The Blue Riband as a sporting event has been on the slow path to the graveyard in recent times, but there are glimmers that the racecourse executive now understands a whistle through the fingers is not enough to bring hordes thundering to the occasion.
Advance bookings are up and today will reveal whether the various populist manoeuvres conducted by Sue Ellen, the managing director of the course's owners, United Racecourses, and her cohorts have been successful.
JR (John Reid's sobriquet in the weighing room) has also played a part in the attraction of this year's Derby as he is one of the jockeys who has nurtured the career of today's odds-on favourite, Entrepreneur.
It is some time now since you could mention the name of the Derby winner in the barber's, off-licence or supermarket and be guaranteed a response. It is almost 30 years since Nijinksy and Mill Reef were around, and 16 years since Shergar. And it is a horse who is considered an equal or even better than the last-named by their trainer who may now elevate the sport.
The 1997 Derby sits as pretty much a one-horse race. It is a fashion to rubbish the event these days, but if Entrepreneur was not in today's running it would indeed be a contest of considerable mediocrity. The huge appeal now is of 12 rivals turning up with their slings aimed at Michael Stoute's colt.
This is not to say the race is a foregone conclusion, an element the favourite's connections understand more than most.
"Anything can go wrong in the build-up and even in the race things can happen," Michael Kinane, who will be at Entrepreneur's controls, says. "It's like Murphy's Law and anything that can go wrong will go wrong. At the same time you could not possibly swap my horse for anything else in the race because he's got the proper credentials going in.
"The speed he has shown has been remarkable for a horse who is supposedly bred for a mile and a half. But there is a question when a horse shows speed like that whether he has the stamina to back it up. That is a question that has to be on everybody's lips."
Jockeyship is at a premium on Epsom's devilish contours, though Kinane should not be disturbed by the size of the field, the smallest since Generous beat 12 rivals in 1991. Nevertheless, he understands there will be tripwires placed for him.
"Tactically, I see the jockeys on the horses who are definitely going to get the trip going out to make sure I stay," he says. "If you look at them they're not going to beat me for speed, so if I was the opposition, my tactics on the day would be trying to expose Entrepreneur's limitations. The only limitation it appears he might have is stamina."
There is enough hogwash talked about pedigrees in racing to fill the dining tables at a piggery, and the self-styled experts have been at it again in discussing Entrepreneur's genes. Some say he will not stay today's journey, some say he will, but none detail how inexact their science is and that Red Rum was bred to be a sprinter, and Vlad The Impaler's daddy may well have been a Transylvanian postmaster.
More important is Entrepreneur's style of running and in this respect he is remarkably similar to the 1989 2,000 Guineas and Derby winner, Nashwan. None of Entrepreneur's victories have been characterised by an instant burst of velocity, but rather a gradual building of irresistible acceleration, rather like a locomotive on the track. This suggests he might not only get the trip, but that he actually needs it to bring out his best.
There are, of course, others to consider, and the broad conviction seems to be that Silver Patriarch will give the favourite most to do. An indelible sensation from watching the grey's performances, however, is that he may be just a little bit slow. Certainly Barry Hills, who saddles two here, thinks that anyone who considers Silver Patriarch can beat Benny The Dip should be sharing a bunk bed with Charles Manson.
Silver Patriarch and Benny The Dip, who has always been considered a 10-furlong horse by his trainer, John Gosden, have both won recognised Derby trials, but the no-hoper Papua apart, they are the most experienced horses in the race. As Lammtarra and Shaamit have shown over the last two years, scores on the board are not a prerequisite for a modern-day Epsom winner.
A more reliable option is the progressive Cloudings, who has developed the facility for winning races with the least possible expenditure of energy. His last three victories have been collected by the maximum of a neck. The stock of Andre Fabre's colt rose dramatically last weekend with the result of the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby), and he will take advantage if the British horses, as Classic results on the Continent and Ireland have suggested thus far, are a moderate herd this year.
Out there on the domestic prairie though, it appears there is one animal with the capacity to enthral, a thoroughbred who has helped publicise the Derby like few others in recent years. Given the record of 2,000 Guineas winners going into the Derby, it will be no huge surprise if ENTREPRENEUR (nap 3.45) fails, though at the same time it would be a quite dreadful disappointment.
The financially uncommitted will surely hold the same aspirations as Michael Kinane this afternoon. "As the 2,000 Guineas was his first race of the year you would have to think that fitness-wise he would improve for it," the Irishman says. "If he does stay, and it turns out he wants to go a mile and a half, it could be that he is one of those exceptional horses we don't get very often."
VODAFONE DERBY STAKES (CLASS A) (Group 1) pounds 500,000n added 3YO colts & fillies 1m 4f 10yds Penalty value pounds 595,250n
1 1113-21 BENNY THE DIP (24) (Owner: Landon Knight) Trainer: J Gosden 9st W Ryan 8
Bay colt by Silver Hawk (whose progeny on average stay 1m 1.4f) out of Rascal Rascal (who was by Ack Ack)
Form: Won Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot (1m, good) last year. Was 11/2 lengths second to Voyagers Quest in the Group Three Classic Trial at Sandown (1m 2f, good to soft) before winning Group Two Dante Stakes at York (1m 2f 85yds, good) by 21/2 lengths from Desert Story. Summary: Stays 1m 2f well, but his pedigree suggests 1m 4f may stretch his stamina and his Dante form - using Desert Story as a yardstick - leaves him something to find with Entrepreneur. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 113
2 4-21 BOLD DEMAND (11) (Godolphin) Saeed bin Suroor 9st L Dettori 2
Bay colt by Rainbow Quest (1m 2.5f) out of Dafrah (Danzig)
Form: Finished three lengths second to Single Empire at Newmarket (1m 4f, good to firm) on his reappearance before beating Shaya by half a length in a Sandown (1m 2f, good to firm) maiden. Summary: Lightly-raced and is taking a big step up in class, tackling a Group One race after winning a maiden. Moreover, he has show signs of temperament - he flashes his tail under pressure. However, he is bred to stay 1m 4f and should win more races in easier company. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 107
3 41-11 CLOUDINGS (27) (Sheikh Mohammed) A Fabre (Fr) 9st O Peslier 14
Grey colt by Sadler's Wells (1m 2.8f) out of Ispahan (Rusticaro)
Form: Won valuable auction race at Deauville (1m, good to soft) last year. Won Listed race at Longchamp (1m 2f 110yds, good to firm) by a neck from Zenith and then landed Group One Prix Lupin at Longchamp (1m 2f 110yds, good to soft). Summary: His chance was boosted when stablemate Peintre Celebre won the Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby) on Sunday, with Astarabad - behind Cloudings in the Prix Lupin - a creditable third. Bred to stay 1m 4f and has each-way chance. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 119
4 41-521 CRYSTAL HEARTED (30) (Mrs C M Poland) H Candy 9st A McGlone 9
Bay colt by Broken Hearted (1m 1.6f) out of Crystal Fountain (Great Nephew)
Form: Progressive performer. Impressed last time when making all the running to win a three-runner Listed race at Chester (1m 2f 85yds, heavy) by 13 lengths from Barnum Sands. Summary: Progressive sort who clearly enjoys front-running and, a half-brother to the useful stayer High Fountain, seems to sure to stay 1m 4f well. He acts on good to firm ground as well as heavy but is tackling by far his toughest race here and may find a few too quick for him. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 108
5 411-1 ENTREPRENEUR (35) (M Tabor) M Stoute 9st M Kinane 13
Bay colt by Sadler's Wells (1m 2.8f) out of Exclusive Order (Exclusive Native)
Form: Won minor races at Kempton (7f, good) and Chester (7f 122yds, good) last year. Won Group One 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket (1m, good to firm) on his seasonal debut, always prominent, leading two furlongs out and staying on to hold Revoque by three-quarters of a length with Desert Story eight lengths back in sixth place. Summary: Won what looked, on the clock at least, a good 2,000 Guineas in style and is bred to be equally effective at 1m 4f. Should be hard to beat. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 125
6 12-1 FAHRIS (51) (Hamdan Al Maktoum) B Hanbury 9st R Hills 10
Chestnut colt by Generous (1m 1.9f) out of Janbiya (Kris)
Form: Won maiden at Salisbury (7f, firm) and beaten a neck in Listed race at Pontefract (1m, good) last year. Showed improved form on his seasonal debut when winning Listed Feilden Stakes at Newmarket (1m 1f, good to firm) by three lengths from Panama City. Summary: Has not run since April due to sinus problems but has recovered and is working well. His form leaves him something to find but he clocked a decent time in the Feilden and is bred to be even better at 1m 4f. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 112
7 51-13 MUSALSAL (24) (Maktoum Al Maktoum) B Hills 9st M Hills 6
Bay colt by Sadler's Wells (1m 2.8f) out of Ozone Friendly (Green Forest)
Form: Won at Doncaster (1m, good to firm) in March by a short-head from Handsome Ridge before finishing 31/4 lengths third to Benny The Dip in the Group Two Dante Stakes at York (1m 2f 85yds, good). Summary: Stayed on well in the Dante but his pedigree suggests that 1m 2f may be as far as he wants to go. Should win more races in lesser company but needs to improve out of all recognition if he is to pull off a shock victory here. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 108
8 215-324 PAPUA (28) (R Hitchens & E Hitchens) I Balding 9st G Carter 11
Chestnut colt by Green Dancer (1m 2.7f) out of Fairy Tern (Mill Reef)
Form: Won valuable 23-runner contest at Newmarket (7f, good to firm) last October. Was 13/4 lengths second of three to Palio Sky at Epsom (1m 4f 10yds, good to firm) in April but finished tailed off behind Silver Patriarch in the Group Three Lingfield Derby Trial (1m 3f 106yds, soft) last time. Summary: Summary: Stays 1m 4f and goes on good to firm ground but has had his limitations exposed in three starts this term and would have to improve massively to figure here. Going 4 Distance 4 Rating 104
9 113 ROMANOV (13) (R Sangster) P Chapple-Hyam 9st J Reid 7
Bay colt by Nureyev (7.6f) out of Morning Devotion (Affirmed)
Form: Won a maiden at Haydock (7f, soft) prior to winning at Sandown (1m, good). Showed improved form to finish five lengths third to Desert King in the Group One Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh (1m, good) last time. Summary: Smart colt who showed he is not far from top class in the Irish Guineas. Bred to stay 1m 2f, but will be very much venturing into unknown territory over 1m 4f and may not have the stamina to last home. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 110
10 411-31 SILVER PATRIARCH (28) (D) (P S Winfield) J Dunlop 9st Pat Eddery 5
Grey colt by Saddler's Hall (n/a) out of Early Rising (Grey Dawn II)
Form: Finished creditable 11/2 lengths third to Voyagers Quest and Benny The Dip in Group Three Classic Trial at Sandown (1m 2f, good to soft) on his reappearance prior to winning the Group Three Lingfield Derby Trial at Lingfield (1m 3f 106yds, soft) by seven lengths from Tanaasa. Summary: Smart colt who stays really well and may turn the tables on Benny The Dip over this longer trip. However, his best form is on soft ground and he may find a couple too quick for him. Going 8 Distance 4 Rating 109
11 1511 SINGLE EMPIRE (13) (D) (R Sangster) P Chapple-Hyam 9st D Harrison 4
Chestnut colt by Kris (1m 2f) out of Captive Island (Northfields)
Form: Won maiden at Kempton (1m 3f, good to firm) in March and stakes race at Newmarket (1m 4f, good to firm) before winning the Group One Derby Italiano in Rome (1m 4f, firm) by a short-head from Ungaro. Summary: Demonstrated he stays 1m 4f well and goes on fast ground when winning the Italian Derby. Tackles much tougher opposition here but may be capable of further improvement and must have each-way prospects. Going 4 Distance 4 Rating 109
12 323-1 SYMONDS INN (23) (Marquesa de Moratalla) J FitzGerald 9st K Fallon 1
Chestnut colt by In The Wings (1m 2.6f) out of Shining Eyes (Mr Prospector)
Form: Showed steadily improved form on each of his three outings last year and made a highly promising seasonal debut when staying on well in the closing stages to beat Shaya by 31/2 lengths in a stakes race at York (1m 2f 85yds, good). Summary: Is a difficult ride - he tends to hang and flash his tail under pressure - but clearly quite useful and is bred to stay 1m 4f. Needs to improve to take a hand in the finish. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 110
13 3-12 TANAASA (28) (Maktoum Al Maktoum) M Stoute 9st Doubtful 12
Bay colt by Sadler's Wells (1m 2.8f) out of Mesmerize (Mill Reef)
Form: Created a favourable impression when winning a maiden at Leicester (1m2f, good to soft) before finishing seven lengths second to Silver Patriarch in the Group Three Lingfield Derby Trial at Lingfield (1m 3f 106yds, soft). Summary: Was found to be lame on his right hind leg yesterday morning and, although declared as an intended runner at Thursday's 48-hour declaration stage, is extremely unlikely to take part. Going ? Distance 4 Rating 100
14 0114-1 THE FLY (25) (Mrs J M Corbett) B Hills 9st R Cochrane 3
Grey colt by Pharly (1m 2.7f) out of Nelly Do Da (Derring Do)
Form: Showed fair form last year. Put up a smart performance to win a valuable rated handicap at York (1m 2f 85yds, good) on his seasonal debut in a smart time by an easy two lengths from Silverani. Summary: Quickened up well to win in impressive style at York. Takes a massive step up in class here but effort on the clock at York suggests he is no forlorn hope and he is bred to stay 1m 4f. Could finish in the first three at a big price. Going 4 Distance ? Rating 110
- 14 declared -
BETTING: 4-5 Entrepreneur, 11-2 Silver Patriarch, 7-1 Benny The Dip, 10-1 Cloudings, 12-1 Fahris, 20-1 Bold Demand, 25-1 Symonds Inn, The Fly, 28-1 Romanov, 33-1 Musalsal, Single Empire, 66-1 Crystal Hearted, 200- 1 Papua
1996: Shaamit 3 9 0 M Hills 12-1 (W Haggas) 20 ran Compiled by Ian Davies
FIRST SHOW ON THE DERBY
Horse (Trainer) Coral William Hill Ladbrokes Tote
Entrepreneur (M Stoute) 4-5 4-5 4-5 evens
Silver Patriarch (J Dunlop) 5-1 11-2 6-1 5-1
Benny The Dip (J Gosden) 7-1 7-1 8-1 7-1
Cloudings (A Fabre/Fr) 11-1 11-1 9-1 10-1
Fahris (B Hanbury) 12-1 12-1 14-1 12-1
Bold Demand (Saeed bin Suroor) 25-1 20-1 16-1 25-1
Symonds Inn (J Fitzgerald) 22-1 28-1 28-1 18-1
Musalsal (B Hills) 25-1 33-1 33-1 33-1
Romanov (P Chapple-Hyam) 33-1 28-1 25-1 33-1
The Fly (B Hills) 33-1 22-1 20-1 20-1
Single Empire (P Chapple-Hyam) 33-1 33-1 40-1 33-1
Crystal Hearted (M Stoute) 80-1 66-1 66-1 50-1
Papua (I Balding) 200-1 200-1 250-1 200-1
Tanaasa (M Stoute) doubtful doubtful doubtful doubtful
Each-way a quarter the odds, places 1, 2, 3
THE EXPERTS' PREDICTIONS
3. Benny The Dip
1. The Fly
Single EmpireReuse content