With just 17 days left until the Derby, time is running out for contenders to hammer their marker stakes into the potential goldfield of the £1.25 million race. One of the last opportunities on the domestic front comes this afternoon, when four contenders for the Investec-sponsored Classic take their chance in a trial at Goodwood. All are long-shots but two of them, Kalypso King and Rashaad, were added to the entry list last month at a cost of £8,000 apiece. Their connections have clearly seen something glinting; by tea-time they should know whether it was the real thing or merely iron pyrites.
Kalypso King, currently 50-1 for the Derby, represents the Richard Hannon stable, an operation which, though prolific in the two-year-old department and adept at producing high-class milers, is not so readily associated with top-class middle-distance talent. Hannon has had just six runners in the last 20 Derbies, most recently King's Quay, who started at 150-1 five years ago and beat two home.
Today's grey, whose dam Kalypso Katie beat all bar Love Divine in the Oaks 10 years ago, will be racing for the first time since running second at Newmarket last October. Before that, the son of Giant's Causeway had won his maiden, over a mile, by seven lengths. "He's done well over the winter," Hannon said, "and we thought he deserved at least a Derby entry. He showed plenty of speed last year but I'm hopeful he'll stay."
Stoutly-bred Rashaad, by American stamina influence Smart Strike out of a half-sister to high-class Muhtarram, scored on his only run last year and reappeared with a third place at Newmarket earlier this month, producing a sound, progressive effort. That is more that can be said for his fellow Hamdan al-Maktoum colour-bearer Waseet; the flashy white-faced Selkirk chestnut is on the redemption trail after trailing in last in the Sandown trial in April.
"He was, frankly, disappointing that day," said the Sheikh's racing manager, Angus Gold. "He ran too keen. But he's been fine since, so we'll see how he goes this time. Rashaad is an improving horse, and this race will tell us if he's going to be able to scale loftier heights."
The fourth Derby entry in today's field, Averroes, has failed to win two handicaps so far this season. The Epsom field, currently 128-strong, will doubtless be considerably reduced tomorrow at noon, the deadline for the second scratchings stage.
Before that, Henry Cecil will have a better idea as to whether his charge Bullet Train will be on track for the premier Classic; the Lingfield trial winner, currently the shortest-priced of the home side at 10-1, is scheduled to have a crucial workout on the Newmarket gallops this morning.
The three horses ahead of him in the market – St Nicholas Abbey, Cape Blanco and Midas Touch – all hail from Ballydoyle and such is Aidan O'Brien's perceived dominance of this year's race that one bookmaking firm, Skybet, makes him only a 9-1 shot to train the first three home. O'Brien has achieved that feat in the Irish Derby, but it has never been done at Epsom, though the Irishman became the first for 54 years to saddle a one-two when High Chaparral beat Hawk Wing in 2002.
There were 20 fillies left in Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas after yesterday's penultimate declarations, with Seta, disappointing as second favourite in the Rowley Mile original 16 days ago, and Tabassum the highest-profile absentees. Oaks prospect Gile Na Greine (Jim Bolger), a close third at Newmarket, and Music Show (Mick Channon), whose sixth place was the best of those who raced on the unfavourable centre strip, are set to renew rivalry.
The British raider heads the market at 4-1, with Gile Na Greine and yesterday's two supplementary (at a cost of €32,500) entries Lolly For Dolly (Tommy Stack) and Anna Salai (Godolphin) jostling for second spot.
Sue Montgomery's Nap
Thaahira (2.35 Goodwood) One of the least experienced in the field but looked a high-class prospect to break her maiden at Chester and can take this on her way up the ladder.
Kiss A Prince (5.20 Lingfield) Dual-course winner who returns to his favoured all-weather surface after blowing the cobwebs away in a novelty contest at Sandown.
One to watch
Nesno (M Dods) Can be rated better than his close fourth place at Nottingham, having veered in the closing stages. It seemed an improved effort on his first run for his present yard and he should remain well-handicapped.
Where the money's going
The mover in the Derby market yesterday was Dee Stakes winner Azmeel, cut by Victor Chandler from 20-1 to 14-1.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Soul Station (3.10 Goodwood)