A horse fit for a Queen

THE Investec Derby is just over two weeks away and the world’s greatest flat race, held at Epsom for over 200 years, may be about to have its most famous winner.

Carlton House, bred by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud operation and the red-hot 7/4 favourite with William Hill to land the mile and a half classic, is owned by the Queen. Her Majesty will be attempting to land racing’s most famous prize (Aureole’s second place finish in 1953 is her best attempt to date) with her 10th runner, but the feeling is she may finally have found the key to the treasured prize in her 86th year.

The son of Street Cry looked a picture of health as he was put through his paces in glorious sunshine on Newmarket Heath yesterday morning, but his handler Sir Michael Stoute isn’t distracted by the added media attention and expectation. “Of course I’m aware of the interest in this fellow,” he tells me, “but hopefully the horse isn’t.”

Stoute saddled Shergar to victory in the Derby exactly 30 years ago but won’t be drawn on any comparisons on pre-race pressure. Anyway, he’s now saddled five winners of the world’s premier race and you get the feeling that he reckons number six is within touching distance. “He’s got a good temperament, a good mind and a turn of foot,” he reassures me.

The Dante at York was a slowly run race which Stoute admits is never conclusive. “How good a performance it was we just don’t know,” he warns. “However, he was in good form going into it and has come through it really well.”

Carlton House will be ridden on the big day by last year’s winning jockey Ryan Moore who was also present alongside Stoute on the Heath. The shy, but hugely talented former champion jockey has ridden for the Queen since he was 18 years old and isn’t fazed by the assignment. “I’ll treat it just like any other race, riding for any other owner. I have ridden for Her Majesty for a long time now and I’m at ease with her.”

Trying to compare last year’s winner Workforce with Carlton House isn’t easy as the former is far bigger and probably doesn’t have the agility of the young pretender. However, Moore is relishing the leg up on the Queen’s colt and feels he has every reason to be confident. At the same time he reminded me that, “it’s only a horse race” and “what will be, will be.”

Yet, he freely admits that the Investec Derby is the race that every jockey wants to win. “The Derby is the Derby,” he stresses. “It is quite simply the biggest race in the world.”

Don’t forget to download Epsom’s iPhone App before you attend the Investec Derby Festival. From racecards to latest odds and results to videos and photos, it has all the information you’ll ever need.

You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile.