The perfect slogan for this week’s prestigious Derby meeting has to be this: Investec in the pound seats.
As the asset management company gears up for its most important sponsorship of the year, two recent developments makes this Friday and Saturday arguably the most important since their backing was announced.
* Firstly, Investec has signed on to support the Derby for another five years so their sponsorship now runs till 2026.
* Secondly, Bernard Kantor and his close friend, Markus Jooste, have joined forces (not for the first time!) to make racing history by having the famous “Hill” renamed Poundland Hill with this popular viewing point now being sponsored by retail store, Poundland, bought last September by Markus’ company, Steinhoff. “Just call me the Robin Hood of Epsom” quipped SA’s leading owner when we chatted about his latest venture.
Hence, the slogan. It fits in perfectly with Poundland’s involvement.
Although there are a few sceptics, the change has generally been well received and the latest backing came from UK trainer, John Gosden. He said: “I like the atmosphere in the middle and will often spend an hour out there – I love it. I think that anything that increases the take and is controlled is a good thing.”
Given the horrific tragedy at the Manchester Arena, Gosden point about “control” is a good one, but Phil White, Jockey Club regional director, says they’ve done their homework. “People’s safety and security is our number one priority and we’ve been working with Surrey Police and other partners to ensure we’ve got robust, appropriate measures in place.”
One could say it’s pretty much a South African invasion in the UK right now with – not only the Epsom races – but our cricketers here as well. The participation of another of our sportsmen, Gavin Lerena, on the famous Epsom Downs would be another feather in our cap.
So, which horse do we back in Saturday’s Investec Derby? I am recommending Eachway support of recent Dante Stakes winner, Permian, who is 14-1 in latest betting. If you can get 7-2 a place the first four that would be an attractive bet.
Permian is trained in Yorkshire by Mark Johnston and – although his stable has housed numerous top horses – his best Derby finish to date is Mister Bailey’s fourth place in 1994.
Some will argue – notably columnist Geoff Lester who is a Cracksman fan – that Permian only won at York because John Gosden pulled Cracksman out of the Dante due to the soft ground.
Some pundits have questioned whether the 16-day gap between Permian running at York and contesting the Derby means there’s not a lot of time between the two races. Johnston scoffs at this saying “it is absolutely of no concern at all”.
He has revealed that Permian’s owner has been happy to stump up the 85,000 pounds (R1.43 million) supplementary fee to get the son of Teofilio into the race. It indicates he feels his charge is in with a big chance.
Frankie Dettori has been booked for Cracksman so the three-year-old’s price is likely to shorten not lengthen. He commented: “He’s not Golden Horn (winner two years ago) yet by any means, but he could be anything and at Epsom we’ll find out.”
There’s one statistic which has to be a worry for Mr Lester and the colt’s supporters. Cracksman won the Epsom Derby Trial in April (beating Permian a short-head) and no horse has gone on to complete the Derby Trial-Derby double since Blue Peter in 1939.
Aidan O’Brien’s Cliffs Of Moher has been popular in the ante-post market and one of my UK contacts is sweet on the chance of Martyn Meade’s runner, Eminent. I’ll stick with Permian – it’s time we had a Yorkshire winner.
* * * *
When it comes to racehorse ownership, the gods are either with you or against you. The former is the case with Kempton Park businessman, Fred Crabbia. His purchase of Rocket Man brought Fred a “Horse-of-the- Year” award in Singapore, and the jungle drums are beating that he has a shout of winning this year’s Vodacom Durban July with his three year-old, Zodiac Ruler.
That prospect hinges on how Zodiac Ruler fares in Saturday’s R2-million Daily News 2000, but the Justin Snaith inmate has a perfect No 2 draw in contrast to two of his rivals, Al Sahem and Pagoda.