Ever since connections of Frankel decided against stretching out his phenomenal speed, the Investec Derby has seemed only to draft characters in search of a plot. All that is supposed to change at York today, however, when a warm favourite will surely volunteer himself from the convergence, in the Totesport Dante Stakes, of three of the first four in the Epsom betting. Certainly, it is an engrossing race – and a most unusual one, too, in that the odds should implore all self-respecting punters to the same conclusion.
Two of the three colts in question represent powerful Newmarket stables, and are preceded by big reputations. Having won their maidens in terrific style, moreover, both World Domination and Carlton House appear to have offered public corroboration for all the chat. But the cold fact of the matter is that there are dozens of impressive maiden winners every season, and the form of this pair for now leaves them plenty to find with Seville.
When set his first test in elite company, in the Racing Post Trophy last autumn, the Ballydoyle colt had himself won a maiden in runaway fashion. Raised in class at Doncaster, he was briefly taken off his feet but regrouped and kept responding to follow home the then unbeaten Casamento. Like Frankel, he is a son of Galileo, but his maternal pedigree – and more indolent style of racing – guarantees improvement over middle distances. The long, galloping straight here should allow Christophe Soumillon to wind him up through the gears, and establish whether these flashy, untested rivals have substance to match their style.
The fact that Carlton House is owned by the monarch has doubtless fuelled some of the hype, but he certainly looked the part in rolling nine lengths clear of a big field on soft ground at Newbury last autumn. The runner-up, Yaseer, is rated good enough to follow him here, having since managed third in the Craven Stakes. But Yaseer had an educational ride through beaten horses at Newbury and, as a very late foal, is expected to prove a different colt with time and distance.
World Domination did not make his debut until last month, likewise at Newbury, and it was certainly a scintillating display. His emergence for the same connections may well have contributed to their decision not to aim Frankel at Epsom, and you have to respect their judgement. In summary, both Carlton House and World Domination are entitled to prove themselves legitimate Derby colts today. As things stand, however, to make them basically the same price as Seville is a joke.
There was a cautionary tale here yesterday in the equivalent trial for fillies, the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes. Arizona Jewel, a maiden winner representing the same men as World Domination today, was going best on the home turn, but was ultimately left well behind as Joviality just shaded the experienced Group performer Barefoot Lady in an unsparing duel through the final furlong.
John Gosden will now keep Joviality at this intermediate distance in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly. "That was the top end of her trip," he said. "And that other filly wasn't going to go away – she was like a terrier. We got lucky on the nod, but we really like the way our horse has developed this spring. She was terribly big and weak last year, and we only got one run into her, but she has really come together now."
With all the trials now run, it is worth reiterating thatWonder Of Wonders' performance at Chester last week identifies her as clearly the biggest threat to Blue Bunting, the 1,000 Guineas winner. She can still be backed at 5-1 in places, but will surely start a good deal shorter on the day.
In fairness, Zain Al Boldan made a startling impression at Lingfield last Saturday – visually, at least – and her stable exalted another Folkestone winner to impress in a higher grade here when Gatepost beat several other winners in the novice race. He looks Royal Ascot material, and that meeting also beckons Delegator after he finally confirmed that sprinting is his true metier – as long suspected – in the Duke Of York Blue Square Stakes. Always coasting, he closed along the rail to beat Regal Parade half a length, and faster ground will help his cause in the Golden Jubilee Stakes.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Sacred Shield (2.10 Salisbury) With a classy pedigree and connections, she can improve past modest rating earned at Wolverhampton last month.
Descaro (4.45 York)
One to watch
Rossetti (James Fanshawe) Looked ready for another furlong when caught out by a false pace, finding top gear just too late, at Warwick last weekend.
Where the money's going
Seville is 6-1 from 7-1 for the Investec Derby with Sky Bet.