Eyes to the Skies for the Investec Epsom Derby

Simon Burgess reports from Newmarket

Simon Burgess with Michael Holding

Simon Burgess asks Michael Holding for his Derby selections

Saturday, 7 June 2014 sees the running of the Investec Epsom Derby at the Epsom Downs racecourse and this week all eyes have been on the weather and the likely condition of the ground that at this stage looks like being good to soft, writes Thoroughmedia’s Simon Burgess.

I’ve been in Newmarket this week and caught up with several of the trainers, connections and a former West Indian fast bowler to get their thoughts on their runners and prospects in the blue riband classic.

Peter Chapple-Hyam trains Arod for Sheik Fahad of Qatar Racing and after Grey Gatsby won the French Derby last weekend, the Dante form from York is starting to stack up a lot better. He was only beaten ¾ of a length that day and Chapple-Hyam, who was previously successful with Dr Devious and Authorized, knows exactly what it takes to condition a Derby winner and said “He’s come on well since the York run and he’ll relish the extra trip on Saturday. I’d like fast ground, but I think he’ll handle good to soft. Jamie Spencer worked the horse on Tuesday morning and he looked in very good order.”

Leviathan owners Coolmore saddle four runners in this year’s classic, but probably none more blue-blooded than the raging favourite Australia by Galileo out of the extraordinary mare Ouija Board. Coolmore’s representative Kevin Buckley said “He’s done everything right from the start. He was close up 3rd in his Guineas run, and he’s very well suited to the 1 mile and 4 furlong. Our only slight concern would be if we get a lot of rain and very soft ground leading into the race.”

Geoffrey Chaucer with the inform Ryan Moore on board is probably a bit of a sleeper flying under the radar with all the hype on his stablemate, but his prep has also been faultless. Buckley commented, “He was undefeated until his last start with two solid wins in Ireland. Saturday’s trip will be more suitable for him and we’re expecting a big performance.

Newmarket trainer Roger Varian has the well backed second favourite Kingston Hill by the same sire as the French Derby winner Mastercraftsman and he looms as a very big runner. The conservative Varian is delighted with his progress and the prospect of more rain would further boost his confidence. “He’s been coming along very nicely and this race has been on his agenda from the get go. He won his first three starts well before the Guineas, but he’s crying out for further now.”

John Gosden is chasing his first Derby since Benny the Dip in 1997. He will go in double handed after supplementing Romsdal for Her Royal Highness Princess Haya of Jordan who joins Gosden’s wife’s horse, Western Hymn. Gosden was his normal upbeat self during the week with a positive outlook. “You have to be in it to win it and we’re very happy to be taking our chances with these two colts. Their work this week has been excellent and I actually found it hard to separate the two despite the differences in the price. William Buick has ridden them both and opted for Western Hymn, so I guess there’s a bit of a lead there?”

It was a beautiful day here last Sunday so I wandered over to watch the Newmarket XI made up of local trainers, media and racing identities in action only to bump into former West Indian fast bowling legend and racing lover Michael Holding, a regular on the Heath most mornings and close to the Sir Michael Stoute yard. In between his duties as the world’s most famous scoreboard operator, he was happy to talk racing. “Snow Sky’s very fit, and won well last start at Lingfield . I know Sir Michael’s happy and he’ll be there when the whips are cracking.” Unfortunately, Snow Sky injured a joint later in the week and will miss the race.

The weather, or more specifically the rain could be a major factor in the result of this race. Andrew Cooper, the clerk of the course at Epsom, has been doing a great job keeping everyone up to date on twitter daily @ACooperClerk so keep an eye on the updates.

I’ve ended up settling on Kingston Hill with a healthy respect for Australia.

My selections:

1st – Kingston Hill
2nd – Arod
3rd – Australia
4th – Geoffrey Chaucer

I’ll be on course Saturday doing some work for Tellytrack and tweeting some updates from @ThoroughMedia


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