CARLTON House, the horse gifted to the Queen as a yearling by Sheikh Mohammed, can brush aside his recent injury scare and finally land the world’s most famous race for his most passionate of owners.
As far as the classics are concerned, Her Majesty has done far better with fillies than with colts. Her first success at this level came in the 1957 Oaks and she was to land the same race, and the St Leger, 20 years later with Dunfermline. Pall Mall has been her only classic winning colt, but over 50 years have passed since the 1958 2000 Guineas and she has not been able to better Aureole’s second place finish in this race back in 1953.
However, in Carlton House, she appears to have found the key to racing’s biggest prize in her 86th year. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt was only second on his racecourse debut at Salisbury at the back-end of last season, but looked the real deal on his next start. He spread-eagled a decent looking field in a Newbury maiden that day on his final outing as a two-year-old and the Investec Derby became a very real dream.
He reappeared this season in the Dante, traditionally the most informative of Derby trials, and showed acceleration and bravery when barging his way through a tight gap to see off Seville.
The only negatives that day were his reluctance to enter the stalls initially and his inability to settle in the early stages. Yet, his trainer is a master at ironing out those sorts of quirks and will be confident of registering his sixth Derby success and the Queen's first.
The recent injury scare has to be a slight worry, but it’s hugely unlikely that connections would risk such a talented horse and I expect him to win at shorter than the 3/1 currently on offer with William Hill. Anyway, it has to be remembered that the same stable encountered a similar last minute hitch (a bruised foot) with Kris Kin back in 2003, but the history books show he brushed aside that problem.
Looking at his opposition and the market suggests he has the most to fear from the French-trained Pour Moi. However, Andre Fabre doesn’t have a great Epsom record and only has Visindar's fifth place finish in 2006 to show from nine attempts in 30 years. Admittedly, Fabre has gone on record saying that this fellow is the best chance he has ever had, but he is short at 6/1 with Hills for a horse who doesn’t have that much in the way of form in the book.
I reckon his biggest threat is the Aidan O’Brien trained Recital who won the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud by five lengths on only his second racecourse appearance. It’s also significant that jockey Kieren Fallon has jumped off 2000 Guineas third Native Khan to take the ride.
Fallon was on board when he won the Derrinstown, a race O'Brien has traditionally used as the stepping stone for his number one Epsom contender, but he looked a tricky ride.
Worryingly, he had also looked difficult to steer when losing his unbeaten record in his previous start under Ryan Moore in the Ballysax. However, he does have bundles of talent and will surely be right in the mix.
Finally, the one horse I feel can take a hand in the finish, at a decent price, is Chester Vase winner Treasure Beach. His stamina and bravery can make up for a possible lack of true class. There won’t be many finishing the race stronger.
You can follow me live from Epsom on Twitter @Bill Esdaile