‘I am massively excited, he ticks a lot of boxes’ – trainers on their Derby hopes

Horse Racing English King
English King: Derby favourite will be ridden by Frankie Dettori at Epsom. Photo: Oddschecker

By Nicholas Godfrey

GB: Britain’s senior Classic, the Investec Derby, takes place a month after it usually does, on Saturday (4.55pm BST) at Epsom on a card also featuring the Investec Oaks (3.40pm BST).

Aidan O’Brien saddles six of the 16 runners as he bids for a record eighth victory; Mogul is the choice of Ballydoyle’s No.1 rider Ryan Moore.

2,000 Guineas: here’s the takeaway after Kameko bosses them at Newmarket

However, preferred in the betting are Frankie Dettori’s mount English King, so impressive in the Betsafe Derby Trial at Lingfield, and the 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko.

Usually Britain’s richest race, this year’s Derby is worth only £500,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Horse Racing Anthony Van Dyck wins Derby
Anthony Van Dyck scores in 2019 to give Aidan O’Brien his seventh Derby victory.
Photo: Epsom racecourse/focusonracing.com

Here’s what the trainers of some leading contenders had to say from various sources, among them the Qipco British Champions Series and Epsom racecourse media teams …

Shall we talk about it?

Amhran Na Bhfiann
“Lovely big horse who we always thought would get the trip well. His sister [Was] won an Oaks. He’s had one run this year in a race which worked out incredibly well. The winner [Tiger Moth] was second in the Irish Derby, the second [Dawn Patrol] was third in the Irish Derby and the third [Order Of Australia] was fourth, so it was a seriously strong maiden. He’ll get better with racing.”
Aidan O’Brien (trainer)

“In this rather strange year we have to roll the dice. He’s by Kingman but his half-brother Workforce was by King’s Best, so you can look at it either way. There might be some stamina limitations, but he stayed nearly a mile and a half at Goodwood all right. I don’t think he’d mind whatever the ground was, so that is one thing we don’t need to worry about.”
Teddy Grimthorpe (racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, speaking to RTE)

English King
“I am massively excited by English King and I would not swap him for anything else; I know that sounds mad with a Guineas winner in the field, but I wouldn’t. I always vowed that I would not run a horse in the Derby if he didn’t deserve his place.
“I think he will have learnt a lot at Lingfield and hopefully he can cruise round Tattenham Corner. Whether he is good enough, we will find out, but he ticks an awful lot of boxes. I think that is why he is at the top of the market, because he ticks all the boxes.
“At home, he was always a nice, good looking athletic horse. He is not a horse you expect to see blasting past his lead horse in Frankel-style. He does what he has to do; he is not a flashy workhorse.”
Ed Walker (trainer)

Highland Chief
“I wouldn’t say he’s improving all the time, he’s always been a good horse. He was third to Pinatubo in the Chesham last season and would have been closer with a clear run. In the Royal Lodge we don’t know why he ran so badly, his tail was sticking out quite high. We went into Ascot quietly confident, although he had top weight, but he made up lots of ground and did it well.”
Oliver Cole (trainer)

“As the race draws closer I see more dangers every day but, fingers crossed, everything has gone well in the build-up.
“There is obviously the stamina doubt over Kameko, but he’s very relaxed and that’s why we are inclined to give it a go. There’s a genetic question mark and it will be answered on Saturday.
“If he was a keen horse and difficult to settle, we would not be attempting this. It’s a combination of mentality and genetic make-up as to how far horses can stay. Any horse that wins the Vertem Futurity, as he did, is considered a potential Derby horse. He stayed the mile well as a two-year-old and also hit the line strong in the Guineas.”
Andrew Balding (trainer)

Oisin Murphy: Derby D-Day for Kameko – but the truth is we don’t know if he’ll stay

Khalifa Sat
“He had a slight setback in late winter and that certainly held us back a little bit, but he’s made up for lost time and I thought he won really well at Goodwood. His class got him through when he won his maiden as he definitely wants better ground. He’s in great nick and deserves to take his chance.”
Andrew Balding (trainer)

Max Vega
“He will stay and I think the track will suit him really well. He is a well- balanced, athletic horse. He wheeled round Pontefract on his second start so I think Epsom will suit him really well. I hope it rains.”
Ralph Beckett (trainer)

“I suppose Mogul is the horse that always looked like going there but everyone’s life changed when this thing came. It’s been unorthodox, and we had to send him to Ascot for a toughish race because we hoped one race would do the job of what two would usually do. At Ascot, he just got a little tired. We think that was the reason more than him not staying.”
Aidan O’Brien (trainer)

“Mythical has improved a lot for the Curragh, where it didn’t really work for him in the Gallinule. We think you’ll see a different horse at Epsom – he’s a good traveller, a classy horse.”
Aidan O’Brien (trainer)

“Pyledriver has the right credentials and attitude to be a good horse. If my horse had been trained by Aidan O’Brien or John Gosden he wouldn’t be as big a price for the Derby. If you think Frankly Darling was impressive in the Ribblesdale, our horse ran a quicker time, so you can’t knock him. He kicked plenty early to prove he definitely stays a mile and a half. He was impressive. I probably rate him higher than others would, but I think it was a really good performance.”
William Muir (trainer)

Russian Emperor
“He came out of his Ascot win well and Ryan was happy with him. He’s one we’re looking forward to seeing over a mile and a half. He had a run before the lockdown – so he was a fit horse going into Ascot, because he got another one in after it as well.”
Aidan O’Brien (trainer)

“Ran in a maiden first time out this year and he got caught in a pocket and couldn’t get out. He’s a horse that stays very well. Wayne (Lordan) rode him at the Curragh – he got a good break so just let him roll along and he ran straight through the line, he wasn’t stopping. It’s going to be interesting watching him over a mile and a half – he’s a seriously well-bred Galileo.”
Aidan O’Brien (trainer)

Vatican City
“By Galileo, but he’s related to a lot of quick horses. Padraig [Beggy] rode him that day [in Irish Guineas] and found it hard to pull him up, so it will be interesting. Often those you are sure of getting the trip might not have enough class.”
Aidan O’Brien (trainer)

• Find out more about the Qipco British Champions Series

• Visit the Epsom Downs racecourse website

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