Balding pinning Epsom dreams on Elm Park

Bill Esdaile
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Balding saddled Bonfire to sixth in the 2012 Investec Derby
Bill Esdaile visited the Investec Derby hopeful’s trainer to discuss tomorrow’s Dante Stakes at York

HAVING missed the 2000 Guineas because of the fast underfoot conditions, Elm Park will finally put his Investec Derby credentials on the line at York tomorrow when he faces seven rivals in the Dante Stakes.

“I’m very happy with the horse, but obviously it’s a bit tricky having had him at his peak for the Guineas to then end up missing the race,” his trainer Andrew Balding said yesterday. “In those circumstances it’s quite difficult to know what to do with him, or what not to do with him.”

Elm Park, who is available at 8/1 with Betway for his date with destiny at Epsom on the first Saturday in June, has not been seen since winning the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October and his handler is desperate to get a run under his belt.

“The main thing is the horse needs to run now and get his season going with the Investec Derby in mind,” said 42-year-old Balding, whose father Ian famously saddled Mill Reef to win the 1971 Derby.

“Whatever happens at York, he’ll come on for it and if he runs to expectations, then I’m confident he’ll be very competitive.”

Balding, who saddled Bonfire to finish sixth in the 2012 Investec Derby, knew as far back as spring last year that he was dealing with a potentially special horse who has always done everything very easily.

“He’s a horse with a big engine – simple as that. The Royal Lodge has been the only race in which he’s actually had to dig deep to win, but that was largely down to the ground. The form of all his races seems to have been franked and there is enough collateral evidence to suggest that he is a very exciting horse,” added Balding.

Even though he is, quite rightly, not too keen to look beyond tomorrow’s engagement over a mile and a quarter on the Knavesmire, he has every reason to believe that his charge will handle the track at Epsom and stay the Derby trip.

“He is a horse who is very deliberate when he changes his legs, but once he’s organised, he’s fine,” Balding said.

“As for the trip, he certainly stayed a mile well last season and I’d be hopeful as his father stayed a mile and a half well.

“I suppose there could be doubts if you study the dam’s side. However, the only way to find out is to try it and it’s amazing to have a horse that might go to Epsom with a very real chance.”