Horse Racing
Telecaster and Bangkok the main contenders to thwart O'Brien's Derby battalion

30/05/2019 16:27

At Epsom’s recent ‘Breakfast With the Stars’ Aidan O’Brien described The Derby as “the Holy Grail” and a highly gifted team of three-year-old colts will travel from his Ballydoyle base in Ireland to tackle the unique demands of the 2405m G1 Classic – demands of  balance, versatility, stamina and of course super talent.
Should one of those beautifully-bred colts win, it will be O’Brien’s seventh victory in the race. His first was Galileo in 2001 who amazingly is the sire of all his possible challengers on Saturday except for Broome whose sire is Galileo’s son Australia – the O’Brien-trained Derby winner of 2014.
But even O’Brien and the remarkable Coolmore breeding and racing operation do not get everything right. Sir Dragonet – who may well start favourite after the thrashing he gave six rivals by eight lengths and upwards in the G3 Chester Vase (2457m) just two weeks after his first racecourse appearance in a maiden – was only supplemented to the Derby list on Monday.
It shows that even great experts can be caught out by dramatic improvement such as that shown by Sir Dragonet whilst the same applies for Telecaster, also supplemented having not seen a racecourse until 30th March. But his super victory in the G2 Dante Stakes (2051m) at York in May almost demanded that he joined the Derby party.

Eight colts have completed the Dante/Derby double since 1980 and Telecaster’s trainer Hughie Morrison and 23-year-old jockey Oisin Murphy will be dreaming that this son of Derby winner New Approach (another son of Galileo) will be the ninth.

Murphy had an amazing 2018, winning nine G1’s, and has partnered Telecaster to both his victories.

He said: “It doesn’t get bigger than the Derby and I’m delighted that Hughie and the owners decided to supplement him. He is a beautiful colt physically and has a high cruising speed. I rode him in work on Monday and he felt great. Ideally, I would like to still be travelling easily at the 600-metre mark and then see what happens.”

Late last year trainer Andrew Balding – whose Phoenix Reach won the 2004 Hong Kong Vase – had no hesitation nominating Bangkok as his horse to follow for 2019. That was a surprise to some given that the colt had been beaten on all three two-year-old starts.

But the trainer’s prediction has proven spot on. First Bangkok landed a maiden at Doncaster – form that has worked out spectacularly well, especially given that Telecaster finished second – and then the imposing colt landed the G3 Classic Trial (1990m) at Sandown in fine style. 

Balding – who is enjoying another fabulous season – said of Silvestre de Sousa’s big-race mount: “He looked a smart colt the moment he stepped into the yard and though things didn’t pan out for him last year he’s made up for it now, and he won at Sandown like the horse I knew he was. He’s a well-balanced colt and I don’t think Epsom’s gradients should be a problem. We’re very excited about his chances.”

The seven-race simulcast programme from the world-famous track also includes the “Dash”, a thrilling downhill charge of top handicappers over the world’s fastest 1000m.

Expected contenders include the remarkable Caspian Prince, winner of this hugely competitive affair three times (2014, 2016 and 2017) for three different trainers. And it will be a fourth winning trainer if Michael Appleby’s 10-year-old speedball achieves the same feat at Epsom on Saturday.