NOT since 2003 has a bigger field lined for today's Investec Derby (4.30pm) which is being billed as the most open in years.
A total of 19 stood their ground yesterday including six for Aidan O’Brien and five for John Gosden who between them have won four of the last five renewals.
Picking the best of the Ballydoyle contingent is no easy task with CLIFFS OF MOHER looking the most obvious now he has been confirmed as the mount of Ryan Moore.
He was workmanlike rather than impressive in the Dee Stakes at Chester, but connections were quick to stress afterwards that of all their runners in the trials, he was the most behind with his work.
If there is a slight negative, it would be that he is not a guaranteed stayer and we are taking it on trust that he has matured physically and mentally since Chester.
It can certainly be argued that VENICE BEACH achieved as much as his more fancied stablemate did at Chester when grimly repelling all raiders in the Vase.
He has proven himself already as a dour stayer and may take plenty of catching from a prominent position up front.
At 16/1 with 188BET he looks a rock-solid each-way proposition with no stamina doubts.
If plenty of rain materialises on late Friday afternoon, then a serious case can be made for another Ballydoyle runner in Capri who looks to be crying out for this step up in trip.
However, the entire O’Brien team may have their work cut out to prevent John Gosden and Frankie Dettori from landing another Investec Derby with the lightly-raced CRACKSMAN.
The pair landed the world’s most famous flat race back in 2015 with Golden Horn and this son of Frankel carries those now famous Oppenheimer colours.
Cracksman won his only start as a two-year-old and somehow managed to reel in Permian here at Epsom in the Investec Derby Trial back in April.
He missed his trial in the Dante Stakes at York as the ground was deemed too soft to risk so close to this assignment and his trainer did not want him to have too hard a race.
After a recent spin around the track at Breakfast with the Stars, he looks a leading player if he can overcome his lack of experience.
Saeed bin Suroor is set to saddle Benbatl, Best Solution and the once-raced Dubai Thunder.
Benbatl doesn’t look like he is crying out to be stepped up in trip, while Dubai Thunder looks an exciting prospect for the future but this will surely come too soon in his career.
Best Solution, on the other hand, seemed to have improved for a winter in Dubai when winning the Lingfield Derby Trial and looks the clear pick of the three.
The 2000 Guineas has long been described as the best trial for the Derby with recent winners Australia, Camelot, Sea The Stars, New Approach and Sir Percy all using that race as a stepping stone.
Eminent, another son of Frankel, finished sixth behind Churchill at Newmarket having won the Craven Stakes at Newmarket in a record time on his reappearance.
His trainer is adamant he needs this step up in, but whether he will be as effective over this far remains to be seen.
One thing is for certain, if he does stay, they all have him to beat in what looks a fascinating race.
Bill Esdaile's 1-2-3
2. Venice Beach
3. Cliffs Of Moher