Epsom

Epsom

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Unfortunately this weeks column is a little out of date with the bulk being about Epsom, however it is interesting to see how I fared in my predictions!

EPSOM

I can't recall many more open runnings of the Investec Derby than today's, and although I have huge respect for US Army Ranger, if I had the choice of any horse in the race I would go for Ulysses.

I like this horse a lot and was very impressed with him when he won his maiden at Newbury. That day he showed a great turn of foot and looked to have class. Newcomers filled the places, but the time before at Leicester, where he wasn't at his peak, he was only just beaten by Imperial Aviator. That horse has been supplemented by Roger Charlton for tomorrow's Prix du Jockey Club, which is an indicator of how good the form might be.

There was no time to run Ulysses in a trial but that was just bad luck. It shouldn't be held against him. The horse had a setback earlier in the year. Wings Of Desire won a maiden two starts ago. If he hadn't then run in the Dante which of the two would you rather back? WIngs Of Desire, who got a Racing Post Rating of 79 at Wolverhampton, or Ulysses, who got a RPR of 99 at Newbury? John Gosden had the luxury of being able to run Wings Of Desire at York. Sir Michael Stoute didn't have that luxury with Ulysses.

The fact he is trained by Sir Michael is a plus, as is the fact he was keen to book a jockey some time ago. I also like the jockey he booked. Andrea Atzeni seems to be winning a lot of big races. He could be about to win the biggest race of all.

I was at Wolverhampton the day Wings Of Desire won, as I trained the fourth, who now has a rating of 65. What worries me about his chance today is the lethargy he showed in his maiden. That style of running, which we witnessed again at York, will make him vulnerable. I just don't think he looks to be sufficiently switched on for Epsom.

The penny might well have now dropped, but if he races as he has been racing Frankie will have more behind him than in front of him at the first elbow, which is something he wouldn't want.

More encouragingly, I found John Gosden to be the most astute trainer I rode for in terms of his tactical thinking. He always knew what a jockey's predicament in a race would be, probably stemming from his time in America. John will have left York knowing his horse's sluggishness could be an issue in the Derby. A precocious horse will jump into the bridle and show you everything he has got. The opposite of precocious is probably Wings Of Desire, who might only start warming up as he passes the mile pole.

The big thing in Frankie's favour is he has a lovely draw in stall 13. From a low draw I would have given Wings Of Desire no chance as he would have needed to jump quick, otherwise Frankie would have been forced to burst the horse to get a position so as not to be trapped against the fence.

From stall 13 Frankie can afford to take his time up the hill, even if he has to race wide as a result. The other thing helping him is he is drawn near Ryan Moore on US Army Ranger. You like to be berthed near a big danger. Furthermore, Ryan is a safe man to follow. He won't be stopping and starting through the race or going for mad gaps.

I also believe Ryan could be on a very good horse indeed. He only just got the job done in the Chester Vase but that was a steadily-run contest. A true 1m4f horse will always look unimpressive in a race that turns into a sprint. Even so, although US Army Ranger didn't draw away from his stablemate there were seven lengths back to Ormito, who went to Chester rated 94 and was subsequently beaten only a length by Algometer at Goodwood.

The Vase only really began in the last three furlongs. That's because it was no more than a trial. Aidan O'Brien, whose Port Douglas made the running, wouldn't have wanted to bottom his main Derby hope going flat out around Chester. The race perfectly served what I imagine were Aidan's intentions. He probably wanted the colt to learn something he wouldn't have learned by running at a big galloping track like Leopardstown.

If you took a literal view of the Vase form Ryan would have picked Port Douglas because he was giving US Army Ranger 4lb, went wide off the bend and was still only beaten a short head. But Ryan hasn't picked Port Douglas. That surely tells us something. When they have worked at home off a proper gallop my guess is there has been a big difference between them.

Ryan had five Ballydoyle horses to pick from but he will have been making his choice helped by some strong urges from the owners. If I was John Magnier, Michael Tabor or Derrick Smith, I would be keen to have Ryan on the best of my horses. Coolmore wants Derby winners and Ryan Moore is the best man to get them a Derby winner. The owners will therefore have been anxious for Ryan to be on the colt they believe has the best chance of becoming a Derby winner.

If I was Ryan I would be delighted to have four of his mount's stablemates in the race. Out of 15 opponents Ryan will know what four of them are going to be doing. Crucially, he knows none of those four horses will be trying to knock him over. In a race like the Derby, in which you don't get an inch from your rivals, that's a massive advantage.

On the other hand, I would hate to be riding Biodynamic, not because he isn't a perfectly nice horse but because he is the rank outsider. Any jockey riding beside him will want to knock him out of the way simply because he is a 100-1 shot. Only a foolish rider would be content to sit behind a 100-1 shot a couple of furlongs into the Derby.

Andre Fabre doesn't run horses in the Epsom Classics for the fun of it but he has said himself he doesn't think Cloth Of Stars is a superstar. That's enough to put me off backing him. I also don't fancy Godolphin's other runner Moonlight Magic, who I felt was very workmanlike at Leopardstown. Nor am I keen on Harzand after Pat Smullen's instant reaction following the Ballysax was the horse is too big and heavy for Epsom. Gut feelings are great things.

I would love to see Massaat win for Owen Burrows as I was on the trainers' course with him and he is a great fellow. His horse has the form having finished second in the 2,000 Guineas but he is out of an Acclamation mare. I can't get away from that. It's a major negative for me and, personally, I don't see him staying. I would be delighted to be wrong, though.

I would also be thrilled to see the Richard Hannon-trained Humphrey Bogart run well. He is a nice, agile horse and his owners are a good bunch of lads. I hope they get back some of the money they've stumped up to supplement him.

If I was trying to win some money for myself I would be siding with Ulysses while at the same time being very fearful of US Army Ranger.

The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup (3.10) is a cracking support act to the Derby and I think it will be won by one hell of a horse in Postponed.

In my opinion this is a better horse now than he was last year when he was already very good. He looks to be quicker than ever before. That should not come as a surprise.

As horses get older they can develop more speed, in part because they become more alert and stronger. You often hear of jumpers showing more pace as they get older - and if you compare a lot of the top jumpers and Flat horses their pedigrees aren't that far apart. Sadler's Wells is probably behind a lot of the jumps pedigrees these days. It's not like the difference between thoroughbred and Arabians.

Horses also get better with age. That's a fact. Weight for age takes into account the improvement of horses through their three-year-old season, so why shouldn't they also progress from four to five and five to six? We generally don't get to enjoy the best horses racing by the time they get to six but when we do, as with Cirrus Des AIgles, we often see them improving.

Summing up the Coronation Cup, Postponed faces some excellent fillies but I feel he will be too good for them. They might get Simple Verse on her head when they quicken - and that's not a good thing to happen at Epsom - Found is probably being trained with the autumn in mind and a mile and a half might stretch Arabian Queen.

The worst race to ride in on Derby day is undoubtedly the Dash. It's not a coincidence a lot of the leading jockeys who have mounts in the Derby don't take part in the sprint that precedes it.

In the past I've ridden in the race and have gone down that hill at what has felt like 50 miles per hour while being able to see the number cloth of the horse in front of me because he had been turned sideways. In the Dash you're never balanced or on an even keel. You sometimes feel as though you have a better chance of being banned or falling than winning.

To hold out much hope you have to hit the gate running (almost certainly from a decent draw) and then later in the race you need luck if you're on a hold-up horse as you can get to the furlong pole and be stuck behind a wall of horses who have come to something close to a halt due to galloping faster than they're really able to gallop.

In my opinion 20 runners in the Dash is too many. I have won the race in the past but am not convinced it is as safe as it should be.