Horse Racing
Plenty of possibilities in a wide-open Derby Stakes at Epsom

02/06/2023 16:21

Saturday’s (3 June) Derby Stakes (2405m) around the unique contours of Epsom racecourse is a riddle to match any in the recent history of this great Classic encounter.

Without a standout contender, there is a plethora of intriguing possibilities with fascinating stories attached.

The most exciting and disappointing trial for this Group 1 was achieved by the same colt, Auguste Rodin, whose trainer Aidan O’Brien stands alone as the most successful in the history of the race with eight winners.

The 53-year-old Irishman was at Doncaster last October to witness the regally-bred son of Deep Impact crush his rivals in the G1 Futurity Stakes, despite neither the 1600m trip nor the rain-drenched ground deemed as positives.

Since then, Auguste Rodin was considered every bit a potential Derby winner until not just failing to justify favouritism in May’s G1 Newmarket Classic (1600m) but never even posing a threat – eventually beaten 22 lengths in 12th of 14 runners.

No definitive reasons emerged for that fiasco, but O’Brien remains positive that the real Auguste Rodin will announce himself on Saturday. He says:  “Everything he has been doing at home we’ve been very happy with. We always thought that the Derby trip and the gradients at Epsom would be no issue.”

While Ryan Moore’s mount is looking for redemption, the supporters of Godolphin’s Military Order (William Buick) are expectant he can continue his upward march from victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial (2400m) last month, when a waterlogged grass track meant that the Listed event was transferred to the polytrack surface.

However, in outpacing Waipiro – a lively Derby outsider to be ridden by Tom Marquand – the Charlie Appleby-trained son of Frankel showed the potential to match his full brother Adayar’s Derby-winning performance in 2021; an extraordinary family achievement last achieved 123 years ago.

Appleby says of Military Order, winner of three of his four starts: “His preparation has been faultless and he ticks a lot of boxes, as they say.”

Nine winners of the G2 Dante Stakes (2051m) at York have gone on to win the Derby since 1980.  The Foxes, this year’s victor, narrowly held the slow-starting, fast-finishing White Birch and both colts are heading to Epsom – to be ridden by Oisin Murphy and Colin Keane, respectively.

However, it came as no surprise this week that a late entry fee of £85,000 (HK$834,000) was paid to supplement Passenger – who had dead-heated for third in the Dante – into Saturday’s Epsom extravaganza. Wherever jockey Richard Kingscote put the colt up the York straight, a wall of horses closed on him and by the time he finally got room, The Foxes was away and gone.

Other Derby talking points include the remarkable record of long-priced horses finishing in the first three, with Hoo Ya Mal (second at 150-1 last year) and Mojo Star (second at 50-1 in 2021) being the most recent examples.

The biggest story of all will be if superstar Frankie Dettori can land a third Derby on his final ride in what is still one of the world’s most famous races.

The soon-to-retire 52-year-old partners John and Thady Gosden-trained Juddmonte-owned Arrest, stylish winner of last month’s G3 Chester Vase (2457m). “I think I have a good chance of winning,” said an upbeat Dettori.