It’s Derby time!
Well “Darby” time. The Investec Epsom Derby is Saturday, July 4 (11:55 a.m. Toronto time) and the favourite is the aptly-named ENGLISH KING, who will bid to justify his position at the top of the market in the £500,000 G1 Investec Derby (4.55pm) behind closed doors at Epsom Downs on Saturday, 4th July.
On Sunday in England, the great mare ENABLE gets her 2020 season going at Sandown in the Group 1 Coral Eclipse Stakes. Now 6, Enable, a 2-time Arc winner, is pointing to the 2020 Arc.
In New York on July 4, Independence Day, the Grade 1 Met Mile is one of several stakes races on the Belmont Park card. CODE OF HONOR heads the Met Mile field.
English King has been the plunge horse in the betting for Britain’s premier Classic and that confidence solidified last week with the announcement that Frankie Dettori would be taking the ride.
Prior to that news, English King had marked himself down as a live contender with a dominant success in the Listed Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield Park on 5th June.
The Bjorn Nielsen-owned runner is the 11/4 favourite with Unibet, official betting partner of the Investec Derby. Since 1970, 17 Investec Derby favourites have triumphed, most recently Golden Horn in 2015.
Trainer Ed Walker, ahead of his first runner in the Investec Derby, said: “I am massively excited by English King and I would not swap him for anything else.
“I know that sounds mad with a Guineas winner [Kameko] in the field, but I wouldn’t.
“I always vowed that I would not run a horse in the Derby if he didn’t deserve his place.
“I think he will have learnt a lot at Lingfield and hopefully he can cruise round Tattenham Corner.
“Whether he is good enough – we will find out, but he ticks an awful lot of boxes. I think that is why he is at the top of the market, because he ticks all the boxes.
“At home, he was always a nice, good-looking athletic horse. He is not a horse you expect to see blasting past his lead horse in Frankel style. He does what he has to do; he is not a flashy workhorse.
“Anyone who says they don’t think about winning the Derby is surely lying. I have been thinking about it since I discovered horseracing when I was 13 years old, so of course you think about it in this position. It would be a great day if it happened.
“Frankie sat on him last week and just wanted to come down and have a feel of the horse. He really wanted to get inside the horse’s head, which is a mark of Frankie’s professionalism and he was very happy.”
English King’s chief danger, according to the betting, is QIPCO 2000 Guineas hero Kameko (Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy), a 4/1 chance with Unibet, who has stamina questions to answer as he races beyond a mile for the first time.
A total of 37 horses have won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and Investec Derby, but only two in the last 30 years – Sea The Stars (2009) and Camelot (2012). One statistic Kameko does have to overcome is that he is drawn in stall 11, which has not produced a single Investec Derby winner since starting stalls were introduced at Epsom Downs in 1967.
Ireland’s perennial champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien is bidding for a record breaking eighth Investec Derby victory. Five of his seven wins in the race have come since 2012.
The master of Ballydoyle is launching a six-pronged assault on the world’s greatest Flat race, with his team headed by Mogul, the pick of Coolmore’s retained jockey Ryan Moore, G3 Hampton Court Stakes victor Russian Emperor (Seamie Heffernan) and G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up Vatican City (Padraig Beggy). Mythical (James Doyle), who was G1-placed in France last year, wide margin Curragh maiden scorer Serpentine (Emmet McNamara) and Amhran Na Bhfiann (William Buick) also run.
Russian Emperor is one of three Royal Ascot winners in the field alongside Pyledriver (William Muir/Martin Dwyer) and Highland Chief (Paul & Oliver Cole/Ben Curtis). Pyledriver had Mohican Heights (David Simcock/Andrea Atzeni) and Mogul in behind when landing the G2 King Edward VII Stakes, while Highland Chief defied top weight to win the Golden Gates Handicap.
Kameko’s stablemate Khalifa Sat (Andrew Balding/Tom Marquand) and Emissary (Hugo Palmer/Jim Crowley) meet again, after the pair were separated by a neck in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood on 14 June.
Britain’s champion trainer John Gosden has sent out two Investec Derby winners, most recently Golden Horn in 2015, and the Newmarket handler is represented by once-raced Newbury maiden scorer Worthily (Martin Harley). Worthily is a three-parts sibling to Lucarno, who was fourth in the 2007 Derby before going to take the St Leger.
The 16 runners are completed by G3 Zetland Stakes winner Max Vega (Ralph Beckett/Harry Bentley) and Gold Maze (Jessica Harrington IRE/David Egan), who turns out quickly after finishing sixth in last weekend’s G1 Irish Derby.
The Investec Derby is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Love (Aidan O’Brien) is the 11/8 favourite for the 2020 G1 Investec Oaks. For the first time ever, the Investec Oaks and Investec Derby will both take place at Epsom Downs on the same day – Saturday, 4th July.
A daughter of Galileo, Love is already a Classic winner having taken the G1 QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on 7 June. A total of 48 fillies have completed the 1000 Guineas-Oaks double, most recently the O’Brien-trained Minding in 2016.
In addition to Love, O’Brien has also entered G1 Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Peaceful plus G2 Ribblesdale Stakes second Ennistymon and Passion.
The master of Ballydoyle is the most successful current trainer in the Investec Oaks with seven victories – Shahtoush (1998), Imagine (2001), Alexandrova (2006), Was (2012), Qualify (2015), Minding (2016) and Forever Together (2018).
Two of the latest three runnings of the Investec Oaks have gone to horses trained by John Gosden and ridden by Frankie Dettori – the great Enable (2017) and Anapurna (2019). The Gosden-Dettori combination is set to be represented on Saturday by Frankly Darling, an impressive winner of the G2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. Gosden has also entered Tiempo Vuela, who was an eye-catching winner on her only juvenile start but unplaced when running very freely in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket earlier this month.
Another trainer doubly represented is Roger Varian with Gold Wand and Queen Daenerys. Gold Wand, a daughter of 2015 Investec Derby hero Golden Horn, was an impressive winner of a 10-furlong maiden at Newbury on 11 June while Queen Daenerys was runner-up on her return to action in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on 7 June.
Newmarket-based Varian said today: “Gold Wand & Queen Daenerys are both well.
“No decision has been made yet on the Oaks.
“I need to speak with both owners and a decision won’t be made at this stage.”
Godolphin trained Saeed bin Suroor has saddled two Oaks winners courtesy of Moonshell (1995) and Kazzia (2002). His entry in 2020 is Dubai Love, runner-up in the G3 UAE Oaks at Meydan, Dubai in February and a close third last time out in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.
Completing the entries are G2 Ribblesdale Stakes fourth Bharani Star (Peter Chapple-Hyam) and Oriental Mystique (David Simcock).
The Investec Oaks is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Saturday, Epsom, Britain, post time: 4.55 p.m.
241ST INVESTEC DERBY-G1, £500,000, 3yo, c/f, 12f 6yT
SC PP HORSE SIRE JOCKEY TRAINER WT
1 5 Amhran Na Bhfiann (Ire) Galileo (Ire) Buick A O’Brien 126
2 4 Emissary (GB) Kingman (GB) Crowley Palmer 126
3 1 English King (Fr) Camelot (GB) Dettori Walker 126
4 16 Gold Maze (GB) Golden Horn (GB) D Egan Harrington 126
5 13 Highland Chief (Ire) Gleneagles (Ire) Curtis P&O Cole 126
6 11 Kameko K Kitten’s Joy Murphy Balding 126
7 14 Khalifa Sat (Ire) Free Eagle (Ire) Marquand Balding 126
8 7 Max Vega (Ire) Lope de Vega (Ire) Bentley Beckett 126
9 2 Mogul (GB) Galileo (Ire) R Moore A O’Brien 126
10 15 Mohican Heights (Ire) Australia (GB) Atzeni Simcock 126
11 10 Mythical (Fr) Camelot (GB) J Doyle A O’Brien 126
12 3 Pyledriver (GB) Harbour Watch (Ire) Dwyer Muir 126
13 6 Russian Emperor (Ire) Galileo (Ire) Heffernan A O’Brien 126
14 12 Serpentine (Ire) Galileo (Ire) McNamara A O’Brien 126
15 8 Vatican City (Ire) Galileo (Ire) Beggy A O’Brien 126
16 9 Worthily Point of Entry Harley Gosden 126
Saturday, Epsom, Britain, post time: 3.40 p.m.
INVESTEC OAKS-G1, £250,000, 3yo, f, 12f 6yT
SC PP HORSE SIRE JOCKEY TRAINER WT
1 2 Bharani Star (Ger) Sea the Stars (Ire) Murphy P Chapple-Hyam 126
2 4 Ennistymon (Ire) Galileo (Ire) Heffernan A O’Brien 126
3 3 Frankly Darling (GB) Frankel (GB) Dettori Gosden 126
4 8 Gold Wand (Ire) Golden Horn (GB) Atzeni Varian 126
5 5 Love (Ire) Galileo (Ire) R Moore A O’Brien 126
6 1 Passion (Ire) Galileo (Ire) Beggy A O’Brien 126
7 6 Queen Daenerys (Ire) Frankel (GB) Buick Varian 126
8 7 Tiempo Vuela (GB) Lope de Vega (Ire) Harley Gosden 126