At long last, a horse of genuine Derby class stepped up to the plate at the Knavesmire when Golden Horn made short work of other pretenders in the Dante Stakes, leaving jockey William Buick purring: “He has so many gears; it was just point and shoot.”
The trouble is, the horse is not even entered for the Epsom classic and the way his owner was talking afterwards, he might not be.
So, rather than clarification, there remains confusion in the Derby market, with Golden Horn quoted generally at 2-1 with a run. That gives punters a money-back guarantee if owner Anthony Oppenheimer fails to stump up the £75,000 supplementary fee at the five-day declaration stage.
Runner-up and deposed Derby favourite Jack Hobbs, also trained by John Gosden, is not certain to line up on 6 June either. There’s a feeling in the camp that he might not be ready for the peculiar demands of Epsom and may wait instead for Royal Ascot.
Gosden said: “I would have no qualms about running Golden Horn in the Derby. He’s a neat, well-balanced horse and William said he hit the line strong. I can see the logic in supplementing him.
“But it’s up to Mr Oppenheimer and he has been adamant all along that he is a 10-furlong horse and should run in the French Derby instead.
“I knew they might be first and second after Golden Horn’s sensational piece of work last Friday, but I wasn’t sure in which order. Jack Hobbs is still babyish and green and might be better off going for the King Edward VII Stakes. We all just need to go away and think about it.”
Oppenheimer is happy with that. “I don’t think any of the family stayed further than 10 furlongs, but he did finish off the race well,” he said.
On paper this looked a proper Derby trial, with Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs comfortably ahead of solid yardstick Elm Park, with the first three finishing way clear of the remainder, which included the disappointing Ballydoyle pair Ol’ Man River and John F Kennedy.
Andrew Balding has not given up on Elm Park as a Derby horse, though. “He got tired, which he was entitled to on his first run of the season, and was beaten by two good horses,” he said. “He should come on a bundle, so Epsom here we come.”
Attention now turns to the stayers in the Yorkshire Cup and in particular Brown Panther, going for his sixth Group win.
He faces a real test giving weight to the four-year-olds Romsdal and Snow Sky, both placed in the St Leger last September, but looked as good as ever when scoring decisively at Meydan last time and will not be ousted easily.
Saturday's Group One Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, with prize money boosted to £350,000, has attracted a record 18 runners, headed by Night Of Thunder, seeking his first win since his shock triumph in last May’s 2,000 Guineas.Reuse content