TWO HORSES supplemented at a cost of £85,000 apiece have grabbed the headlines around this weekend’s Derby at Epsom, which throws down a unique challenge to any middle distance thoroughbred. The steep early climb of six furlongs, followed by the tumble down to Tattenham Corner and the difficult camber in the home straight makes this a test of balance, versatility and stamina like no other.
TELECASTER and SIR DRAGONET had not been heard of just two months ago, but they have been added to the field for tomorrow’s Classic after impressive recent wins at York and Chester. Hughie Morrison’s TELECASTER lowered Too Darn Hot’s colours in the Dante Stakes, while the Aidan O’Brien-trained SIR DRAGONET was a spectacular winner of the Chester Vase.
East Ilsley-based Morrison said that ultimately it was an easy decision to add the New Approach colt to the field, at a cost of £85,000 - but that the anxious part now begins. Morrison said: “Based on the fact we’ve had no issues and he’s been in good form since the Dante, it was a relatively easy decision. But I will be very nervous until we get there.”
O’Brien has a formidable party of eight, also being able to call on ANTHONY VAN DYKE, BROOME, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, CIRCUS MAXIMUS, JAPAN, NORWAY and SOVEREIGN among the 15 that remain in the mile-and-a-half showpiece. SIR DRAGONET’S eight-length demolition of NORWAY in the Chester Vase two week after winning a Tipperary maiden priced 14/1 was like going from 24 handicap to scratch in the same space of time, but he’s light on experience.
For me BROOME bristles with potential and has been backed down to 9/2 from an early ante-post price of 25’s, and I’m told he has long been ‘the Derby horse’ within the walls of Ballydoyle. Touched off by Royal Marine in Group One Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp at two, he impressed with victories in the Ballysax and Derrinstown Stud trials this spring. He already holds very strong form claims but there’s more to come going up to a mile-and-a-half here. If he can hold his position through the first mile, he looks the one to beat.
Kevin Prendergast’s MADHMOON, fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, is the other Irish-trained possible. On pedigree he is a doubtful stayer as he has much more speed in his bloodline than many of his rivals, but his run at Newmarket where he finished fast from the centre-field group was eye-catching and he looks good each way value at 12/1 with Carrigill’s.
The ‘Dash’ is another conundrum with 20 sprinters ready to take on the flying five at Epsom. HATHIQ is the 9/2 ante-post favourite for Irish trainer Denis Hogan and, having won a couple of competitive sprints in Ireland in comfortable fashion this season, he’s also lightly raced and is improving. EEH BAH GUM improved leaps and bounds for Tim Easterby last summer and has been in pretty good form so far this season. He had no luck at York last time out and was staying on too late after being hampered. He never got a mention in commentary and everywhere he went the door closed, yet he clocked nearly a second faster than the winner of the Listed race over the same trip on the same day.
But they may both have to get the better of DUKE OF FIRENZE, my nap last week who obliged at York on Saturday. The first three from that race are all in the field but David Griffiths’ ten-year-old loves Epsom having won this way back in 2013 and finishing third in 2016 and 2017. His penalty from York makes him 1lb out of the handicap but he can’t be ruled out.
Carrigill’s nap (money back as a free bet if finishes outside top 4): EEH BAH GUM, Saturday, Epsom, 3.45.Augur’s best bet: VERACIOUS, Saturday, Epsom, 2.35.