So many people seem to have decided that Carlton House only has to turn up to win the Investec Derby – and a meteoric piece of work yesterday did little to discourage them – that it seems proper for them to be reminded that for the moment he remains behind another colt in his own stable. The reappearance of Workforce at Sandown this evening should perhaps be treated as a timely corrective to the hype. For there appears to be every chance you will be offered roughly the same sort of price against Workforce to beat Group Three rivals for the Piper Heidsieck Brigadier Gerard Stakes as against Carlton House at Epsom on Saturday week. Yet Workforce not only won the Derby last year, he careered home by seven lengths, and then proceeded to add the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on only his fifth start.
True, their trainer yesterday admitted frank reservations about the assignment he has set Workforce, under a 7lb penalty. Sir Michael Stoute reckons the son of King's Best "will really need" the run, and one or two rivals are certainly competent to make a nuisance of themselves at their best. Some punters, moreover, will still be remembering that unaccountably poor run at Ascot last July; and Workforce had previously required excuses when beaten on his reappearance in the Dante Stakes. That was the last time he ran over 10 furlongs, which would appear a bare minimum even granted the stiff finish here.
Whatever happens, it is marvellous he has stayed in training to contribute – along with Goldikova, Canford Cliffs and an exceptional team of older horses at Ballydoyle – to a formidable standard for Frankel, and Carlton House, or whichever of their contemporaries actually wins the Derby to match. Workforce himself was always guaranteed to thrive physically as he matured and can hardly have exhausted his potential after such a light career.
It would be perfectly pardonable for him to go down narrowly tonight. Stoute gave him a good break after his trip to Kentucky in November – when he was ultimately scratched, with the Breeders' Cup Turf apparently on a plate, because of firm going – and nobody would expect him to be given too hard a race first time out. His class may well get him home, but those determined to have a bet might prove better off with an each-way interest in Jan Vermeer.
Though well held in fourth behind Workforce at Epsom, both his subsequent starts over a mile and a half suggested that he might not be seeing out the trip. He had shown that he goes well fresh when impressing on his reappearance, and had the speed to win a Group One by four lengths as a two-year-old. With his stable in such good form, he looks a good opportunity for William Buick, the latest beneficiary of Ballydoyle's present policy, especially overseas, of using the best available.
The stable's owners continue to ponder their Derby options, albeit their best candidate may well prove to be Pour Moi, trained in France by André Fabre. He was due to go on reconnaissance round Tattenham Corner this morning. As for Carlton House, in his final serious gallop before the big day he blasted around a dozen lengths clear of a reliable lead horse over seven furlongs.
An excellent supporting card at Sandown tonight includes a Listed juvenile sprint – where shares in Magic City and Pyman's Theory respectively make friendly rivals of Sir Alex Ferguson and Michael Owen. The chances are, however, that the fastest young colt in action today will be Gentlemans Code, whose Royal Ascot preparation introduces the American Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith to no less a backwater than Folkestone.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Final Liberation (3.10 Brighton) A familiar profile for his trainer, sure to show true colours raised in trip.
Julienas (8.45 Sandown) Made a promising reappearance when third over course and distance.
One to watch
Orpsie Boy (Ruth Carr) Suggested he can resume his revival when finishing well at Haydock on Saturday.
Where the money's going
Beatrice Aurora is 16-1 from 20-1 with William Hill for the Investec Oaks.
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