On Tuesday 22nd May 2018 a beautiful morning at Epsom Downs Racecourse greeted the Breakfast With The Stars participants, from horses through to spectators.
Horses exercised on the track as usual ahead of Britain’s premier Classics, the Investec Derby (Saturday 2nd June) and the Investec Oaks (Friday 1st June). Breakfast With The Stars was open to the public for the first time this year.
Young Rascal, trained by William Haggas in Newmarket and owned by Investec Managing Director Bernard Kantor, went seven furlongs under usual jockey James Doyle as the colt’s preparations for the Investec Derby continued.
The Clive Cox-trained Perfect Clarity an Investec Oaks challenger, worked over 10 furlongs under her big-race jockey Adam Kirby.
Trainer John Gosden, who declined to bring his inexperienced Investec Oaks runner Lah Ti Dar because of fears about travelling to and from Epsom Downs on a hot day, revealed that last week’s G2 Betfred Dante Stakes winner Roaring Lion will take his place in the Investec Derby.
Gosden, interviewed on the phone by lead presenter Nick Luck, reported the go-ahead following Roaring Lion’s impressive success at York in the extended 10-furlong Betfred Dante Stakes at York on 17th May.
The three-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy was a good fifth behind Saxon Warrior in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas, having raced up the stands’ side rail in the Newmarket mile Classic, and finished a neck second to Aidan O’Brien’s charge in the G1 Racing Post Trophy, also over a mile, at Doncaster in October.
The French Derby was under consideration for the three-year-old colt, but Gosden revealed that owner Qatar Racing is keen to head for premier Classic at Epsom, with his blessing.
The Newmarket trainer declared: “Roaring Lion will run in the Investec Derby.
“I just like to see how horses are after a race before making grandiose plans. We are thrilled with the horse (after the Dante), he ate up and I had to put someone on him to for a trot as he was playing so much.
“Roaring Lion is in splendid form and the owner is very keen that he goes for the Derby, so that is exactly where he is going and I think that’s the right choice.
“He paid a compliment to Saxon Warrior in the Dante. In a thoroughbred, you need speed – you don’t win a Derby normally by outstaying them at one pace. You need a turn of foot and this horse has it.
“Will he stay the mile and a half? I don’t know. The Derby usually sorts out the non-stayers.
“Roaring Lion is in great form and is very athletic. I had a difficult spring with him and he was not at all tuned for the Craven Stakes. He came on a lot for the 2,000 Guineas – he wound up racing on his own outside the heart of the race, but I was still thrilled with his run. I have always longed to run him over middle distances.
“Hopefully, we can get back to the Racing Post Trophy form and get involved with Saxon Warrior – that would be extremely exciting.”
Lah Ti Dar, daughter of Dar Re Mi, also trained by Gosden, is the market leader for the fillies’ Classic, the Investec Oaks, as she bids to emulate stable companion Enable, who captured the 2017 renewal impressively.
Lah Ti Dar was set to work during this morning’s Breakfast With The Stars event at Epsom Downs, but Gosden decided against bringing the three-year-old filly, owned and bred by Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber.
Gosden said: “Lah Di Tar worked nicely on Friday and cantered this morning.
“Travelling for six hours in hot conditions was not something she quite needed 10 days ahead of the race.
“She is fit, she is well and she is happy. She has pleased us in everything that she has done and I just felt she would be better off at home rather than on the road – the Dartford Tunnel is not a lot of fun either.
“You always hope that horses are going to live up to their pedigrees. Last year, she just grew and grew – she is a tall filly which is why we said look we are not going to send her to Newcastle like Enable, we are just going to wait until the spring at Newbury, where she ran a very fine race to win.
“It was then back here to Newmarket for the Pretty Polly on ground that was quick enough for her, but she got the job done nicely.
“She is very much a filly crying out for a mile and a half. Her mother stayed the distance well and she is growing up like her mother.
“I am not worried about the ground at Epsom Downs. In Andrew Cooper, Epsom Downs has the best Clerk of the Course in the country.
“There is always a lush cover of grass at Epsom and I am confident the ground will be as we want it on the Friday.
“Lah Ti Dar’s mother was going for the Investec Oaks. She was walking along by (fellow trainer) Sir Mark Prescott’s wall and someone gunned a lawn-mower on the other side and she whipped around, fell and was lame so she missed the Oaks for a pretty eccentric reason. That’s life.”
Gosden is set to rely on Europe’s top-rated horse Cracksman in the G1 Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs on 1st June.
A brilliant winner of the G1 QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, the son of Frankel made an exciting start to his four-year-old campaign at Longchamp on 29th April, when he gained an easy victory in the extended 10-furlong G1 Prix Ganay.
Cracksman, owned and bred by Anthony Oppenheimer, will be making his third appearance at Epsom Downs, having won the Investec Derby Trial and finished a close third in the Investec Derby in April and June respectively last year.
Gosden said: “I am very happy with the horse – he has done everything right.
“Cracksman was only 85 to 90 per cent fit for his reappearance at Longchamp. He has come on since then. He is a versatile horse from a mile a quarter to a mile and a half and has had plenty of experience at the track. We’re looking forward to running and he is a horse who has matured into his frame.
“He was the unfinished product when he was third in the Derby and he has just kept on progressing, especially after we gave him a holiday following the Irish Derby last year.
“We look forward to a fabulous Investec-sponsored weekend, with the amount Investec put in. We have to be incredibly grateful for their promotion of the Investec Derby Festival and all of the sponsorship.”
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby is set to be represented in all three G1 races at Epsom Downs during the two-day Investec Derby Festival, with Masar in the Investec Derby, Wild Illusion in the Investec Oaks and Hawkbill in the Investec Coronation Cup.
Interviewed over the phone, Appleby commented: “We were very pleased with Masar’s run in the Guineas (third to Investec Derby favourite Saxon Warrior in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas over the straight mile at Newmarket on 5th May).
“He has come out of the race well and a few days afterwards I spoke to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and we decided to send him straight to the Derby.
“He ended last season in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf over a mile and I felt that stepping him up in distance would be his forte as a three-year-old.
“He has the pedigree (by 2008 Investec Derby winner New Approach out of a Cape Cross mare, Khawlah) to go a mile and a half for sure and he shows all the right attitudes at home, plus he has settled very well. We have removed the hood now and he is a much more professional horse – we think he has every chancer of staying the Derby trip.
“I have always been a strong believer that the Guineas is the best trial for the Derby and the Oaks. They do look so at the moment.
“Masar travels very well through his races and I am very confident that when he gets in behind horses, he will switch off. That will be William’s (Buick) job on the day – to get Masar to relax and come home strong.”
Appleby confirmed that Masar will be his only 2018 Investec Derby runner.
He turned to Wild Illusion, who finished fourth in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas for fillies on 6th May.
Appleby reported: “I was delighted with her run at Newmarket.
“James (Doyle) was very happy with the way she handled the faster ground and I am very confident that the move up in trip will be to her advantage.
“She, like Masar, is versatile as far as the ground is concerned.”
Hawkbill will run in the Investec Coronation Cup, run over the same mile and half trip and course as the Investec Derby and Investec Oaks.
The Newmarket-based trainer added: “The Investec Coronation Cup has been his target since he won the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1) in March.
“This will be the start of his European campaign. I am very happy with the way he looks and his training.
“He put up a good performance in the race last year to finish third to Highland Reel. We know we have Cracksman to beat, but we are very pleased with Hawkbill who has shown versatility as regards to going.
“It seemed at one stage that he had to have soft ground, but he put up a career-best performance in the Dubai Sheema Classic on quick going.
“The horses have started the year off well. They are showing all the right signs at the moment and training well.”
Aidan O’Brien, interviewed over the phone from Ireland, talked about his Investec Derby team, which includes Saxon Warrior, the favourite for Britain’s premier Classic.
Unbeaten in four starts, Saxon Warrior returned to action this year with a decisive success in the first British Classic of the season, the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on 5th May, providing O’Brien with a ninth victory in the mile event and giving a first British Classic success to O’Brien’s jockey son Donnacha.
The three-year-old son of Deep Impact, the first British Classic winner for the Japanese-based stallion, had shown plenty of ability from the beginning.
There was a striking maiden victory on debut at the Curragh in August, 2017, with wins in both the G2 Beresford Stakes at Naas in September and the G1 Racing Post Trophy by over a mile at Doncaster at the back-end of last season.
O’Brien has won the Investec Derby on six occasions courtesy of Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014), and Wings Of Eagles (2017) and would become the joint winning-most trainer in the race alongside Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling, were he to win the Classic this year.
Britain and Ireland’s champion Flat trainer reported: “Saxon Warrior is in very good form at home and has come out of the 2000 Guineas very well. He is a good traveller and a very well balanced colt.
“We couldn’t be happier with him and he seems very well in himself.
“We always thought he was a very high-quality colt and he’s done everything right so far.
“He’s a very strong blend of Danehill, Galileo and Deep Impact. We haven’t had anything like him before. He’s exciting.
“We were always looking forward to stepping him up in distance. In the 2000 Guineas, he travelled like a miler and quickened like a miler, but we always thought he was going to be a middle distance horse – he is very good.”
Ryan Moore is set to ride Saxon Warrior. O’Brien could have up to six other Investec Derby runners, headed by Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon, who finished second and third respectively behind the Dermot Weld-trained Hazapour in the G3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown over 10 furlongs on 13th May.
Rostropovich, winner of the Listed Dee Stakes at Chester, Kew Gardens, a three and a quarter-length second to Harry Dunlop’s Knight To Behold in the Betfred Lingfield Derby Trial at Lingfield Park on 12th May, Zabriskie, third to Roaring Lion in Wednesday’s Betfred Dante Stakes, and Nelson, winner of the G3 Ballysax Stakes in April, complete the possible Ballydoyle team.
O’Brien revealed: “I’m very happy with Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon following their runs at Leopardstown. I would imagine they will head to Epsom as will Kew Gardens and possibly Zabriskie, who ran very well at York in the Dante. Nelson is another possible – he was slightly disappointing at Leopardstown last time – as is Rostropovich.
“We will have a clearer idea of what horses will run in the Derby towards the end of the week, when the lads (the members of the Coolmore partnerships) will sit down and decide what they want to run.
“It depends upon what the lads decide, but obviously all those horses are born, bred and raised to be Derby horses.
“They’re in good shape and they’re well. The lads like to give them their chance, like they did last year.”
The master of Ballydoyle will also be strongly represented in the Investec Oaks, the fillies’ Classic, at Epsom on Friday 1st June, Investec Ladies’ Day.
He has Magic Wand, an impressive three and a half-length winner of the Listed Cheshire Oaks at Chester on 9th May, who is set to be joined by the runner-up that day, maiden Forever Together. They could be joined by Bye Bye Baby, successful in the G3 Blue Wind Stakes at Curragh on 12th May and Magical, who finished fourth on her seasonal debut in the G3 Prix de la Grotte at Longchamp on 15th April. Clemmie, Happily and September are set to miss the Investec Oaks.
O’Brien remarked: “I think Magic Wand and Forever Together, the two fillies from Chester, will both head to Epsom. We were very happy with both fillies after Chester and they look set to run in the Investec Oaks.
“Magical is very highly-rated and Ryan will have a difficult decision whether to ride her or Magic Wand. Bye Bye Baby is also going to run in the Oaks.”
O’Brien intends to run Idaho in the G1 Investec Coronation Cup over a mile and a half at Epsom on Friday 1st June, and also could let last year’s Investec Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher take part. The trainer has won the contest for older horses a record eight times, courtesy of Yeats (2005), Scorpion (2007), Soldier Of Fortune (2008), Fame And Glory (2010), St Nicholas Abbey (2011, 2012, 2013) and Highland Reel (2017).
Idaho, Highland Reel’s full brother, was a comfortable winner of the G3 Ormonde Stakes at Chester on May 10 on his first run outside G1 company in eight starts.
He finished third in the 2016 Investec Derby behind the Dermot Weld-trained Harzand and the five-year-old son of Galileo came home sixth in last year’s Investec Coronation Cup.
O’Brien added: “The plan was run Idaho in the Coronation Cup before his win at Chester and that remains the plan now. He is in good form at home and we think he is still progressing with age.”
William Haggas, who captured the 1996 Investec Derby with Shaamit, has a live contender for this year’s 239th running of the premier Classic in the shape of Young Rascal, a half-length winner from the Mark Johnston-trained Dee Ex Bee, the pair clear, of the G3 MBNA Chester Vase over an extended 12 furlongs at Chester on 9th May.
The son of Intello worked at Epsom Downs this morning under James Doyle along with stable companion Original Choice. They went a steady race from about the seven-furlong marker until quickening up in the straight.
Young Rascal went smoothly ahead of the 97-rated Original Choice in the final furlong.
Haggas was delighted with the work and commented afterwards: “They barely went a half-speed coming down the hill, but quickened up for the last two and a half furlongs.
“I’m very pleased today and I’m not sure if Young Rascal could have done that six weeks ago. They went a good enough gallop and he handled the contours well – James was very happy with him.
“I was very happy with him too, but what anyone else can read into it, I don’t know.
“I wanted the horse to come and have a look at Epsom Downs. We had a walk around the paddock, it is beautiful ground so we had an opportunity to get him on the grass, whereas we have not had the chance to do so in Newmarket this year.
“This was a great opportunity for him to come to Epsom Downs, for James to get a feel of the contours and for the horse to experience the contours.
“This horse is different to Shaamit as they are built differently and Shaamit hadn’t run as a three-year-old before the Derby.
“Young Rascal has had plenty of experience and he is fully entitled to have a go at the Investec Derby. I’m sure he will run OK, but whether he can win is a whole different matter.
“I can only get the horse to the race in the best condition I can and at the moment, things are going very well. It was important to bring this horse today and I’m very pleased we did.”
Kantor, also present, said he was very passionate about horse racing and is looking forward to the continuing partnership between Investec and Epsom Downs Racecourse, which is due to go on until 2026. He called Young Rascal a special horse, but did not want to comment on the colt’s chance in the 2018 Investec Derby.
Haggas did stress that whilst James Doyle is the intended rider for Young Rascal, he may have to look elsewhere. He explained: “James Doyle is riding very well for us, but I can’t reiterate to you enough that he is contracted to Godolphin, so if they want him to ride one of their horses, he has to ride for them.
“There are lots of good jockeys around, but our relationship is working very well at the moment.”
Haggas has two contenders for the Investec Oaks – he won the Epsom Downs fillies’ Classic in 2011 with Dancing Rain. Give And Take, winner of the G3 Musidora Stakes for owner/breeder Nicholas Jones at York on 16th May, is an intended runner.
However, a decision has yet to be made as to whether Sea Of Class, a daughter of 2009 Investec Derby winner Sea The Stars, will also take part in the 12-furlong Classic on 1st June.
Sea Of Class finished second on her debut at Newmarket in a mile maiden in April and registered an impressive two-length success when stepped up to Listed company for the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies’ Trial Stakes at Newbury on 19th May.
Haggas revealed: “Give And Take will definitely run in the Investec Oaks and at the moment, James will ride her, but that will depend on whether Sea Of Class runs.
“Sea Of Class won very well at Newbury last time and didn’t surprise us very much. I feel it’s all coming a bit quickly for her currently. She is out of a Hernando mare so I think she will get the trip.
“My feeling is that this race might come too quick for her. I emailed Mrs Tsui the day after Newbury. I got a response this morning and we need to speak in person.
“She is quite keen to go as there is only one Investec Oaks, but ultimately she will leave the decision to me. I just need to discuss it with her team.”
Lambourn handler Harry Dunlop is looking forward to the prospect of saddling Knight To Behold in the Investec Derby.
The son of Sea The Stars pulled hard, but made most to score convincingly by three and a quarter-lengths in the Listed Betfred Derby Trial at Lingfield Park on 12th May. Eight winners of the Lingfield Derby Trial have gone on to capture the Investec Derby, the latest of which was High-Rise in 1998.
Bred by owner-breeder Neil Jones’ Abergwaun Farms, Knight To Behold is the ninth foal out of the unraced Sadler’s Wells mare Angel Of The Gwaun, who has produced six winners. Angel Of The Gwaun’s brother Let The Lion Roar was third to North Light in the 2004 Investec Derby, whilst her half-brother Millenary won the 2000 St Leger.
Dunlop, present at Epsom Downs, commented: “The horse is in good form – we’re very pleased with him. I’ve been here before with my father’s horse, Let The Lion Roar, who was from the same family, and he was third so it would be great to go a little bit better for the owner.
“It was a funny race at Lingfield last time. A lot of jockeys didn’t want to go on and my horse broke very well. He pulled early, but he did relax nicely and then kept on nicely.
“He quickened again in the home straight and you couldn’t not be more impressed with him.
“I know he’s 20/1, but he’s got every right to be here. Obviously, the Guineas winner is very good, but there are many things in the Investec Derby that can go wrong. All Lambourn is excited about him running.”
Clive Cox was bullish about the chances of Investec Oaks hope Perfect Clarity, who worked at Epsom Downs under Adam Kirby, along with 98-rated stable companion Luire, a four-time winner in the French provinces.
Perfect Clarity, a daughter of Nathaniel, is unbeaten in two starts, following up a comfortably length and a quarter victory at Nottingham in August last year, with an impressive success in the Listed Betfred Mobile Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield Park on 12th May, scoring by the same distance.
Cox described her as the “best middle distance filly he has been involved with”.
Cox said: “I’m very grateful for Epsom for putting today on. I have been really happy with her since Lingfield and today gives me the opportunity to give her a little more exposure.
“She absorbed the atmosphere and enjoyed her day out. I’m really pleased that she has equipped herself so well in her career so far.
“She did well at Lingfield and the trials are a stepping stone. She had less experience than some of the other runners at Lingfield and today was another opportunity to take another small step forward.
“I think the 20/1 odds about her are very brave – I wouldn’t be going that price. She is a good each-way bet and she is a filly that I have enormous confidence in – I think she will really equip herself very well.
“She is from a very nice family and ticks a lot of boxes. She is the best middle distance filly I have had anything to do with.”
Andrew Cooper reported the going at Epsom Downs today to be Good, with plenty of moisture in the ground, after a near two-week watering programme and is looking to have the Investec Derby run on no faster than Good to Firm going.
Phil White, Regional Director, London Region, of Jockey Club Racecourses, reported good pre-sales for the Investec Derby Festival. There is still availability in the Grandstand Enclosure on both days, but racegoers are advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment. More facilities have been provided for families on the Hill.
An Investec Derby Draw Ceremony will happen for the first time this year for the 239th running of the Investec Derby.
It will take place in the weighing room at 11am on Thursday 31st May and be broadcast live on Racing UK, as well as being streamed live through the social media platforms of Epsom Downs Racecourse, Unibet and Racing UK.
The draw will be hosted by Nick Luck and two Derby winning jockeys – John Reid and Geoff Lewis – will pick the horse and the draw positions.