Sir Mark Todd has until midday on Tuesday to decide whether or not to target the Cazoo Derby with his promising colt Tasman Bay.
The three-year-old was a winner on his seasonal debut when taking a novice race at Newcastle, after which he finished third in a high-quality Newbury contest won by subsequent Dante winner Hurricane Lane.
Tasman Bay’s next run was the Listed Betway Fairway Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, where he was beaten a length and a quarter by Ed Dunlop’s John Leeper.
The latter horse is a 7-1 chance for the Derby after the performance and Hurricane Lane is valued as a 6-1 shot – but Todd is still undecided as to whether keep his colt in the mix for the permier Classic.
“I’m having a conversation with the owner,” the trainer said.
“We have to make up our minds on whether we’re going to press on with the Derby by Tuesday lunchtime.
“At this stage the Derby is quite unlikely, I would say, after that I guess we would look at going to Ascot for the King Edward, the mile-and-a-half Group Two.
“We’ve got to decide whether we go for the Derby or not first, and then we’ll decide where else we’ll go from then.”
Though the form from Tasman Bay’s three runs this season has looked increasingly strong as time has passed, with Newbury fourth River Alwen also going on to win, Todd is still hopeful that there will be further improvement from the three-year-old when he contests a race run with more early speed.
“River Alwen, who was fourth that day, he’s won since, so the form around him (Tasman Bay) is very good,” said Todd.
“John Leeper started favourite in our next race and he won like a good horse, too.
“Unfortunately for us, all three runs have been in races where there’s been no pace.
“We certainly didn’t want to have to make the pace the other day and it was a bit of a muddling race, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
“He’s come through the run on Saturday well, he’s just spent the day in the field yesterday and he seems very well.”
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Olympic eventer turned racehorse trainer Sir Mark Todd will find out if he has a Classic contender on his hands when Tasman Bay lines up for the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup British EBF Conditions Stakes at Newbury on Friday.
Todd is a unanimously revered figure in the eventing world, having represented New Zealand at seven Olympic games and brought home two gold medals alongside multiple successes in world championships and top-flight horse trials at Badminton and Burghley.
Upon retirement Todd undertook a brief spell training in his native country before returning to ride in the 2008 Beijing Games, after which he retired in earnest in 2019 and took up training on English soil at his yard near Lambourn.
The trainer has enjoyed six victories already this year from only 29 runners, the most eyecatching of which was the Le Havre colt Tasman Bay.
The three-year-old was sixth on debut at Newbury in October, and made a winning reappearance this season when taking the Bombardier Novice Stakes on Newcastle’s Tapeta track in late March.
Tasman Bay crossed the line three and a half lengths ahead of 1-5 favourite King Vega that day, with the latter significantly more experienced having run four times previously and finished second in the Group Three Solario Stakes.
“He’s very well, we’re very happy with him,” Todd said of the chestnut.
“He won nicely at Newcastle but this a different test, a step up again. He’ll be back on turf so it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with that.”
The Newbury contest – a race in which Enable was beaten in 2017 – could produce some of this season’s Classic challengers as most of the field have entries for the highest-calibre Group races.
Todd’s runner is no exception as he holds a Derby ticket, with a good performance likely to inspire the trainer to make a late entry for Dante Stakes at York or consider Lingfield’s Derby Trial.
“It’s almost like a Listed quality field and it could end up being a bit of a Derby trial or an Oaks trial as there’s a good filly (Senita) in there,” Todd said.
“Obviously when we made the Derby entry he was a yearling and we didn’t want to get too much ahead of ourselves, but depending on the outcome at Newbury on Friday, we’ll have to look at options.
“We may end up having to pay a late entry to the Dante or look at going to Lingfield for the Derby Trial.”
Tasman Bay’s sixth-placed debut was on heavy ground, with his latest assignment likely to be run on going more suitable for the developing colt.
“He’s such a good-actioned horse, he’s got such a good stride and I think good ground will suit him better,” his trainer said.
“He’s much stronger, he hasn’t grown that much in height, but he’s developed more and I think over the next couple of months he’ll continue to develop.
“He’s a big, raw horse, so we’ll just take it one step at a time.
“If at any stage he looks like he’s not going to make it then we’ll change tack, but at the moment that’s our aim.”
Hugo Palmer’s Set Point is entered in both the Dante and Derby, but the Newmarket trainer is expecting to learn plenty as the Nottingham maiden winner reappears in Berkshire.
Palmer said: “Set Point is in very good form. For trainers it’s that terrifying time of year really, bubbles are bursting all over Suffolk!
“He’s a lovely horse, it will be nice ground at Newbury and we’ll see how we get on. We’ll make a plan after this.
“He had a yearling entry in the Derby, so it wasn’t quite so bold to put him in it.
“He came to hand quite early, he’s only had two starts and he’s ready to go.
“If he runs a big race, we’ll think about the next stage for him. If he doesn’t, there’s the King George V Stakes at Ascot.”
A total of eight runners are declared, with Senita the only filly for John and Thady Gosden. She won one of three starts last term and hails from the family of Midday.
Hurricane Lane won his only start last term for Charlie Appleby and was added to the Derby at the latest entry stage.
Appleby said of the Frankel colt: “He broke his maiden at Newmarket and the backend on soft ground.
“He’s wintered well and physically done very well. We were contemplating Newmarket this week, but just thought the ground might be a bit quick.
“Newbury should be nice ground and the galloping track should suit him. We’re happy with him.”
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