richest-ever Investec Derby: A field of 16 is set to go to post in the 237th renewal of the Investec Derby, Britain’s richest-ever race with a prize fund of £1,545,000, following the final declaration stage. The premier Classic takes place at Epsom Downs over a mile and a half at 4.30pm on Saturday, 4th June, Investec Derby Day.
The only absentees from the horses at the five-day confirmation stage on Monday are the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Beacon Rock and Bravery, leaving the Ballydyole handler with five runners – US Army Ranger (Ryan Moore), Deauville (Jamie Spencer), Idaho (Seamie Heffernan) and Port Douglas (Colm O’Donoghue). Ireland’s champion Flat trainer’s fifth runner is Shogun, who will be a first Investec Derby ride for his son Donnacha.
O’Brien, who is seeking a sixth Investec Derby success, said: “All the horses seem to be in good form. They all have different profiles and have run in trials. You are obviously hoping they all run good races.
“Deauville is in good shape and everything has gone well since York. US Army Ranger and Port Douglas have done everything right since Chester. Idaho has been in good order since Leopardstown as has Shogun since his run at the Curragh.
“All of their preps have gone well and, although there is still another day to go, everything seems well with them all. We are having lovely weather over here and I would say horses everywhere are looking well and doing well.
“We were very happy with US Army Ranger at the Curragh and the way he handled Chester. We knew he was racing against a very seasoned, hardy horse. He just kept galloping rather than picking up and sprinting, but it was ordinary enough pace and when Ryan joined Seamus the two of them came together and pulled right away from the third horse.
“Seamus rode Idaho in Leopardstown and was very happy with him. Shogun is a brother to Qualify, who ran mid division in the Irish Guineas and improved totally when she stepped up in trip (won last year’s Investec Oaks). Shogun stepped up a lot when we ran him over a mile and a quarter.
“We have been happy with their trials and, although some of them didn’t win, you would rather lose and learn something than win and learn nothing.
“All the lads will work out where to go (from the draw). That is what usually happens. They will see what is around them and work out where to go in their heads. Horses win from any kind of draw really and it depends what way the race is going to fall.
“The ground should be fine. I don’t think anybody wants soft ground but Andrew (Cooper) and his team always have perfect ground in Epsom, even when it is fast.”
Wings Of Desire (John Gosden/Frankie Dettori) is trying to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Golden Horn for the John Gosden/Frankie Dettori combination having been supplemented at the five-day stage following victory in the Group Two Dante Stakes at York. He is the favourite with Coral, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival.
Another trainer chasing a sixth win in the Investec Derby is Sir Michael Stoute, who will be represented on Saturday by the much-discussed Ulysses (Andrea Atzeni), an impressive Newbury maiden winner and Lingfield Derby Trial third Across The Stars(Kieren Fallon). Stoute and Fallon combined to win the Investec Derby with Kris Kin (2003) and North Light (2004).
A trainer after a first Investec Derby victory is Ed Dunlop. The Newmarket handler saddles Red Verdon (Silvestre De Sousa) who was supplemented for the Classic on Monday at a cost of £75,000 following an impressive victory in a Haydock Park handicap on 21st May.
Dunlop reported: “I know Red Verdon has only been running in handicaps but it’s the way he has improved as the season has progressed that is the reason why we are going for the Investec Derby. And also because I have a very ambitious owner in Ronnie Arculli who is always up for the big day.
“If you look back at his form, he actually got beat in his first handicap but he was very unlucky at Doncaster over a mile and a quarter. Since then he has won impressively at Chester and at Haydock. We know we have got to improve a lot but, to be honest, we don’t know how good this horse is.
“He has always been a very good tempered horse. He is lazy, eats and sleeps and doesn’t worry about life. It is only in the last three or four weeks that he has started to work like a decent horse. The vibes have been right and he had a decent blowout this morning, which went very well, and fingers crossed all stays well between now and Saturday.
“Silvestre has ridden a lot of winners for me this season and particularly Ronnie Arculli. Ronnie likes to choose his jockeys and he was keen to use Sylvester.
“There are a lot quandaries about what can win the Derby. Everyone says it is an open Derby but I am sure it will be a very good one.”
There are seven Irish-trained runners in total. In addition to the Aidan O’Brien-trained quintet, the Group Three winners Moonlight Magic (Jim Bolger/Kevin Manning) andHarzand (Dermot Weld/Pat Smullen) also run. The one French-trained contender is Godolphin’s Cloth Of Stars (Andre Fabre/Mickael Barzalona).
Massage (Owen Burrows/Paul Hanagan) brings Classic form to the table, having finished second to Galileo Gold in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas on 30th April. In the last decade, both Sir Percy (2006) and New Approach (2008) went one better at Epsom Downs after finishing second over a mile at Newmarket.
Algometer (David Simcock/Jim Crowley) and Humphrey Bogart (Richard Hannon/Sean Levey) won Listed trials at Goodwood and Lingfield Park respectively while the field is completed by outsider Biodynamic (Karl Burke/Dougie Costello).
The Investec Derby is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.