Tag Archive for: Derby

Teal planning Eclipse challenge with Dancing Gemini

Roger Teal is eyeing up a crack at the Coral-Eclipse for Dancing Gemini who ran with credit to finish sixth in the Derby on Saturday.

Having already run a huge race this season to be an unlucky second in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas), he stepped up half a mile in trip at Epsom.

Drawn in stall 15, Dylan Browne McMonagle had to take his medicine and found himself at the back of the pack before working his way into contention with a furlong to run, only to fade in the final 100 yards behind impressive winner City Of Troy.

“He seems fine, all is good with him,” said Teal.

“He made up a lot of ground but we were just in the wrong position on the track and he had to use up a lot of horse to get into a position and then he weakened close home.

“He’d made a big effort to get among the placings but it didn’t go as smooth as we would have liked. It was a big field and there was a lot of congestion around Tattenham Corner, he ended up going wider than he would have liked.

“What he has shown is that he belongs in those races, he hasn’t disgraced us at all and he ran with credit. With a clearer run he might have been placed.”

Looking towards the future, Teal said: “Timing-wise I think the Eclipse looks the favourable race to go for.

“We had him in the St James’s Palace but we took him out as we thought he’d probably have a hard race in the Derby and it would come too quick. The Eclipse gives us time to freshen him up so as we stand, that’s his target at the moment.

“I’m not sure where the winner will go, possibly the Irish Derby. I just thought he had a bad day at Newmarket, I never bought into the fact he hadn’t trained on. Had he won the Guineas ironically there might have only been eight runners in the Derby which would have suited us but because he got beat a few more threw their hat in the ring.”

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Monday Musings: Of God and the Alchemist!

Who is Celia? What is she? Or rather where is she? The one-time lady amateur rider and walk-on or pub-customer extra in Eastenders (and other TV series) played a massive part in my life, writes Tony Stafford. I’m sure she had/has no idea and even the Internet didn’t help me track her down. But Saturday relegated her to the second half of this two-in-one article. You’ll see why shortly.

Having made almost fanatically-extravagant judgment based on his two-year-old performances – the best two-year-old I’ve ever seen, I suggested – the abject failure of City Of Troy in the 2000 Guineas five weeks ago could surely only bring an early hasty rush off to stud. That would have been the normal obvious course of action.

But then his trainer is Aidan O’Brien. Never did he – outwardly, at least – question his horse, just himself for not putting in the required amount of tough work into a potential Classic winner in the weeks leading up to Newmarket.

So, they gathered at Epsom, for some reason suggesting the draw in stall one was a big disadvantage. Why? Didn’t Oath win from there in 1999, causing your correspondent and the Henry Cecil/ Thoroughbred Corporation horse’s groom to dance around in delight. We’d watched his win on the tiny TV screen on the jockeys’ room glass wall just behind the unsaddling circle that has been home to the greats: Nijinsky, Shergar and Galileo himself in 2001, the first of ten winners for Aidan and the Coolmore partners.

Only two of those came before Camelot in 2012, a ten-year gap for O’Brien from High Chaparral in the year after Galileo, but eight of the next 13 giving testimony, if any was needed, of the trainer’s uniqueness.

Two of the Coolmore ownership group also had a bonus win with Pour Moi in 2011, trained by Andre Fabre, putting Sue Magnier (the great Vincent’s daughter) and Michael Tabor ahead of the trainer as the winning-most pair in the race’s 240-year history.

By the time Aidan has finished, he will have set records never to be broken - of that I am sure - as by the time it could be possible, racing will be staged on AI tracks with AI horses - with no trainer or jockey in sight.

First the race. Ryan Moore on the only lightly-backed favourite (3/1 about a horse that was odds-on for the Guineas, “unbelievable”) as Jonno Mills of the Rabbah (Godolphin-lite) operation reflected afterwards, though not before – was allowed to start slowly.

In all his races – the three as a juvenile and the Guineas, he raced towards or at the front. Now, tackling another half-mile, he had to learn on the job, coming from behind as his stablemates Euphoric and the previously unbeaten Los Angeles set a strong pace.

He came down the hill nicely, switched inside early in the straight and had the speed to stride through gaps where an ordinary staying horse might have been less malleable.

Passing Los Angeles between the two and one-furlong poles, he was quickly clear and just needed to be kept going by Ryan (Derby number four for him) to remain almost three lengths ahead of the Bill Gredley/James Fanshawe Lingfield Derby Trial winner Ambiente Friendly.

Third was Los Angeles, six lengths in the end behind his stable-mate and then the two Ahmad Al Sheikh horses, one each for Andrew Balding and Owen Burrows. Sixth, having come from miles back but then looking like he didn't quite get home, was Roger Teal’s Dancing Gemini who must be a banker for a big prize in a Group 1 over ten furlongs.

Bill Gredley, at 91, had to have been hopeful as his colt came there cantering, but Ryan on his inside was always finding that little more speed. Still, it was great that Rab Havlin, parachuted in to replace his Lingfield rider Callum Shepherd, enjoyed such a wonderful ride in a Derby.

Havlin, so often the back-up to Frankie Dettori – did we miss him as he won a couple of races across the Atlantic? I think not - gave his mount an impeccable ride through. Rider was as flawless as his always flamboyant owner had looked resplendent in the paddock in the only bright red trousers on view. You’d probably have had to scour the well-patronised funfair areas on the inside of the track to find a pair to match them!

As I’ve mentioned before, Bill Gredley started life in Poplar, East London, not far from Michael Tabor’s birthplace in Forest Gate – Stratford coming in between. Joining Michael as ever, were his racecourse pals, all of whom he has known since the 1980’s at least, including Maurice Manasseh, even with him for the Florida Derby that Thunder Gulch achieved under 'Money' Mike Smith for D. Wayne Lukas in 1995, before adding the Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Travers later in the year.

Just two years later, having been (as ever, shrewdly as it turns out) identified by John Magnier as a potential partner as the old Robert Sangster/ Vincent O’Brien era at Ballydoyle/Coolmore was starting to unravel, the two-man ownership team won successive 2000 Guineas with Entrepreneur and King Of Kings. I’ll never forget the former as my eldest grandson was born at 3 a.m. the next morning less than an hour’s drive away.

The succession at Coolmore seems firmly in place. MV Magnier does most of the recruiting and brother JP also has plenty to say behind the scenes. John and Sue’s son-in-law David Wachman, a highly successful trainer before retiring as a younger man, is also in the back-up team. David’s young family are all outstanding in the field of equestrianism, so much so that Grandpa John prefers watching their exploits than some of even the biggest race days his horses contest.

Derrick Smith, delighted to be in attendance on Saturday, as he had been in Louisville when Sierra Leone gave the partners a close second on the same evening as the Guineas debacle, has son Paul and enthusiastic grandsons – all there on Saturday - to pass on the baton when the time comes, as it inevitably will.

Meanwhile, also on Saturday, I detected a new element to the possible Tabor succession.

Over the many years I’ve known him, I hasten to say, no more than to chat for the few minutes our paths would have crossed in various winner’s enclosures, Ashley Tabor-King has been almost distracted, enjoying his father’s success but more involved in developing his interest in the music industry. His mother Doreen is a noted supporter of emerging classical musicians, and while Ashley has been largely into pop music, the influence is clear.

Having successfully turned the Global Group, of which he is boss, into the biggest in commercial radio in the UK he has also overseen its many charitable contributions especially to younger disadvantaged people. Now, though, he seems to be taking rather more interest in the sport.

On Saturday, before the Dash, he was looking over the balcony through binoculars aiming to get the focus right, asking where was the start? I pointed back up the track and said: “You’re looking the true professional, can you give me a commentary?”

Then, around an hour later, when the owners were called to the podium to accept the most-desired trophy in UK - some may say, world  - racing, for all its modest value compared with many races elsewhere, Ashley and husband George took their places to the left of the group.

It’s been a joke between us that he might have considered himself a Jonah on the rare times he went to the big events. “You’re not a jinx, you’re a lucky mascot,” to which he replied, “I always thought I was a lucky omen. It was just MV and JP who joked otherwise!”

As he is such a great friend with all the people in the next generation, I’m predicting that this truly engaging man will find that learning about the game his father knows inside out might well appeal as a new challenge for him.

Now the form from last year with Haatem - City Of Troy twice beat him easily - is looking better after the places by Haatem in the 2000 and Irish 2000 Guineas. Rosellion, second at Newmarket, first in Ireland, and Notable Speech, unraced since his win in Newmarket for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin, will be contesting the big mile races. Neither Appleby nor Hannon stopped smiling as they called in on the Coolmore box after the big race – as with almost everyone around the winer’s circle as he came back in.

City of Troy in the Winners' Enclosure at Epsom after winning the 2024 Derby, attended by Ryan Moore and Tony Stafford (right)

City of Troy in the Winners' Enclosure at Epsom after winning the 2024 Derby, attended by Ryan Moore and Tony Stafford (right)

I watched the race just by the winning line – my friend and former Daily Telegraph colleague George Hill reminded me that was where we saw Reference Point’s big win for Henry Cecil – and it gave me plenty of time to get first into that famed circle.

Eventually, everyone crowded in, but somehow, I managed to get close to City Of Troy. Remembering when I went to Coolmore and met Galileo with Harry Taylor and Alan Newman a few years back, I’d stood with my hand on his near-side flank. Here I was able to do a similar thing with City of Troy. While Ryan was cuddling his neck, I pressed my hand gently on the other side. After the horse’s exertions, you might have expected an agitated animal - he was anything but. Whenever I’ve touched one of the horses I’d been involved with as a racing manager or owner in the past straight after a race I’d always come away with a wet hand.

Not on Saturday – it was bone dry, his body warm, but he stayed motionless as the photographers assailed him from the front. Racing finally is back page and television news for the right reasons. As for me, I will never forget that full minute when I touched greatness!


Back in the mid-80’s I somehow inveigled a horse for a cup of tea – and an equine replacement of him. He had been designed to be a riding horse, but thankfully, the intervention freed him from that dull fate, allowing him to resume his proper job as a racehorse.

Sent to Rod Simpson, he won a couple of races in the same week, at Folkestone and then Lingfield on a Saturday evening, before finishing fourth in the Lady Riders’ race at Ascot on King George Day. He hadn’t a prayer against some smart, developing three-year-olds from the likes of Barry Hills and Michael Stoute. Fourth then and a spot on the edge of the old Ascot winner’s enclosure was an achievement in the days the race wasn’t a handicap.

I’d been willing to sell before the winning spell started, and the fact that he might still be for sale persuaded Celia Radband to tell a couple of her lady rider friends – in those days quite a small community - about him

I was in the DT office one day when a call came in. "Mr Stafford?", asked Wilf Storey, "I understand you might want to sell Fiefdom", by now a five-year-old, who had been talented enough to finish fifth in the Cambridgeshire for Bruce Hobbs two years before.

He was just about the most polite person I’d ever heard, certainly in the hubbub of a sports room of a national newspaper in those days. He told me his daughters Fiona and Stella had been told by Ms Radband that he would make a lovely jumper. I hadn’t thought of that – his form when he initially started jumping was awful, but anyway.

I had to say, sorry no, adding if I changed my mind he would be my first call. Fiefdom ran well again at Ascot that autumn, after which I decided to call Wilf, offering him at 5k rather than the original 6k.

In the meantime, he’d taken another two of Rodney’s horses after one morning when they played up. I should have them shot, said a furious Rodney. I thought maybe Wilf, primarily a sheep farmer, would take them and the arrangement was duly done.

Within a couple of days, one of the two had indeed been moved on, having almost killed Chris Grant first day on the gallops; but the other one, Santopadre, was fine. These were two of a ten-horse deal I’d done with Malcolm Parrish, whom I first met at the Cashel Palace Hotel, close to Ballydoyle where he was with David O’Brien, who I’d arranged to visit.

David had recently won the Derby with Secreto, beating his father’s El Gran Senor in a massive upset which briefly threatened the stud deal that Sangster/O’Brien had already negotiated. Secreto missed the Irish Derby, El Gran Senor duly won, and the world moved on as imagined.

Also in that Parrish bunch was Brunico, later 2nd in that season’s Triumph Hurdle having been sent to Rod. Two runs later he won the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes at Chester for Terry Ramsden, beating top-class Shahrastani. Santopadre was offered around. I asked Wilf if he had anyone with two grand to buy him. Answer: “no!”

Oliver Grey rode him first time on his last day’s riding in the UK at Musselburgh before going to India. We thought him moderate, but Oliver gave him a tap around the home bend. “He flew,” he said, “so I put the stick down.”

So, the plan had to be three runs, achieved so his rating was a lowly 26 or so – they went down a lot further in those days!

Then, having told me, “Never mind the flat, I’ve never had a novice jump so well", I said there’s a weak race at Hexham coming up. He replied, “I’ve done nothing with him – you told me not to.” Despite his misgivings he won.

He won again in a fair claimer at Newcastle soon afterwards. Now, going from that company into an open juvenile novice with a 10lb penalty might have seemed a step too far, but he gave 15lb and a 15-length beating to Buck Up, a Peter Easterby filly that eventually finished runner-up in the Schweppes Gold Trophy.

Santopadre was fifth in the Triumph for Wilf, three places behind Brunico. His reward? To have him taken away to Simpson. Not by me, but Ramsden had paid many times the initial fee for him and did as he wished.

So to Fiefdom, with Santopadre already in the team. He arrived off the wagon and Wilf’s fears were unfounded. "He’s a great big beauty." He bolted up – well backed – first time at Sedgefield, running off a much lower jumps mark than his 71 on turf. In all he won three Ekbalco Hurdles at Newcastle for Wilf and ended his working days as a rider.

They were the start. In between, with younger daughter Stella doing most of the riding on the Muggleswick gallops, the winners kept flowing, the most important Great Easeby, a £2k purchase unraced from Robert Sangster. He won races all over the place, including the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham.

Another to come from Manton more recently was Card High. I’d watched him being completely outpaced as a juvenile in all his gallops for Brian Meehan and the decision was made between Ben and Guy Sangster, Robert’s sons, to get rid. I made sure I was standing nearby and when I heard the magic words, I was there. “I know someone!” – he won six and only retired last year.
Stella had to withdraw a year or so ago from the action after suffering many bad falls, but fortunately her sister Fiona’s daughter, Siobhan Doolan, was able to step in. I was watching the HIT sale last year and noticed that an Ollie Sangster two-year-old was unsold at 1,000 gns.

I checked with Ollie whether he had left the sale – he hadn’t, “but be quick!”

I was nowhere near, but old sales pal Richard Frisby came to the rescue and did the deal. The horse was called Edgewater Drive, a son of of Dandy Man. At first, the gelding, who had injured a foot before the sale, "could hardly walk up the gallop, never mind run", says Siobhan. Gradually, after several weeks’ careful handling, he was able to break out of a trot.

All that part was unknown to me as I tried to get ten shares sold at £100 each. With good friend Keven Howard trawling the pubs of mid-Essex, between us we must have asked 30 people and managed to sell not one share.

Siobhan got going. She had managed to syndicate the mare Shifter to the same people that had owned Card High – oil rig workers offshore in Scotland - and that mare won twice last year. Many of them eventually joined up as Edgewater Drive gradually came right.

Eighth in a decent mile race at Wetherby on his first run where not quite getting home, everyone was enthused when Shifter won another twice recently as Edgewater Drive had worked nicely behind her up the late Denys Smith’s gallop.

Expectations were bright, then, on Friday at Carlisle and, under a lovely ride from the underrated Paula Muir, Edgewater Drive sailed through a gap and won by almost two lengths. No City Of Troy, but at £100 a pop, pretty good value. If Aidan O’Brien can turn water into wine, Wilf Storey might not be able to do that, but the old alchemist almost turns base metal into gold! And none of it would have happened without Celia Radband.

Come on in Celia and watch Edgewater Drive win again next time out at Redcar of June 21, unless of course you are at Royal Ascot!

- TS

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Browne McMonagle savouring Derby chance with Dancing Gemini

Dylan Browne McMonagle is backing Dancing Gemini to hold his own as he takes his first ever ride in the Betfred Derby.

The young jockey, 21, has risen quickly through the ranks and was crowned champion apprentice in Ireland in both 2021 and 2022 after linking up with Joseph O’Brien’s stable.

O’Brien won the Derby twice aboard horses trained by his father, Aidan, riding Camelot to success in 2012 and Australia to victory in 2014.

Appropriately, Camelot is the sire of Browne McMonagle’s mount as he aims to emulate O’Brien and land the race aboard Roger Teal’s Dancing Gemini.

Horse and jockey first teamed up in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at ParisLongchamp and were only just outdone when beaten half a length by Metropolitan.

Dancing Gemini winning the Flying Scotsman Stakes
Dancing Gemini winning the Flying Scotsman Stakes (Tim Goode/PA)

That run leaves the colt poised for his trip to Epsom, as does his pleasing piece of work on the gallops morning there. But the journey to the Surrey track will be a first experience for his young rider, who has never taken a ride there before.

“To have your first ride in the Derby is massive and to ride a horse that’s got a chance in it as well is extra special,” the jockey said.

“I’m really looking forward to it, Roger has him in tip-top shape, for sure, we’re all guns blazing.

“He had a good prep run in the French Guineas and he couldn’t have run much better for us without winning, he just got touched off, so I’m looking forward to a big run.

“It’s going to be my first time there, it’s going to be something different. We’ll have a good walk of the track and try to figure it out, he’s going to be my first so I’ll have to give it my best shot.”

Dancing Gemini working at Epsom
Dancing Gemini working at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

Dancing Gemini has been placed in stall 15, which is not statically a favourable spot, with the last winner to emerge from there being Sinndar in 2000. But Browne McMonagle is stoical about the draw and has no concerns about the going or the trip.

“It’s not ideal, but you have to take what you get. I’d imagine we’d be taking our time from the draw and hopefully we can slot into a nice position in the second half,” he said, on a Zoom call hosted by the Jockey Club and British Champions Series.

“You just have to take it as it is and hope you can get on the back of something that’s going forward, get into a nice relaxed rhythm and see what happens.

“Obviously you’d love to be a little closer over to the inside, but you just have to deal with what you get.

“He’s performed on most ground, he’s a really good mover and I think he’s going to be more effective on better ground. It’s not one of our worries, I think he’s very versatile no matter what. Hopefully it dries up a bit, but there’s not too much we can do about the weather.

“He’s bred to stay so there’s no reason why he can’t, he’s a relaxed horse, he’s got a very good attitude and I think he’ll take everything in his stride so fingers crossed.”

Naturally Browne McMonagle intends to consult his boss for an insight on how to ride the track at Epsom, and he considers the race to have an open feel as it lacks a standout contender following City Of Troy’s underwhelming 2000 Guineas effort.

“I’m going to have a talk with Joseph before the weekend and I’m sure he’ll give me a few pointers, there’s no better man to talk to,” he said.

“There’s no standout horse that you’d be saying is going to be very hard to beat. There’s a lot of good horses in it, it will be interesting to see what City Of Troy does off the back of a disappointing Guineas run and Los Angeles looks a very good horse.

“It is wide open and it’s just going to be whoever steps forward on the day. I’m on a very good horse with a lot of class, after riding him in the Guineas in France and with what he’s shown us, I think he’s got as good a chance as any.”

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Wisdom the smart choice for Derby honours

Ancient Wisdom can spoil the Ballydoyle party in the Betfred Derby at Epsom.

The Charlie Appleby-trained colt has barely put a foot wrong in his career to date, picking up the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on the final start of a juvenile career that has even seen his sole defeat at two work out very well, with Rosallion winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Everything about his performance on Town Moor pointed to him being a real stayer this year and there is no knocking that form, either, as runner-up Devil’s Point has taken the German Guineas, fifth home Dancing Gemini was just denied in the French Guineas and sixth-placed Diego Velazquez is favourite for the French Derby.

His reappearance in the Dante was rather usurped by the performance of the winner Economics, but Ancient Wisdom stayed on encouragingly to be second on ground not really in his favour.

Much talk pre-race has surrounded Aidan O’Brien’s City Of Troy and in the last few days his stablemate Los Angeles, but while City Of Troy could still be the superstar it was hoped he was, Ancient Wisdom just appeals as one who will truly excel for the mile and a half on a surface more to his liking than York.

And while O’Brien is a master at bringing his horses back from defeat, Appleby has been here before, too, as Adayar was beaten in his trial before winning the blue riband in 2021.

It seems a bit harsh on Breege that she only has a debut win to show from 12 career starts and hopefully she can add another one by way of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes.

Trained by John and Sean Quinn, the four-year-old filly invariably keeps good company and just missed out on a Group Three prize when beaten less than a length in the Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood last year.

Back at Goodwood for her first run since October, she again ran her race, finishing a close third in Listed company.

She actually goes really well on her visits to Goodwood, which gives hope to her handling the undulations of Epsom. The ground will also be fine for her.

Embesto is given another chance in the Betfred Diomed Stakes.

He was well fancied on his return in the Earl of Sefton at Newmarket in April but he took a keen hold early on and eventually dropped away to finish fifth, with the reopposing Regal Reality ahead of him.

The four-year-old had progressed with each start last term and with a run now under his belt, he can resume his upward profile.

Tears Of A Clown shapes as one that can go well in the Betfred 3YO ‘Dash’ Handicap.

She has plenty of speed, which will be crucial, and is relatively unexposed with just five starts to her name. She again showed up well on her first run back before tiring and Henry Candy can be expected to have left a bit to work on with this in mind.

The equivalent ‘Dash’ for the older horses is always fast and furious. Sprint king Robert Cowell may hold the key with his two runners, Clarendon House and Democracy Dilemma. It is hard to split them, but preference is just about for the former.


DONCASTER: 4.38 Plus Point, 5.08 Make Love, 5.40 King’s Gamble, 6.15 High Order, 6.50 Silver Samurai, 7.20 Burning Cash, 7.50 King Of Tonga, 8.20 Giselles Izzy.

EPSOM: 1.25 Bubbles Wonky, 2.00 Breege, 2.35 Embesto, 3.10 Tears Of A Clown, 3.45 Clarendon House, 4.30 ANCIENT WISDOM (NAP), 5.15 Relentless Voyager, 5.50 Mums Tipple.

HEXHAM: 4.15 Book Of Secrets, 4.55 Backbyjet, 5.30 Ashington, 6.05 Kaaress, 6.35 Halpha Soleil, 7.07 Rumble B.

LINGFIELD: 5.35 Chagall, 6.10 Everywhere, 6.45 Robusto, 7.15 Amestris, 7.45 Usuario Amigo, 8.15 Resonance, 8.45 Jungle Charm.

LISTOWEL: 2.25 Media Naranja, 3.00 Jet Setting Jim, 3.35 How About No, 4.10 Jake Peter, 4.50 Ceroc, 5.25 Rising Dust, 6.00 Bective Queen.

MUSSELBURGH: 1.40 Canaria Prince, 2.15 New Image, 2.50 Up The Clarets, 3.25 Princess Alex, 4.00 Watcha Matey, 4.45 Batal Zabeel, 5.20 Scarriff.

STRATFORD: 5.23 Wales, 5.55 Minella Miracle, 6.28 Kankin, 7.00 Secret Trix, 7.30 Musical Slave, 8.00 Hot Fizzy Lizzy, 8.30 Forget The Way, 9.00 Supreme Yeats.

TRAMORE: 5.10 Miss Oreo, 5.45 Three By Two, 6.20 Walmix, 6.55 Tingarran Express, 7.25 Wolfhill, 7.55 Mercury Mission, 8.25 Ocean Brew.

WORCESTER: 12.40 Chemical Warfare, 1.15 Optimistic Joe, 1.45 Wiltshire Wonder, 2.20 Shengai Enki, 2.55 Urban Soldier, 3.30 Hiconic, 4.05 Soir De Gala.

DOUBLE: Ancient Wisdom and Breege.

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City Of Troy and Los Angeles both on course for Epsom, says O’Brien

Aidan O’Brien has confirmed City Of Troy, Los Angeles and outsider Euphoric as his three intended runners in the Betfred Derby on Saturday.

The Ballydoyle handler retains a strong hand as he looks to add to his record haul of nine victories in the premier Classic, with six horses left in the race at Monday’s confirmation stage.

But with French 2000 Guineas Diego Velazquez instead heading back across the Channel for Sunday’s Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, and Illinois and Portland seemingly not making the trip to Epsom, that number is set to be halved come the big day.

Aidan O'Brien is planning to run three horses in the Betfred Derby at Epsom
Aidan O’Brien is planning to run three horses in the Betfred Derby at Epsom (Damien Eagers/PA)

“That is what we’re thinking of, maybe the three, everything seems well with them all at the moment so that’s what we’re thinking,” O’Brien said in a France Galop zoom call on Tuesday.

O’Brien’s comments would appear to ease any concerns about the participation of City Of Troy after several bookmakers reported significant support for Los Angeles.

Coral cut the Leopardstown Derby Trial winner to 4-1 from 9-2 and eased City Of Troy at the head of the betting to 11-4 from 9-4, while Paddy Power have the stablemates even closer together in the market, with City Of Troy pushed out to the same price and Los Angeles a 100-30 shot from 5-1.

Coral have also seen support for Charlie Appleby’s Ancient Wisdom, with their spokesman David Stevens saying: “City Of Troy was as short as 7-4 for the Derby last week, but in recent days Ancient Wisdom, who was 11-1, and Los Angeles, 6-1 at the weekend, have been the pair attracting the most support, to the point where either could now end up replacing City Of Troy as big-race favourite come Saturday.”

O’Brien is not overly concerned about the underfoot conditions for either of his two main protagonists.

He added: “That (ground) should be fine I think, they’re giving Friday and Saturday dry, so you often see the ground can be slow for the Oaks and perfect for the Derby. We think and hope it’s going to be nice ground and I think that’ll suit everybody really.”

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “Los Angeles has now usurped Ambiente Friendly as second-favourite and after sustained support is in to 100-30 from 5-1.

“Nothing will change City Of Troy being our biggest loser at this stage as he was all the rage for the guts of a year, although there don’t seem to be many punters keen to back him now even at 11-4.

“There’s not a lot of difference in price in the Ballydoyle big two now and while a week ago I wouldn’t even have envisaged Ryan Moore not partnering City Of Troy and we, of course, have absolutely no idea of their riding arrangements, were Ryan to elect to ride Los Angeles instead, I would be flabbergasted if the latter doesn’t go off favourite.”

O’Brien, however, fully expects Moore to keep the faith in City Of Troy as he looks to follow in the hoofprints of last year’s Epsom hero Auguste Rodin by bouncing back from 2000 Guineas disappointment to claim Derby glory, with Wayne Lordan therefore set to keep the ride on Los Angeles.

“That’s the plan, that is what we were thinking of doing. I didn’t hear anything different and I think that has been the plan all along,” said O’Brien.

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Anticipation building as Ambiente’s Derby date nears

James Fanshawe has admitted being “a little bit more on edge” than usual as he puts the finishing touches to his Betfred Derby contender Ambiente Friendly.

The veteran trainer has enjoyed big-race success across the globe since taking out his licence in 1990 and it did not take him long to saddle his first runner in the Epsom showpiece, with Environment Friend – like Ambiente Friendly owned by Bill Gredley – lining up as a serious player in 1991.

However, the Dante Stakes winner finished a distant 11th of 13 runners behind Generous in the world’s most famous Flat race and it has taken Fanshawe 33 years to find another horse he believes merits a place in an event he ranks above all others.

James Fanshawe trains Ambiente Friendly
James Fanshawe trains Ambiente Friendly (Tim Goode/PA)

“It’s a real privilege to have a horse good enough to be going to the Derby with a chance,” Fanshawe said on a media call hosted by the Jockey Club and the British Champions Series on Tuesday.

“The yard is up for the challenge and everyone’s doing their best. Hopefully everyone is paying attention and I’m being nice to them! The build up to the Derby is obviously really important and it’s probably the most important race that we’ve had a runner in.

“We’re trying to go with the flow and make sure the last four days go smoothly, while also taking in what a special occasion it is because the Derby is the premier Classic, we’ve got to remember that, and we’re really thrilled to be having a runner in it.

“If I didn’t say I wasn’t a little bit more on edge (I’d be lying), you react to things a little bit differently than you would normally.

“I try not to drink too much coffee and that sort of stuff, but I’m always a good sleeper. I maybe wake up a bit early in the morning, but sleeping is not a problem – I’ve got lots of other problems, but not sleeping!”

Although Ambiente Friendly showed promise as a juvenile, winning on his Leicester debut before finishing third behind fellow Derby hopeful Ancient Wisdom in the Group Three Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, few would have been putting the son of Gleneagles forward as a legitimate Epsom contender at that stage.

A fourth-place finish in Newmarket’s Feilden Stakes on his April return did little to enhance his claims, but a dominant display in the Lingfield Derby Trial certainly did.

Having now proved himself an improving colt over close to the Derby distance of a mile and a half and shown an ability to handle varying ground conditions, Fanshawe feels he ticks plenty of the required boxes.

“He’s won his trial well, over the trip, and he seems to have come out of the race in good shape,” he continued.

“I think it’s an open race (on Saturday). If you said to me we were going to win the Lingfield Derby Trial by four and a half lengths before the race, I would obviously have been enthusiastic about that.

“The way he went round the corners over that mile and a half, it seemed to bring out the best in him. He was 66-1 for the Derby before Lingfield, but he stayed and won it really well in a really good time, so we’ve done our test.

“There will be horses that ran in the trials that will improve no end for the run. It’s been a wet and cold spring and some strings are in better form now than they were during the trials, so there’ll be lots of people going there thinking their horse has improved and they’ve got a good chance.

“When he won at Leicester, admittedly it was only over seven furlongs, he won that really well and that was pretty testing ground, and it was soft ground in the Autumn Stakes. Hopefully the ground is not too much of a problem for him.”

Rab Havlin will replace Callum Shepherd in the Derby
Rab Havlin will replace Callum Shepherd in the Derby (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Ambiente Friendly will have new rider after Gredley – who cut ties with Fanshawe for several decades before sending him horses again last year – decided to replace Callum Shepherd with the more experienced Robert Havlin, who has since got to know his mount on the Newmarket gallops.

Fanshawe said: “Rab rode him on Friday and Saturday and rode him in his work on Sunday and rode him out this morning. He seems to get on with him well and they seem to have a good rapport.

“I’m very happy with the horse, he did a final bit of work on the Round Gallop over an extended mile on Sunday morning. It wasn’t a strenuous bit but it was just what I wanted, I wanted to cover the ground and I was very happy with how it went.

“Usually I like to gallop them exactly a week before their designated race, but we’d had so much rain here in Newmarket on Thursday and Friday that the Limekilns were shut. The Jockey Club were very accommodating in allowing us to use the Round Gallop and he went through the gallop very smoothly.

“Post-gallop he seems in good form. He did a couple of canters this morning and seems very well.”

James Fanshawe at Royal Ascot with the late Queen Elizabeth II
James Fanshawe at Royal Ascot with the late Queen Elizabeth II (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Throughout his career Fanshawe has trained out of Pegasus Stables, a yard famously built in 1884 by five-time Derby-winning rider Fred Archer.

Archer, who was champion jockey for 13 consecutive years and rode 21 British Classic winners in all, shot himself aged 29 two years later – and while his ghost is said to be a regular presence, Fanshawe is not relying upon intervention from beyond the grave in his bid for Derby glory.

He said: “Fred built the yard and he’s still around, so he’s been giving good advice hopefully! He won the Derby five times, so he’s got some experience.

“A long time ago the lads actually did get him up on a Ouija board, I don’t know how it worked, but they got him and he told them that Unblest was going to win, and she did at 6-4.”

Asked whether he had thought of attempting to reconnect with Archer in recent days, Fanshawe added: “I’d rather keep the excitement of not knowing the result and let everything take its course.”

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Macduff camp confident of improved effort at Epsom

Connections of Macduff are optimistic the promising colt can raise his game to play a part in the Betfred Derby at Epsom on Saturday.

Not beaten far when fourth behind Ghostwriter in last season’s Royal Lodge Stakes, the son of 2009 Derby hero Sea The Stars made an encouraging start to his three-year-old campaign when filling the runner-up spot behind Charlie Appleby’s Arabian Crown in the Sandown Classic Trial last month.

While a subsequent setback has ruled Arabian Crown out of the premier Classic, Ralph Beckett’s Macduff is very much on course to take his chance following a pleasing racecourse gallop at Epsom last week.

Barry Mahon, racing manager for Macduff’s owner-breeders Juddmonte, said: “We’re looking forward to it, he’s done nothing wrong, he’s a horse we’ve always liked and has always shown promise.

“We feel that going a mile and a half will bring about a little bit more improvement and we think he’s come on plenty for his first run.

“The horse that beat him at Sandown has had a setback, which is unfortunate, but he was second-favourite for the Derby at the time and I think the form is probably solid.

“We’re hoping for a good run, Ralph’s horses are just starting to come (into form). He ran when the stable was a little quieter and we think and hope he can come forward from Sandown.”

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Monday Musings: Galloping Through The Classics

Four weeks after the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and seven days after the Irish 2000 Guineas, with all the recognised trials sorted in between, we come on Saturday to Derby Day, writes Tony Stafford.

It’s as early as it can be, and for those stables yet to strike form, it’s always a frightening thought that within 46 days of what most professionals believe is the true starting point of the 2024 turf season – day one of Newmarket’s Craven meeting – we will have knocked off four-fifths of the UK Classic complement.

We’ve had Chester, Lingfield, the French 2000 and 1000 Guineas, York and the two Irish Guineas this past weekend. Sometimes we get the odd one coming on to Epsom for the Derby or Oaks from the two Irish Guineas races. Realistically, though, with the races only one week apart, it seems an abrupt tactic to switch from one mile up the Curragh to the 12 furlongs with its twists, gradients, and cambers of the Derby course.

In times gone by there was also Goodwood, a three-day midweek fixture, following on from York’s Dante meeting.  In 1979 Major Dick Hern had two fancied runners at Epsom, the Queen’s Milford, and Sir Michael Sobell’s Troy, with stable jockey Willie Carson staying loyal to the latter – seen as traitorous in some parts.

Troy had begun his three-year-old season with a narrow win in the Classic Trial at Sandown, a performance that Hern thought needed another race to bring him to the boil. To wait for the Predominate Stakes, Goodwood’s colts’ trial, was reckoned in most quarters to be a risky policy, with so short a time between that race and the Derby.

Nowadays, Goodwood’s two Listed races for three-year-olds, one for colts/geldings and the other for fillies, are both staged on the same day as they were on Saturday. At first glance, the narrow win of Meydaan, third behind Ambiente Friendly in the Lingfield Derby Trial, might have been regarded as a boost for the form. I didn’t see the race live so took that as evidence backing my recent excessive praise for the Lingfield success of the James Fanshawe colt.

However, a review of the race replay told me otherwise. At least two in the seven-horse field could have finished much nearer. Space Legend, the William Haggas-trained favourite after two promising runs, was a fast-closing second after extricating himself from crowding and could almost certainly have won had he been able to start his challenge a little earlier. More worryingly for the form, fourth home Lavender Hill Mob also might have finished much closer.

This Michael Bell horse is rated a modest 79 having won a handicap last time. It’s hard to see how Meydaan, always in the clear on Saturday, deserves to go higher than his present 97. There’s no realistic scope for an Ambiente Friendly upward rating adjustment in tomorrow’s listings. I thought he ran a brilliant race at Lingfield, but yesterday morning, Rab Havlin, who will be replacing his Lingfield winning jockey Callum Shepherd this week, was worrying about the chance of soft ground at Epsom. “He has such a daisy-cutting action”, said Havlin, after working on Newmarket’s Limekilns yesterday.

Nowadays, the Predominate, downgraded some time ago to a Listed race, is known as the Cocked Hat Stakes and I think yesterday’s form could be put in a cocked hat! In 1979, Troy won that race by seven lengths and followed up by an identical margin in a devastating performance at Epsom. He ended as Racehorse of the Year, despite not matching his best form when third in the Arc having won the Juddmonte at York in August.

The old timers always used to say, fourth in the Guineas, first in the Derby, and as Paul Cole would be quick to remind us, that was the route taking by his and Faad Salman’s Generous in 1991. This year’s fourth, the Clive Cox-trained, Jeff-Smith-owned Ghostwriter does have a Derby entry – the Irish version at the end of next month.

He, along with the first three home at Newmarket, headed up by Godolphin’s impressive winner Notable Speech, has the one-mile St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot as the next step on the agenda.

There is already some serious Classic solidity to the Newmarket form with Rosallion and Haatem, respectively second and third for Richard Hannon behind Notable Speech, making it a stable one-two in the Irish Classic on Saturday.

The only defeated horse in the 2000 Guineas expected to be running at Epsom – we can still have a surprise supplementary today - is the present favourite City Of Troy. He was a humbled ninth of eleven at Newmarket, 17 lengths behind the winner.

Since last week’s words here, Economics, the runaway Dante winner at York for William Haggas, has not been supplemented for the Derby, his wishes, probably reluctantly, acceded to by his owners.

With River Tiber finishing just behind the Hannon pair in third on Saturday, at least there is a semblance of hope for anyone with long-standing vouchers on City Of Troy for the Derby. There’s no doubt that he has always stood far above his stable-mates at Ballydoye. Interestingly, the one reason I’ve heard Aidan O’Brien giving for the flop last time is: “I treated him too much like a god over the winter.” Even God will have had to do some proper work, maybe even on Sundays, since!

O’Brien of course also had the top juvenile filly of 2023 in Opera Singer, a status guaranteed by her victory in the Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc Day at Longchamp last autumn. Like City Of Troy, she is by unbeaten US Triple Crown winner Justify, and all the assumptions as to her and her stablemate’s stamina possibilities are presumably based on Justify’s 12-furlong win in the Belmont Stakes, third leg of the US Triple Crown.

If City Of Troy comes back as Auguste Rodin did in last year’s Derby, it would still be no guarantee of champion racehorse status at the end of the season. Economics has the imminent target of the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, a race that has projected its winner to stardom in the past. Shareef Dancer, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, had a quick follow-up in the Irish Derby back in the 1980’s.

There are four of the six horses outclassed by Economics still entered before today’s five-day stage. Ancient Wisdom and War Rooms were second and third at York, and victory for either would propel Economics into the “unbeatable” firmament – just as last year’s Dewhurst romp did for City Of Troy. I will leave the predictions and the talking to the horses on Saturday – I’ve had more than enough to say already. I’m just hoping for a clean race and a worthy winner.

To show that unpredictability in racing at Classic level is not exclusively for these shores, yesterday’s Japanese Derby (Tokyo Yushun) carried a winner’s prize of more than £1.8 million. Hot favourite at 6/5 was the previously unbeaten Japanese 2000 Guineas winner Justin Milano, but he had to give best in the straight to two-length winner Danon Decile, who started at 46/1!

- TS

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Haggas rules out Derby bid for Economics

William Haggas has confirmed his runaway Dante Stakes winner Economics will not run in the Betfred Derby at Epsom on Saturday week.

Initially entered for the premier Classic, the Night Of Thunder colt was withdrawn prior to last week’s six-length victory at York, with Haggas saying: “The whole point of taking him out was I didn’t think it was the right track and the right race for him at this stage of his career.”

Having won one of the key Derby trials so impressively, there were inevitably calls for connections to supplement Economics at a cost of £75,000 – but after discussions with owner Sheikh Isa Salman Al Khalifa, Haggas has announced he will not be added to the field on Monday.

He told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “We want to give him more time, he’s a big lovely, scopey horse.

“It’s a shame these races come up so quickly and he just needs some more time, that’s my view.

“He’s Sheikh Isa’s horse, but he’s very respectful of his trainers and he felt with Jake (Warren, racing manager) that we made a team decision. We discussed this at length before the Dante and my view never changed, but obviously it’s a huge race and with fancied horses falling by the wayside the temptation became greater.

“The Derby is the Derby and while we might go over a mile and a half later in the year, at the moment we feel that a mile and a quarter is good for him. He’s got plenty of speed, he’s by Night Of Thunder.

“It’s my job to look after the horse to the best of my ability and if that’s not good enough so be it.”

Economics was impressive at York
Economics was impressive at York (Mike Egerton/PA)

With next weekend’s Prix du Jockey Club also ruled out, future plans for Economics remain fluid.

Haggas added: “We’ll know at the end of the season how well the Dante works out, but I don’t know where we will see him next. I just want to let him mature, he’s an enormous horse and can do so much more physically, that’s what is exciting me.

“It’s hard enough to get a nice horse, it’s another thing to ruin one.

“We think and hope the fact he bled at York was because he banged his head on the stall. We’ve scoped him since and it was fine.”

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Stars align for Dancing Gemini to get Derby go-ahead

Roger Teal has given Dancing Gemini the green light to line up in the Betfred Derby following a pleasing racecourse gallop at Epsom on Tuesday morning.

Twice a winner from five starts as a two-year-old last season, the son of 2012 Derby hero Camelot has already come close to claiming Classic glory this spring, finishing a half-length second to Metropolitan in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, the French 2000 Guineas, at ParisLongchamp.

Another trip across the Channel for the French Derby was under consideration, but having seemingly taken well to the cambered Epsom track in a workout with high-class sprinting stablemate Chipstead, he is poised to take his chance in the world’s most famous Flat race on June 1.

Roger Teal and Will Cox at Epsom
Roger Teal and Will Cox at Epsom (Neil Morrice/PA)

Teal said: “I’m very happy, he looked good coming down the hill. Will (Cox) said he handled the track beautifully and although we didn’t go mad, it was a nice healthy exercise.

“William said it all went well, so I think we will roll our sleeves up and come here. While it’s tempting to go back to France, coming here with a live contender is unbelievable, especially for David Fish and his wife Linda (owners).”

Having never previously raced beyond a mile, Dancing Gemini will be taking a big step into the unknown over a mile and a half in the Derby, but Teal is hopeful his stamina will stand up to the test.

He added: “We actually had discussions about this possibility last year and deduced that although he’s very speedy, he’s bred to be a mile and a half horse. He has such a relaxed manner you can put him to sleep, and I hope we can use his burst of speed at the finish.

“The field has thinned out, which helps us a little bit, and I feel we’ve got to have a crack.

“I have lots of good memories here, as I used to stand in Philip Mitchell’s garden near the start and watch the field go by.

“It’s very exciting to be involved in the Derby this year.”

David Fish, owner-breeder of Dancing Gemini at Epsom
David Fish, owner-breeder of Dancing Gemini, at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

Irish rider Dylan Browne McMonagle was on board Dancing Gemini in the French 2000 Guineas and looks set to be reunited with Teal’s stable star at Epsom next month.

“Dylan couldn’t make it this morning as he’s riding at Cork, but he’s ridden a Listed winner for Mr Fish and we’ve bought into him because he’s a cool cookie, which is what you need on a big raceday,” said the trainer.

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Setback rules leading fancy Arabian Crown out of Derby

Leading Betfred Derby contender Arabian Crown has been ruled out of the Epsom Classic after suffering a setback.

Winner of three of his four starts as a juvenile including victory in the Group Three Zetland Stakes at Newmarket, the Dubawi colt moved towards the head of the Derby betting following an impressive return in the Sandown Classic Trial last month.

With most of the Derby trials having now taken place, Arabian Crown was clear second-favourite behind Aidan O’Brien’s City Of Troy, but connections have announced he will not line up on June 1.

In a short statement posted on X, Godolphin said: “Unfortunately Arabian Crown will miss the @EpsomRacecourse Derby due to a setback. He will now be aimed at a late summer campaign.”

Arabian Crown’s absence is another significant blow to Godolphin and Charlie Appleby after Hidden Law suffered a fatal injury shortly after passing the post a runaway winner of last week’s Chester Vase.

Appleby’s only remaining Derby contender is Ancient Wisdom, who finished second behind the William Haggas-trained Economics in the Dante Stakes at York on Thursday.

Ancient Wisdom could run in the Derby
Ancient Wisdom could run in the Derby (Nigel French/PA)

Speaking at York on Friday afternoon, Appleby’s assistant Alex Merriam said: “It was a bit sad this morning but hopefully it’s only a fairly minor injury. Hopefully we’ll still have a horse for the late summer, even mid summer, Charlie discussed it with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and thought there was no point in rushing him for the Derby.

“We’ll still have a nice horse for the rest of the summer and years to come.”

Of Ancient Wisdom, he added: “I thought he ran a nice race, he’ll improve a good bit for the run. Whether he goes there (Epsom) or not is something to be discussed with His Highness, but it looks an open Derby and I think he’s got every reason to go there. We’ll see how he comes out of the race.”

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No Derby decision yet, but Appleby expecting Ancient Wisdom improvement

Charlie Appleby is keen to let the dust settle on Ancient Wisdom’s Dante Stakes comeback before deciding whether he will join stablemate Arabian Crown in the Betfred Derby at Epsom.

Arabian Crown shot towards the head of ante-post lists for the premier Classic following a dominant display on his three-year-old debut in the Sandown Classic Trial in April and he is now a best-priced 4-1 second-favourite behind Aidan O’Brien’s 11-4 market leader City Of Troy.

Having been off the track since landing the Group One Futurity Trophy at Doncaster in October, Ancient Wisdom was a 7-4 favourite to stake his Derby claim on the Knavesmire – and while he proved no match for the William Haggas-trained Economics, Appleby was pleased with his performance in finishing second and is confident significant improvement will be forthcoming.

“The winner’s won well and it’s something I’ve been saying all year really, with these three-year-olds it’s going to be unexposed two-year-olds that come to the fore,” said the Moulton Paddocks handler.

“The more we see of some of these three-year-olds with top-level form (from the last season), the more it’s suddenly becoming a bit more exposed. Full credit to the winner.

“From our point of view Will (Buick, jockey) was happy and most importantly he’s handled the ground. As we said before, we were confident he’d handle it, it’s just when you get extreme conditions he excels.

“Trip-wise he’s crying out to step up in trip and he’ll definitely come forward for the run as he’s having a good heave for one of ours.”

Charlie Appleby at York on Thursday
Charlie Appleby at York on Thursday (Mike Egerton/PA)

Ancient Wisdom was pushed out to 20-1 for Epsom off the back of his defeat, but Appleby is not ruling out the possibility of firing a twin assault, adding: “Derby-wise I think we’ll just let it all settle down. I know it’s only two and a bit weeks to Epsom and people want us to make a call sooner, but I think it depends how much he progresses from it really.

“A mile and a half is definitely going to be his trip. Will said he wouldn’t be worried about Epsom or the ground, it’s just whether he wants a sterner test because as we all know you can be a mile-and-a-quarter horse round there and get the mile and a half because you’ve got to be able to travel.

“This horse will come on a lot and he’s allowed himself more time in the spring than Arabian Crown has. Arabian Crown came early and came in his coat, whereas this horse is still not there in his coat now.

“Arabian Crown looked more a staying type than this horse we felt on all evidence we’ve seen and we’ll have to see how much this horse jumps forward.”

When asked whether he felt Buick would face a difficult choice if he does run both horses in the Derby, Appleby said: “I think at the moment Will would have a job to get off Arabian Crown really, but if this horse comes out and does a decent piece of work it might be a different ball game.”

Trainer Owen Burrows at York
Trainer Owen Burrows at York (Mike Egerton/PA)

Just half a length behind Ancient Wisdom in third was the Owen Burrows-trained War Rooms, who had disappointed behind Arabian Crown on his Sandown reappearance.

Burrows was delighted to get his charge back on track, but a Derby tilt is not under consideration.

He said: “That was a very pleasing run and that was what I expected at Sandown, to be honest. We were disappointed at Sandown, but everything just didn’t quite go to plan. He got stuck on the outside and Jim (Crowley) was quick to say ‘put a line through that and don’t be afraid to have another go’.

“Credit to the owners, I was more favouring going to Newbury on Saturday (London Gold Cup), but they wanted to have a shot here and fair play to them, they’ve been rewarded.

“The winner is obviously very smart, but we were beaten half a length by a Group One winner from last year and if you took the winner out we’d not be too far away.

“He won’t go to Epsom, we’ll probably keep him for Royal Ascot. He’s only just turned three and you could see today that they went quick and he’s still a baby.

“Jim said you could try the Derby, but you might do more harm than good for the future, so I think we’ll look at the Hampton Court – a mile-and-a-quarter Group Three for three-year-olds.”

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Classic aspirations on trial as Dante field assembles at York

A host of big-race ambitions go on trial in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York on Thursday.

All bar two of the seven intended starters hold the Betfred Derby engagement, with the shortest in the ante-post market for Epsom being the Charlie Appleby-trained Ancient Wisdom.

A Group One winner in his juvenile year from the Futurity Trophy – a race that is working out well – he represents a Charlie Appleby yard that is already on the Classic scoreboard this season after Notable Speech landed the 2000 Guineas.

The Moulton Paddocks handler did state earlier in the week that ground conditions will dictate his participation, however, with the Dubawi colt well-proven with an ease in the ground.

Like Appleby, fellow Newmarket trainer Roger Varian has enjoyed Classic glory in the early exchanges of 2024, with Elmalka lifting the 1000 Guineas. He has an interesting candidate for Knavesmire honours in the shape of Al Musmak, who could book his ticket to Epsom or the French equivalent at Chantilly.

He was in front of Ancient Wisdom when second to 2000 Guineas runner-up Rosallion at Ascot, and rounded off his two-year-old campaign with a fine effort in finishing runner-up to Ghostwriter in the Royal Lodge, form not let down by the winner in the Guineas.

Varian said: “I’m looking forward to running him and he’s slightly under the radar but his two-year-old form is very strong.

“He finished second to Rosallion at Ascot and that form reads very well. Ancient Wisdom and Roger Teal’s horse (Dancing Gemini) were both in behind that day and that Pat Eddery Stakes reads like a really nice piece of form.

Al Musmak is held in good regard by Roger Varian
Al Musmak is held in good regard by Roger Varian (Tim Goode/PA)

“He backed that up by winning the Ascendant Stakes and he won that convincingly on the line. The second, third and fourth that day came second, third and fourth in the Derby trial at Sandown so that reads well and I would say his Royal Lodge second reads well.

“He’s a solid horse, he’s wintered well and we’ve been patient with him. This has always been his target and we think 10 furlongs at a track like York will suit him.

“I think how he runs will point us in a direction. He’s in the French Derby, he’s in at Epsom and he will have Royal Ascot options. I think he’s a nice colt, with a good profile, who should run a good race.”

Also hoping to keep Classic dreams burning bright is Karl Burke’s Caviar Heights, who built on an encouraging reappearance in the Feilden Stakes when quickly returned to the Rowley Mile for the Newmarket Stakes.

Caviar Heights impressed at Newmarket
Caviar Heights impressed at Newmarket (Adam Davy/PA)

That impressive four-length success was only 13 days ago, but the Spigot Lodge handler was loath to pass up the opportunity to enhance the son of Sea The Stars’ CV on the Knavesmire, with owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum giving the Dante bid his seal of approval.

“Sheikh Obaid was all for it and he goes there with a fighting chance and I think the track will suit him,” said Burke.

“I wouldn’t want it too fast for him, but good ground will be ideal for him. He was good at Newmarket and his form was given a little bit of a boost at the weekend by the horse that won the Lingfield Derby Trial (Ambiente Friendly), that finished behind him first time out in the Feilden.

“He goes there with a fighting chance and it’s a different challenge again, but hopefully he comes through it.”

Cambridge at Salisbury
Cambridge at Salisbury (Adam Morgan/PA)

Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard houses the Derby favourite in City Of Troy and although Cambridge is not in the premier Classic, he has been supplemented for this after finishing fourth in the Craven.

“We’ve been very happy with Cambridge since he ran in the Craven and he is another of ours who we are really expecting to improve for stepping up in trip,” said O’Brien, who surprisingly has not won the Dante since Cape Blanco obliged under Johnny Murtagh in 2010.

“We always think the Dante is the best UK trial, but it just comes a little close to the Derby this year at just two and a half weeks. Especially when you factor in the travelling ours have to do, it’s a little close. We are expecting him to run well, though.”

Owen Burrows’ War Rooms and John and Thady Gosden’s God’s Window have both featured in trials already this term and will be hoping to find improvement in Yorkshire.

Economics was a taking winner
Economics was a taking winner (PA)

Meanwhile, William Haggas sends Economics to his home county’s premier track on a fact-finding mission having shed his maiden status in good style last month.

“Whether this is the right move, only time will tell and it looks a very strong race for him,” said Haggas.

“His connections wanted to find out where we stood where him. I think he’s a nice horse and he is probably our nicest three-year-old – or certainly one of them. I don’t think we’ve got anywhere near the bottom of him yet, so we will have a look and see where he fits in.

“He might not be good enough, but he’s a pretty nice horse and he will like the track and he will like the trip as well, so hopefully he will run a nice race.”

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Appleby monitoring York weather ahead of Ancient Wisdom run

Charlie Appleby is hoping to see suitable ease in the ground at York for leading Betfred Derby candidate Ancient Wisdom, who is set to make his return to action in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes on Thursday.

The Futurity Trophy winner heads seven colts declared for the invariably-informative Derby trial, but that Doncaster Group One success came on heavy ground and his Autumn Stakes win at Newmarket before that was on soft.

Appleby told Godolphin.com: “Ancient Wisdom has enjoyed a good preparation and stepping up to an extended mile and a quarter is going to suit. The ground will be a question mark and we will want the rain to come.

“We know that he is a better horse with ease in the ground, so we will be on weather watch slightly. If it’s on the easy side of good, then we will look forward to seeing him run. He has wintered well and we are very happy with him.”

The Moulton Paddocks handler is already responsible for Derby second-favourite Arabian Crown, with Ancient Wisdom a best-priced 8-1 third choice behind ante-post favourite City Of Troy.

Roger Varian resisted running Al Musmak in the 2000 Guineas earlier this month and he makes a step up in trip following some smart form at two, while William Haggas enjoys plenty of success on the Knavesmire and pitches Economics into Group Two company following a taking maiden success at Newbury last month.

Aidan O’Brien had three in the mix at the five-day stage, but has elected to rely on the supplemented Cambridge to snap his losing run in this race that stretches back to 2010.

Karl Burke’s Caviar Heights brings winning form to the table having entered the Dante reckoning by taking the Newmarket Stakes recently, with Owen Burrows’ War Rooms and John and Thady Gosden’s God’s Window completing the septet heading to post.

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Ballysax scorer Dallas Star added to Derby field

Adrian Murray’s impressive Ballysax Stakes winner Dallas Star has been given the option of lining up in the Betfred Derby having been added to the Epsom Classic at Wednesday’s second entry stage.

The son of Cloth Of Stars won one of his five starts for Dominic Ffrench Davis last season, acquitting himself well when upped to Group company in the Zetland Stakes at the end of the year.

However, he took his form to a new level when reappearing for his new training team in Leopardstown’s early-season Derby trial, springing a 50-1 shock in the hands of Seamie Heffernan and handing some well-regarded colts a convincing beating.

He already holds an entry for the Curragh’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, but is now also in the picture for the Epsom equivalent after connections paid the £12,000 to add the Amo Racing-owned three-year-old to the line-up.

“It’s unbelievable and the last day he was very good and has to deserve his chance for going at something like the Derby, so it’s an exciting time,” said Murray.

“He’s done very well since his race and we’re very, very happy with him, he’s progressing nicely.

“I don’t know if he will run again before the Derby and I’ll have a chat with Kia (Joorabchian, owner) and Robson (Aguiar) and see what they think. Kia is the owner at the end of the day and the main thing is we have him in the Derby, that’s his main target.

“We did have him in the German Derby, but we took him out of that. So he’s going to be going for the English and Irish Derbies now, all being well. He’s all class and a lovely horse.”

Charlie Appleby’s Hidden Law was also added to the Derby picture following a taking victory at Newbury on Saturday, while 69 remain in the race with 22 trained in Ireland and Andre Fabre’s Roadshow the sole French-trained possible.

Five departed the scene on Wednesday with Paddy Twomey’s Deepone and Aidan O’Brien’s Navy Seal taken out, along with internationally-trained trio Alrazeen, Common Defense and Justin Milano.

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