THE field for this afternoon’s Investec Derby Trial (3.20pm) is a definite improvement on the last few years and it looks like a really competitive race. The racecourse and the sponsors have increased prize money by £20,000 and winning connections will be offered a wild-card entry into the Investec Derby, if not already entered.
There are three Derby entries in the field and unsurprisingly they look as though they will be the three market leaders. Aidan O’Brien is sending over Thomasgainsborough, the Dansili colt that won his maiden on softish ground at Leopardstown in October. Anything Ballydoyle bring over here has to be respected, but he has to give 2lb to two potentially smart rivals.
Unex Michelangelo is the highest rated in the field and he’s another who should relish the conditions. The worry with him is that the rest of the field have all had a run this term and he could just struggle to match them for fitness.
Roger Varian made a flying start to his training career last season, taking up the mantle from his predecessor, the late Michael Jarvis. He has continued this campaign in a similarly rich vein of form with a strike-rate of 37.5 per cent thanks to nine wins from 24 runners.
One of his most impressive winners was CAMERON HIGHLAND who demolished his opposition at Redcar earlier this month. That was a performance that oozed class and although he should improve for better ground, he handled cut well enough that day. He is entered in the Investec Derby and if he wins as I expect him to this afternoon he should be coming back here in just over a month.
Richard Hannon’s Mister Music is the only course winner in the line-up and he finished second in the Listed Blue Square Feilden Stakes at Newmarket last week. He is not without a chance, but has to prove himself on soft ground, as well as conceding weight to four of his opponents.
Cravat is the most experienced in the field, but he looks fairly exposed and didn’t show much on his seasonal reappearance at Musselburgh, while Goldoni has struggled slightly the two times he’s raced on soft ground.
We’re now just over five weeks away from the Investec Derby and the excitement continues to build. The big question at the moment is whether Camelot will run in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas, but the way the betting markets are shaping up it’s looking increasingly likely that he will go to Newmarket.
If Ballydoyle’s big hope wins well at HQ then he is going to be a much shorter price than the current 2/1 available with Coral for Epsom glory, as his breeding suggests the
Derby trip will suit him down to the ground.
The Irish look to hold a particularly strong hand this year with Jim Bolger’s Dewhurst winner Parish Hall and John Oxx’s duo Akeed Mofeed and Born To Sea all prominent in the ante-post lists. We’ll be taking a closer look at the big one nearer the time, but the next few weeks promise to be very interesting.
I’ll be at Epsom today, so follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my views.