By Jon Lees
GB: Investec Derby market mover Highest Ground, one of the big talking horses in Britain over the winter, will not run in the Epsom Classic.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained son of Frankel is as short as 20-1 for the rescheduled Derby on July 4 – but connections have suggested the race has never been on his agenda. Nor, for that matter, is Royal Ascot.
A Niarchos family homebred, Highest Ground did feature among original Derby entries at the yearling stage. He won a novice race at Leicester in September on his sole outing as a two-year-old, drawing immediate quotes for Epsom as he scored by 2¾ lengths despite missing the break by several lengths.
“Highest Ground has only had one race and to my knowledge Sir Michael has never said he was going for the Derby,” said the owners’ racing manager Alan Cooper.
“It’s been in the media and it’s been in the media again this week that he was going to be in Sir Michael’s team for Ascot. Again Michael never said that.”
The disruption to the Flat season caused by the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in established Derby trials such as the Dante, Chester Vase and Dee Stakes being absent from the revised pre-Derby schedule.
Cooper added: “We will let Michael see how the horse is and map out a programme. The Derby is July 4. We’ve always been open with the media and punters and I don’t know who raised the Derby. He was never actually going to go for it as far as I know.
“He was in it earlier in the season, when you leave horses in in the hope something could come right, but I don’t think you will find any quotes saying this horse was being targeted at the Derby.
“Highest Ground will make his reappearance towards the end of the month when Sir Michael feels he is ready to run.”