Enough of this craziness. After a series of red herrings and wrong turnings, the Dante Stakes at the Knavesmire, the final clue in this year’s Derby mystery, will reveal the identities of the characters set to dominate the Epsom classic on 6 June.
At least that is what those craving order among the chaos would like to see happen, not least John Gosden, whose Jack Hobbs, the winner of a middling Sandown handicap, has been elevated to Derby favouritism pretty much by default as, one by one, the supposed leading contenders, most from Ballydoyle, have blotted their copybooks or fallen by the wayside altogether.
“Jack Hobbs favourite? It’s a bit silly,” said Gosden here yesterday. “In reality, there is no Derby market and there won’t be until four o’clock tomorrow. Anything that wins well should be the new favourite and with the ground just on the slow side of good, there will be no excuses.”
A few short months ago Aidan O’Brien had six of the first seven in the betting for our premier classic, but the story has changed so dramatically following a series of shock Ballydoyle reverses that John F Kennedy and Ol’ Man River are this afternoon seeking to restore tarnished reputations rather than taking starring roles.
Gosden also runs Golden Horn, likewise unbeaten from two starts, while last year’s Racing Post Trophy winner, Elm Park, has his final prep here after being withdrawn from the 2,000 Guineas because of fast ground.
“This trip is spot on for Golden Horn [not entered for the Derby]. He’s just clicked – his work last Friday was exceptional – and I could see him winning this,” added the trainer. “There’s a bit of confusion about Jack Hobbs’ stamina on breeding, but he has hinted to me that he will stay. But I stress again, both are works in progress.”
Cynics might say that Elm Park is not part of this Derby disorder only because he hasn’t had his own chance to mess up yet. Messages are mixed: he failed to sparkle in a racecourse gallop and some suspect he won’t be quick enough for these upcoming tests. But then again, he is the only Group One winner in today’s line-up and, for this brief moment at least, he looks to be the most solid prospect for both the Dante and the Derby.
One thing we know for sure is that Gosden has his team in excellent nick. Mahsoob suggested as much when swooping late to land yesterday’s opener (next stop the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot) and then Star Of Seville underlined her already decent Oaks claims by making all the running in the Musidora Stakes under Frankie Dettori.
Ballydoyle’s Together Forever, conceding 4lb, made a real race of it – closing in as Star Of Seville faltered in the closing stages and losing out by just a head – and her connections are entitled to believe she can turn the tables at Epsom at level weights, but Gosden insisted: “Our filly just got lonely out in front. I think she had a bit up her sleeve.”
Dettori was impressed: “I really like her and the thing is, you don’t know how much more there is in the tank. She’s a well-balanced filly with a good attitude and I don’t think Epsom will be any problem at all.”
The Duke Of York Stakes featured several new faces tipped for top sprinting honours this summer, but the lightly-raced grey Glass Office (40-1), having just his third race in 21 months, saw them all off, pouncing late to nail Mattmu, the only three-year-old in the field.Reuse content