Investec Derby (Group1) 1 1/2Miles Epsom

oddsguru derbyI hope many of you were on last week’s EW selection, Phoenix Of Spain, in Ireland’s 2000Gns. The son of Lope De Vega, made all, and came home 3L clear of the joint 6/4 favourite, Too Darn Hot at the rewarding odds of 16/1. The time was fast, and it will take a good one to lower his colours in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, (currently available at 9/4). Interestingly, Doncaster’s Group1 Futurity last October, has now produced the winner of the English 2000Gns, Magna Grecia, 1st at Donny, and the Irish equivalent with Phoenix Of Spain, who finished a slightly controversial 2nd, all of which has to make the close 4th home in that heat, Circus Maximus Of interest on Saturday.

Another inmate of The Ballydoyle Academy, Circus Maximus is a son of the great stallion Galileo, (sire of 2 Epsom Derby winners, Ruler Of The World, 2010 and Australia 2011) and is one of 8 entries from the yard at the time of writing. Put away for the season after that good Doncaster effort, he reappeared in The 1m2 1/2f Dee Stakes at Chester, (Soft) 23 days ago, and stayed on well inside the final furlong to comfortably hold his stable mate, Mohawk, strongly suggesting that Saturday’s trip should be well within his compass. He is out of the top class miler, Duntle, (placed 3 times at the top level) and has plenty to recommend him, including his price, currently trading around 20/1, but would probably like to see some rain in the Epsom area.

There are no stamina doubts about stablemate, and current market leader,
Sir Dragonet either. He hosed up in the 1m4 1/2f Chester Vase on soft ground 24 days ago. It was a remarkable performance as it was only his 2nd time on a racecourse, (easily won a Tipperary Maiden 13 days earlier) and as he didn’t turn a hair in the pot boiling atmosphere of The Roodeye, he seems to have the temperament to cope with the demands of Derby Day at Epsom. If he handles the likely faster ground on Saturday, the son of Camelot, out of a daughter of that fabulous mare, Urban Sea, he could easily justify his position at the top of the market, (and his late entry fee of £85,000).

One Ballydoyle entry who shouldn’t be inconvenienced by fast ground on Saturday is Anthony Van Dyck as he won a Leopardstown Group3 by 4 3/4L on Good/Firm last July. Another son of Galileo, he showed plenty of reserves of stamina when winning Lingfield’s 1m3 1/2f Derby Trial on soft ground 3 weeks ago.

obrien investec

Aidan O’Brien knows there’s nothing sketchy about Anthony Van Dyck’s chances

He is out of the Exceed and Excel mare Believe’N’Succeed, whose best previous offspring, is the talented Australian sprinter, Bounding, so I’m sure the Coolmore connections, must have been delighted to see at Lingfield that their great stallion had yet again, come up with the
“Stamina” goods, and it wouldn’t surprise if Anthony Van Dyck provided Aidan with a 7th, record equaling victory, in Epsom’s Blue Riband.

There has been plenty of money for Broome in the markets, and the son of the 2011 winner, Australia, has won both starts this term pretty comfortably, Group3 heats at Leopardstown.  However, his best 2yo performance came when beaten a Neck in the Group1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère at Longchamp, a race that hasn’t really worked out. He was also well beaten in his only 2 runs on fast ground so may find conditions against him.

England’s best chance of retaining the Crown would seem to lie with the Hughie Morrison trained, Telecaster. Unraced as a 2yo, the son of the 2008 winner New Approach, made a promising racecourse debut in a Doncaster Maiden at the end of March, where, sent off an unconsidered 20/1 shot, he was beaten 1 1/4L by Saturday’s opponent, Bangkok, who was having his 4th race and started the even money favourite. He hacked up in a Windsor Class5 Novices 16 days later, and 3 weeks ago took a giant step forward when landing York’s Group2 Dante Stakes by a length from Too Darn Hot. The runner up may not have quite got home that day, but Saturday’s opponent, the O’Brien trained Japan, (winner of his 2 previous races and a full brother to the top level performers, Isaac Newton and Secret Gesture) was 5 3/4L back in 4th. He is out of the top class mare Shirocco Star, who only lost out by a Neck in the 2012 Oaks to Was, so he is certainly bred for Saturday’s trip, might even improve for it, and justify connections huge £85,000 late entry fee.

The Kevin Prendergast trained Madhmoon will be attempting to give his veteran handler a first victory, and his owner Sheikh Hamdan, a third, (Nashwan 1989, Erhaab 1994) and the way the son of Dawn Approach finished for 4th place in The 2000Gns they must both be feeling pretty hopeful. Racing in the unfavoured group, down the middle of the track, he was outpaced over a furlong out, but finished best of all in the group looking as if further would definitely suit. There is plenty of encouragement on his sire’s side that he will get the trip, but the distaff is slightly more problematical. However, having trained  the dam, Araas, (stayed 10f and is by Haafhd who gets plenty of middle distance horses) the grand dam Adaala, and most of their offspring to win plenty of races, the Co Kildare trainer knows this family inside out, and he is optimistic that Madhmoon will get the trip. It’s also worth noting that 2yo’s that stay a mile, usually stay middle distances at 3, and Madhmoon made short work of Broome in last September’s  Group2 Champions Juvenile Stakes over a mile at Leopardstown, running on well to win by 2 1/2L on the Good/Firm ground.

Selection  : Anthony Van Dyck
Danger          : Telecaster

John Gray

Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (Group 1) 1 Mile Curragh

oddsguru curraghFirst run in 1921, Saturday sees the 98th renewal of the first Classic of the Irish flat racing season, and coming 3 weeks after its English counterpart, usually attracts many of the contenders from the Newmarket Race. Starting with Right Tack in 1969, nine animals have brought off the Newmarket-Curragh double and Aidan O’Brien will be hoping to make it ten with this year’s Rowley Mile Hero, Magna Grecia.

The son of Invincible Spirit certainly won the Newmarket heat on merit, coming home  2 1/2L clear of the 66/1 outsider, King Of Change, (sole success came in a Nottingham
Class5 Novices) but it did seem as if the winner and runner up did have a distinct advantage racing against the stand rails. The time, nearly 2 seconds slower than standard on Good ground, wasn’t great for a Classic, and it won’t be the greatest surprise if the 3rd Skardu, who raced up the middle of the course, finishes a lot closer on Saturday.

The Willie Haggis trained Skardu had previously won the 2000Gns Trial, The Craven Stakes, over The Rowley Mile in workmanlike fashion, a race that hasn’t worked out particularly well, but the winner of last year’s Longchamp Group1, The Prix Jean-Luc Legardre, Royal Marine, (13th in The Guineas) was 2 3/4L back in 4th. Skardu came home best of all of the group of 16 racing up the middle in The Guineas, beating the talented Madhmoon by a head, and should finish a lot closer to Magna Grecia on Saturday.

The Charlie Hills (pictured) trained, Phoenix Of Spain may have been an unlucky loser of Doncaster’s Group1 Futurity last Autmn when beaten a head by Magna Grecia. oddsguru charlie hillsIn a strongly run race on the Gd/Sft surface he was pushed left when challenging inside the final furlong and his cause wasn’t helped either by quite a severe bump with 50 yds to go. He had no answer to Too Darn Hot when beaten 1 3/4L in Doncaster’s 7f Champagne Stakes, (Good) in his previous race but looked an improved horse in The Futurity, and having easily won York’s Acomb Stakes on Gd/Fast ground, looks as if he handles most conditions. Lack of an outing this term is a concern but the yard is in excellent form.

John Gosden’s sole success in The Irish 2000 Guineas came with Kingman 5 years ago and he looks to have serious prospects of landing a second with his surprise late entry,
Too Darn Hot. Last year’s top rated juvenile, (cruised up in the Dewhurst from the 112 rated Advertise and earned an impressive rating of 126) was thought to be too backward to run in the 2000Gns, but took up his engagement in the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes at York 9 days ago, where despite running well, didn’t seem to get home over the trip and could only finish 2nd to Telecaster, whose sole previous success had come in a lowly 3yo Class5 Windsor Novices. Too Darn Hot is by the outstanding Stallion Dubawi out of the triple Group1 winning mare Dar Re Mi, (won twice over 12f at the top level) and his full sister, Lah Ti Dar, was 2nd to Kew Gardens in The St Leger, so it must be very disappointing to connections if indeed it was a lack of stamina that was the cause of his defeat at York. If that is the case however, Saturday’s race represents his last chance of getting that much sought after Classic victory on his CV, and a repeat of his performance in The Dewhurst would bring him close.

Operating at a current strike rate of 75%, Cashel handler, Paddy Twomey must be nursing hopes of a first Classic victory with his progressive colt, Decrypt. A son of Dark Angel, he made his racecourse debut in a Curragh Maiden (6f) last May, finishing a very encouraging second, and went one better at the same venue (6f)13 days later, winning by 1/2L in a good time. Given plenty of time, he was put away for the season and reappeared 5 weeks ago. Racing over 7f for the first time he won a Cork conditions event with his head in his chest. He would need to improve considerably more to figure on Saturday, and there isn’t much encouragement from his pedigree that he will get a mile, but he certainly wasn’t stopping in that Cork heat, and I’ve no doubt that we have yet to see the best of Decrypt.

Ballydoyle’s €1.6 million purchase Old Glory is worth a mention. A son of Frankel, he made a winning debut at Naas last September. He failed to score in his other two starts but finished a respectable 3rd when attempting to make all in a Leopardstown Group3 in October. A half brother to the useful Australian horse Assign, he may do better with
a more patient ride, (a view endorsed by our respected follower, Alan from Anglsea) and is an interesting addition to the O’Brien challenge,
(Attempting to win the race for the 12th time).

Selection : Too Darn Hot
EW.           : Phoenix Of Spain

John Gray