Racing: Peak time beckons for Snow Ridge

The Derby: Guineas runner-up has the class to defy history and justify Sheikh Mohammed's faith

There will be no hiding place for reputations in the 225th Derby at Epsom on Saturday and Sheikh Mohammed, in particular, has put his judgement on the line. His two runners were acquired from other major breeding empires: Snow Ridgefrom the late Lord Weinstock's operation and Rule Of Law from the late Robert Sangster.

Under the sod's law heading, both the vendors have mustered other contenders. Not that the Sheikh will mind, though, because one of his maxims is that the greatest risk is to take no risk. But if anything is to beat his pair, he would probably prefer it not to be North Light, in the Weinstock pale blue, or Percussionist, in the Sangster green, blue and white.

Snow Ridge, a dark bay son of Indian Ridge, can save his blushes. The colt, runner-up in the 2,000 Guineas, must overturn a hefty page of history, for no Rowley Mile placee has won the Derby since Generous 13 years ago. But his effort, staying on strongly, represents the best level of form by any confirmed runner and he is progressive.

One factor he has yet to prove is his stamina, and his sire was a miler who tends to specialise in milers. But he is out of stout Snow Princess, second in a Prix Royal-Oak, and his relaxed style will help eke out his reserves.

Godolphin have a line to market rival North Light in Rule Of Law, who ran the Sir Michael Stoute challenger to half a length (albeit a cosy one) in the Dante Stakes. North Light is sure to get the trip, but he may do so more slowly than Snow Ridge.

Yeats, bidding to give Aidan O'Brien and Sadler's Wells their third Derby in four years, is defending an unbeaten record in the tried-and-tested Ballydoyle route to Epsom. He has hardly seen another horse in his three runs and has yet to join battle with any, but, although he may be an exception, his stable's three-year-olds do not seem a vintage bunch this year.

Victory for Percussionist so soon after much-liked Sangster's death would be poignant, but the colt, another by Sadler's Wells, may need soft ground.

Saturday's race is regarded as open, hence the intended addition by supplement to the field of horses previously perceived as handicappers. The annual bleats for a reduction in distance have started on the grounds that 12 furlongs is regarded by the breeding industry as not the optimum distance for a high-class thoroughbred but the outer limit. But the sport would start dismantling the framework that has served it so well at its utmost peril.

It has become fashionable to denigrate the Derby as a fading glory but statistics say otherwise. Sure, the nineties were an ordinary decade, with Generous the only truly high-class winner. But then so were the 20th century's noughties, twenties and forties. The most consistently blessed decades were the thirties, which produced Hyperion, Windsor Lad, Bahram, Bois Roussel and Blue Peter, and the seventies, with Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Grundy, The Minstrel and Troy.

The latest noughties have already produced three superior winners in Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral. And the worth of this year's contest can only be judged in retrospect, for the race is a beginning, not an end. The trials eliminate the no-hopers but the standardbearer for a generation will not be identified until his pace, balance, stamina, acceleration and resolve pass muster over Epsom's switchback.

Last year, Kris Kin could not hack it at the top afterwards. Nor could the Oaks heroine, Casual Look. In fact, the Oaks winners have not been much cop for a while; Balanchine, who won 10 years ago, was the last really good one.

The candidates for the 226th renewal on Friday lack nothing in breeding, at any rate, starting with Galileo's sister All Too Beautiful. Only two sets of full-siblings have achieved the Epsom double, most recently Shoveler (1819 Oaks) and Sailor (1820 Derby), but All Too Beautiful has not yet put a foot wrong, winning both her starts.

Her Ballydoyle stablemate Baraka, Pilsudski's half-sister, took the Lingfield trial as she pleased and would come into the equation on soft ground. Of the Godolphin pair, Sundrop was a fine second in the 1,000 Guineas and Punctilious was impressive in a slowly-run Musidora Stakes. Hathrah, just behind Sundrop in the Guineas, would also appreciate easy ground.

The focus on Saturday night will be on New York, where America's latest folk hero, Smarty Jones, is favourite to add the Belmont Stakes to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. But the US Triple Crown is a tough call: since Affirmed became the 11th winner in 130 years in 1978, nine heroes of the first two legs have failed in the third.

MONTGOMERY'S SELECTIONS

The Derby

1 Snow Ridge

2 North Light

3 Yeats

Best long-shot

Pukka

The Oaks

1 All Too Beautiful

2 Sundrop

3 Puntcilious

Best long-shot

Menhoubah

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'