John Gosden, whose 11 winners at Newmarket and Newbury last week included both the crucial 1000 Guineas dress rehearsals, takes the wraps off his leading Derby contender CRACKSMAN in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom today.
Gosden won the Derby two years ago with Golden Horn, who like Cracksman was owned and bred by Anthony Oppenheimer, and this colt – one of the first crop of the mighty Frankel – looked an exciting prospect when making a winning debut at Newmarket last October.
Frankel was never tried beyond 2000m, the distance of today’s race, and there is little on the distaff side of the pedigree to suggest Cracksman will have the necessary stamina for another 400m in the world’s premier classic.
Even Gosden, who has won the last two runnings of this Listed race, concedes “the jury is out” on whether Cracksman will stay 2400m, but today should tell us a lot as to how far this classy colt will go.
However, there are no such worries long term about stablemate Tartini, who is a half-brother to Gosden’s St Leger winner Lucarno and having looked above average on his winning debut at Nottingham last autumn, also boasts a solid chance.
Youmkin, whose back-end Nottingham success first time out got a form boost when runner-up Face The Facts won at Newbury last Saturday, looks a better Godolphin prospect than Bay Of Poets, whose form deteriorated last summer. Youmkin wears cheekpieces for the first time.
But the one I like for the Exacta is Permian, who has sharpened up for a recent run at Bath and had some decent form last season, including giving Gosden’s highly rated filly Coronet a race in the Zetland Stakes over this trip at Newmarket.
Gosden did us a good turn with 12-1 winner Daban in last week’s Nell Gwyn Stakes on her home course – we also found Craven Stakes hero Eminent (8-1) and Greenham winner Barney Roy (5-2) in what was a pretty lucrative week for us, too – while the icing on the cake for the trainer was the expected victory of Dabyah in the same colours as Daban in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury.
Understandably, Gosden is keen to keep his Guineas fillies apart and outlining his thoughts, said: “Subject to the okay from the owner, I would like to run Daban back at Newmarket and save Dabyah for the French equivalent at Chantilly.
“Frankie (Dettori) feels that Daban, having coped with the dips at Newmarket, should stay there, especially as Dabyah has already run well in France (when third in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac) and that’s the way I see it, too.”
Gosden has a fistful of quality fillies for the Oaks with Shutter Speed and Enable, who finished 1-2 at Newbury, both looking to have enormous potential. One is likely to go for the Cheshire Oaks and the other for the Musidora Stakes at York.
Andre Fabre’s Prix Djebel winner Al Wukair could yet ruffle the feathers of Europe’s champion two-year-old Churchill in the 2000 Guineas, but two other classic colts to emerge from the pack last week were Eminent, who finished his race off strongly to win the Craven, and Barney Roy, who never looked more impressive than in the last 200m of the Greenham. He won going away and will definitely improve again for going up in trip on the Rowley Mile in a fortnight’s time.
In contrast, Newbury runner-up Dream Castle, like Barney Roy owned by Godolphin, showed so much natural speed before being worn down by Barney Roy that he might well have to come down in distance. He has the look of a sprinter to me.
With the curtain coming down on the jumps season at Sandown on Saturday, the Esher course hosts its first big Flat meeting of the year on Friday, with the Group 2 bet365 Mile being complemented by a couple of Group 3 races.
KOOL KOMPANY could be the one for the 1600m race. He was a smart three-year-old but never settled in Australia last summer. Now back with Richard Hannon, he has quickly recaptured his form and got up close home to win at Doncaster last month. Dawn Of Hope, third on Town Moor, and Sovereign Debt look his biggest dangers.
Godolphin’s HAWKBILL could be the answer to the Gordon Richards Stakes. His form tapered off after he followed a Royal Ascot success with a career-best performance to capture the Eclipse over this course and distance last July, but the vibes from Newmarket are encouraging. The penalised Air Pilot might be the chief threat.
Gosden has won Sandown’s Classic Trial seven times and might make it eight with recent Kempton all-weather winner MONARCHS GLEN. Like Cracksman, he is a son of Frankel. He looked to have the ability to match his exposing physique and pedigree at Kempton and has already been backed by the right faces for the Derby.
Feature in Hong Kong on Sunday is the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin where much interest will revolve around French recruit Dicton, who was placed in both the Guineas and Derby in his homeland last year.
There was certainly a lot to like about his Prix du Jockey-Club third behind Almanzor, who went on to win both the English and Irish Champion Stakes. Dicton, who lost 18kg on the trip over, carries the colours of Hong Kong’s Sino Group chairman Robert Ng for what will be his first race outside France.
He faces a stiff task, with the opposition including Japanese superstar Neorealism, who beat their top miler Maurice last year and is being ridden for the first time by Hong Kong’s leading rider Joao Moreira, Australian Grade 1 winner United States and a strong home team headed by WERTHER, who was awesome when landing this prestigious prize last year.
I’m a huge fan of Werther and so is his trainer John Moore, who declared: “He clocked 28sec on his last gallop on the turf and is humming right now.”
Now where are those betting boots of mine?