On the eve of declaration day for the Derby, Godolphin at last confirmed that they will have a runner in the Classic on Saturday. Frankie Dettori will be on board the nominated colt and plenty of Dettori's fans will be on too. The two possible runners, Graikos and New South Wales, were available at odds of 50-1 and 66-1 respectively yesterday, but whichever one Sheikh Mohammed's team select to sport the royal blue colours will surely start at rather skinnier odds.
Having Dettori on board and being the chosen representative of the powerful Dubai team are rather more compelling reasons for backing either colt than their form-book credentials. Graikos, who transferred to the Godolphin string from André Fabre's yard last season, finished only fifth behind Magistretti in the Dante Stakes at York, while New South Wales, who was with John Oxx last year, has also had just one start this year, finishing sixth of seven runners behind Dalakhani in the Prix Lupin.
Both colts worked yesterday and Dettori said: "I was pleased to hear that we will be having a runner. I will ride either Graikos or New South Wales. The boss will decide which one."
The Godolphin team received a boost at Nottingham yesterday when Dubai Destination, who defeated Rock Of Gibraltar as a two-year-old, made an impressive return from long-term injury to set up a Royal Ascot confrontation with the mighty Hawk Wing.
His delighted trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, said: "I think the Queen Anne Stakes will be his race at Royal Ascot. He has class. I hope he stays sound and healthy, and he will take in the big races over a mile and a mile and a quarter. I was very pleased with the way he finished, but easier ground would be much better for him."
The light rain that fell over the southern England yesterday will aid the chances of the Godolphin colts at Epsom, who both prefer some give in the ground. A total of 4mm fell on the track during the morning, leaving the clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, to conclude that the going, officially good, was "almost perfect".
With the forecast now for dry weather, Cooper is hopeful that conditions will be ideal. "I walked the course yesterday with Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen and we met Gerard Butler going the other way round," Cooper said. "All three of them told me they thought it was perfect, and I was happy to hear that."
As usual, the running rail has been moved to accommodate a six-yard strip of virgin turf on the inside of the course for use on Derby Day. "You've got to leave a fair strip," the head groundsman, Nigel Thornton, said. "If you've got three or four horses fighting out a finish you need to have them all racing on the same ground.
"I remember High-Rise winning, coming all the way from London Road on the worn ground down the middle, it was amazing.
"What people always seem to forget about the mile-and-a-half course is that it is downhill all the way from the six-furlong marker to the one-furlong marker. The first half of the race is a heck of a climb, but after that they are just rolling down until the last half-furlong."
William Hill have clipped Dermot Weld's 2,000 Guineas winner, Refuse To Bend. The colt is 3-1, from 100-30, to complete the Classic double after good reports from his jockey, Pat Smullen, about his latest piece of work. The firm report money for Clive Brittain's Chester Vase winner, Dutch Gold, who is 16-1 from 22-1.Reuse content