Ante-post favourite English King and QIPCO 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko headline 17 entries for the 2020 Investec Derby behind closed doors at Epsom Downs this Saturday, 4th July.
Britain’s premier Classic has a total prize fund of £500,000 and will be run at the revised time of 4.55pm to encourage a larger TV audience.
Bjorn Nielsen’s English King (Ed Walker) is the well-supported favourite with Unibet, official betting partner of the Investec Derby, following a classy success in the Listed Derby Trial at Lingfield Park on 5th June.
Anthony Van Dyck followed up his Lingfield success by winning the premier Classic in 2019, following in the footsteps of High-Rise (1998), Kahyasi (1988), Slip Anchor (1985) and Teenoso (1983), Pathia (1959) and Tulyar (1952), who all won both contests in the post-war period.
Two-time Investec Derby winning jockey Frankie Dettori will take the ride on English King, a son of 2012 Investec Derby hero Camelot, for the first time.
Classic winner Kameko (Andrew Balding) has stamina to prove as he races beyond a mile for the first time. A total of 37 horses have won the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and Investec Derby, but only two in the last 30 years – Sea The Stars (2009) and Camelot (2012).
Kameko’s stablemate Khalifa Sat has no such stamina questions after a game victory overEmissary (Hugo Palmer) in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes over 11 furlongs at Goodwood on 14th June.
Seven of Ireland’s eight contenders hail from the all-conquering stable of Aidan O’Brien, who is seeking a record-breaking eighth Investec Derby victory.
The Ballydoyle challenge is to be spearheaded by the highly regarded Mogul, who was reportedly badly in the need of the run on his comeback at Royal Ascot, G3 Hampton Court Stakes winner Russian Emperor and Irish 2,000 Guineas second Vatican City.
O’Brien’s other likely participants include Mythical, who finished third in the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October, and Amhran Na Bhfiann, a full-brother to 2012 Investec Oaks winner Was. Prix du Jockey Club possible Armory and impressive Curragh maiden victor Serpentine are also engaged.
Pyledriver put himself in the Investec Derby picture with a decisive victory in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, in which Mohican Heights (David Simcock) and Mogul finished third and fourth respectively. The scopey son of Harbour Watch began the campaign with a staying-on second behind Berlin Tango in the G3 Classic Trial at Kempton Park on 3rd June.
Trainer William Muir said: “We could not have been happier with Pyledriver at Ascot and he has come out of the race really well.
“I said from Ascot that he had to come right back to his best at home [if he is to run at Epsom]. That includes putting weight on and he has done that.
“We thought Pyledriver was a good horse at the beginning of the year, although because of the season and how it has turned out, we are able to have an Investec Derby runner, something which might not have happened in an ordinary year because he would have to have been supplemented.
“Martin [Dwyer, jockey] will have a sit on him again on Tuesday morning, but he will just have a normal routine between now and the race. He is fit and healthy, and we will just keep him right.
“There are one or two very strong horses in the Derby, but he has not done anything wrong. His time was good at Royal Ascot and he has come out of the race well.
“Everybody is excited, and we are really looking forward to it.”
Highland Chief (Paul & Oliver Cole) was also in the winner’s enclosure at Royal Ascot, after coming with a swooping run under top-weight to land the Golden Gates Handicap over 10 furlongs.
Britain’s champion trainer John Gosden has sent out two Investec Derby winners, most recently Golden Horn in 2015, and the Newmarket handler has entered the once-raced Newbury maiden scorer Worthily. Worthily is a three-parts sibling to Lucarno, who was fourth in the 2007 Derby before going to take the St Leger.
The 17 entries are completed by G3 Zetland Stakes winner Max Vega (Ralph Beckett) and G1 Irish Derby sixth Gold Maze (Jessica Harrington IRE).
The Investec Derby is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Unibet’s Ed Nicholson said: “It is unusual not to have an Aidan O’Brien horse vying for Investec Derby favouritism in the week before the great race, but this year is an unusual one full stop, and it’s Ed Walker’s first Derby runner – English King – who heads our market.
“English King’s Derby price was smashed in the minutes following his impressive Lingfield victory.
“Kameko aims to become just the fifth horse in the last 50 years to complete the 2000 Guineas and Investec Derby double, and is currently second favourite with a trio of Ballydoyle contenders (Mogul, Russian Emperor & Vatican City) next.
“Aidan O’Brien saddled the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th & 8th in last year’s Investec Derby and you have to go back to 2008 to find the last time he failed to have a horse in the first four. During that time, he has saddled five winners of the race. Unibet offer 9/4 that the mercurial Irishman is responsible for the 2020 winner, while he is 7/2 to win both the Derby and the Oaks – a feat he has accomplished twice already.”