By Jon Lees
GB: The second entry stage for the 2020 Investec Derby, when favourite Pinatubo could be added to the race, will go ahead next week as scheduled –despite the suspension of early-closing deadlines for three other Classics due to the coronavirus shutdown.
The Tuesday April 7 stage allows connections of horses not engaged in the £1.5 million Epsom Classic as yearlings an opportunity to add them as three-year-old colts or fillies for a fee of £9,000.
Last year’s champion two-year-old, the Charlie Appleby-trained Godolphin colt Pinatubo, is ante-post favourite for both the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and Investec Derby.
Yet while entries for the Newmarket Classic have been cancelled and the race programmed to close at the five-day stage, should racing have resumed by May 2, entries for the Derby remain intact with Pinatubo not among them and needing to be added to the race.
The early closing deadlines for the G1 Investec Oaks and the G1 Investec Coronation Cup, also due on April 7, have also been shelved.
“We are sticking with the second entry stage,” said Epsom’s clerk of the course Andrew Cooper. “The Derby’s entry structure is unique and is already a third of the way through in terms of the yearling entries made in December 2018 which have stayed in the race.
“Having discussed it with the BHA we felt we would let next Tuesday take its course, rather than take a decision to expunge all the yearling entries, which have generated an appreciable sum towards the purse of the race.
“There is ample time between April 7 and May 19, the next scratching stage, when we are all sure the picture will be a lot clearer than it is now, and sensible and appropriate decisions can be made.”
As well as Pinatubo, another Godolphin colt Military March, trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, and the John Gosden-trained Palace Pier feature prominently in Derby markets despite not holding entries and could take advantage of the second entry stage.
Cooper added: “In any normal year, and hopefully this is the same, you would have anticipated Pinatubo being put into the Investec Derby at next week’s stage and hopefully he is put in.
“If he doesn’t come in at this stage, as the entry structure currently is, there will be a supplementary entry to make further down the line which will cost £85,000.
“The Investec Oaks and Coronation Cup will shift to a six-day closing at a fee and total purse to be decided. That is likely to be agreed around ten days before they close.”
Despite the uncertainty, preparations of the racing surface at Epsom continue in line with last week’s BHA announcement that it was working towards the possibility of a resumption of racing behind closed doors on May 1.
Cooper said: “The Spring Meeting was caught up in the end of April cessation of racing but we are carrying on our normal procedures with a view to an early-June Derby.
“We will do the things we normally do for the appropriate time. We would normally do a fertiliser feed for the April meeting but we don’t have to do that now. We’ll do a basic feed to keep things ticking over until we can kick on with more confidence when we know what the timetable looks like.
“I haven’t needed to do any irrigation after a wet winter but the course has been cut once a week and spiked and maintained as it would be in any event.”