed a first Investec Derby success to trainer Dermot Weld and a fifth to his owner the Aga Khan. The same owner and trainer could be represented this time around by Haripour, a half-brother to Harzand, who was runner-up in a maiden at Gowran Park on his only start in October.
Another Irish handler, the champion Aidan O’Brien, has won the Investec Derby five times, most recently with Australia in 2014. The master of Ballydoyle has by far the most entries remaining (27) of any trainer.
O’Brien’s contingent includes Churchill, the Galileo colt who heads the ante-post market following a superb 2016 that saw him win five of his six starts headed by G1 victories in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh and the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
Other leading Ballydoyle contenders include Sir John Lavery, who defeated Haripour, plus G2 Beresford Stakes victor and runner-up Capri and Yucatan.
Aidan O’Brien’s son Joseph enjoyed two Investec Derby victories as a jockey on board Australia (2014) and Camelot (2012) and could be represented this year for the first time as a trainer with three entries going forward – maiden winners Druids Cross and Rekindling plus the unraced Renaissance Man.
Yucatan was runner-up in the final G1 contest of the British season, when he was a length and three-quarters behind Rivet (William Haggas) in the Racing Post Trophy over a mile at Doncaster. Rivet also landed the seven-furlong G2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster but was a never-dangerous fifth in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes.
Contrapposto (David Menuisier) was the fast-finishing runner-up to Rivet in the valuable Convivial Maiden Stakes at York in August and went to record a decisive victory in a maiden over an extended mile at Nottingham in October.
The son of Cacique re-opposed Rivet in the Racing Post Trophy, but this time could fare no better than ninth, 11 and a half lengths adrift of the winner, for owner Clive Washbourn.
The colt’s French-born trainer, who is based near Pulborough in West Sussex, said: “Touch wood, Contrapposto is absolutely fine.
“We were a bit disappointed with his run in the Racing Post Trophy at the end of last year but I don’t think he ran up to form that day.
“The horse was slightly intimidated by other horses in his races last season, so when they came a bit close to him in the final furlong at Doncaster, he was of kind of surprised and lost ground, which you cannot do in a Group One.
“I would draw a line through his run at Doncaster, as on form I think he should have finished closer.
“He has done really well over the winter – he has grown a bit and strengthened up a lot. He is going really well at the moment.
“I am not sure which route we will take yet. We have also given him a Guineas’ entry. Last year we felt he really needed the mile and I am not sure whether we will go for a Guineas trial or race over further for his first start this year.
“We decided to leave him in the Investec Derby as he showed plenty of ability last year and we want to keep dreaming on. We will see how he progresses – he needs to prove himself in the next few months and then we will see where we go. It is all very exciting.”
Of the 129 entries going forward, 37 are trained in Ireland, while nine hail from France.
Andre Fabre is the most recent French trainer to succeed in the Investec Derby, saddling Pour Moi to victory in 2011, and his four contenders going forward include G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud winner Waldgeist, plus unexposed maiden scorers Franz Schubert and Pharaonic.
Franz Schubert is owned by Godolphin and the Maktoum family’s racing operation has 21 horses in the Investec Derby. The Godolphin contingent also includes Atty Persse (Roger Charlton), who was very impressive when landing a Sandown Park maiden in September.
The Investec Derby is the only Classic not to have seen The Queen’s famous silks carried to success and there are two Royal-owned contenders going forward – Call To Mind (William Haggas) and Frontispiece (Sir Michael Stoute).
Frontispiece, by Shamardal, was successful on his only start at Ascot in 2016, while Call To Mind is an unraced son of eight-time champion sire and Derby victor Galileo, out of G2 winner Memory.
Along with Aidan O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute is jointly the most successful current trainer in the Investec Derby with five successes and the Newmarket handler has seven entries going forward.
In addition to Frontispiece, the master of Freemason Lodge could also be represented by Elucidation, Mirage Dancer and Pivoine, who were all maiden winners last year.
John Gosden, who recently received an OBE from The Queen, saddled Golden Horn to success in the 2015 Investec Derby to add to his victory with Benny The Dip in 1997.
The Newmarket handler has 12 contenders remaining including the maiden winners Azam, Crowned Eagle, and Glencadam Glory, plus the unraced Erdogan, who is by Frankel out of the multiple G1 winner Dar Re Mi.
The next scratchings deadline for the Investec Derby is on Tuesday 23rd May.
Entries for the two other G1 contests at the Investec Derby Festival – the Investec Oaks and Investec Coronation Cup, both of which take place on Friday 2nd June, Investec Ladies’ Day – close on Tuesday 11th April.
Andrew Cooper, Head of Racing and Clerk of the Course at Epsom Downs Racecourse, said: “It is very pleasing to see 129 horses going forward for the 2017 Investec Derby at this stage.
“There are no surprise defections, with strong representation from Ireland and France, while last year’s champion two-year-old Churchill heads the main contenders as Aidan O’Brien seeks a sixth Investec Derby success.
“We are delighted to be staging the race with the richest prize fund ever in Britain, as the Investec Derby is worth £1.5 million at Epsom Downs on 3rd June.”