Former Arc winning trainer John Hammond looks ahead to a bumper weekend of racing in the UK
On paper the English Derby looks to be between English King and Kameko but with Aidan O’Brien likely to run six there will be ample opportunity for party spoiling.
English King a son of Camelot heads the market following an impressive win in the Lingfield Derby trial over solid form horse Berkshire Rocco. He looks sure to stay and a win for trainer Ed Walker and owner Bjorn Nielson would go down well with many.
Neither represents a ‘big battalion’ and Nielson’s lifetime passion to race ‘staying’ horses would be justly rewarded if it hasn’t already been so with superstar Stradivarius. But, the Derby is the Derby, our holy grail.
In many way Kameko’s rock solid and admirably consistent form should really put him in as favourite being the winner of a Group 1 at two in addition to the 2000 Guineas but one assumes that the question as to whether he will stay, or not, as he has never gone further than a mile keeps the punters away.
Pyledriver success would be awesome story
In any normal year Pyledriver would not be in the field due to the archaic and painfully expensive entry system whereby horses had to be entered eons before the race and then pay expensive forfeits only to discover that their horse is not good enough to take part.
Consequently his connections, should he win, will be amongst a very small group of people who will be oddly thankful (if I can say that) for the impact of the virus, at least in our little world of racing.
This year the entries were only a week prior to the race, just a straight forward up front 10k which connections of this Group 2 winner at Royal Ascot were more than happy to stump up.
A £10K buy back as a yearling, out of a mare who ran over hurdles I hope his owner and trainer aren’t offended if I say he comes from the wrong side of the tracks but it is great that he is in the field and it would be a wonderful story should he win, which he could.
Vatican City my pick of the O'Brien bunch
It's difficult to sort out which is best of the O’Brien sextet of Russian Emperor, Mogul, Vatican City, Serpentine, Amhran Na Bhfiann and Mythical, indeed Aidan himself said that the choice would be difficult for stable jockey Ryan Moore.
Personally I would plumb for the lightly raced Vatican City who was second in the Irish 2000gns, Ryan has gone for Mogul so I am sure you are better following him than me.
If you wanted to have a stab at a total outsider, Max Vega had solid form at two is sure to stay and can be forgiven an indifferent run in a messy race on the all weather at Kempton from a bad draw. Overall I’m not sure it is the strongest Derby we have seen but know one knows for sure until the race is run. The winning distances tell the story.
Oaks may be a two filly race
The Oaks is reduced to eight runners this year and looks to be between the wonderfully named Love and the slightly less wonderfully named Frankly Darling.
Love won the English 1000 guineas by a clear four lengths and is a worthy favourite but being out of a mare by Pivotal, ace broodmare sire though he is, stamina could be her achilles heel.
Frankly Darling proved her ability to stay with a solid win over a mile and a half at Ascot where she had a length and a half to spare over Ennistyon who re opposes here.
Of the rest, the lightly raced Gold Wand could provide a first classic winner for Golden Horn coming from the stable of Roger Varian who had such a good time at Ascot.
Eclipse rounds off a magical weekend
Arguably the most exciting race in the UK over the weekend will be Sunday’s Eclipse stakes which sees the return to racing of the Enable.
Elegant and amazonian she has lit up European racing over the past three seasons but this will be no walk in the park. Including her there are five Group 1 winners in the field amongst them the bang in form Ghaiyyath winner of 7 of his 10 starts and unbeaten this year.
Japan a dual Group 1 winner from last year, Magic Wand a winner of over 3.5 million in prize money and the ever green Japanese mare Deidre will make a proper race of it.