IT'S a weekend to have your remote control at the ready as we have four European classics and a multitude of Group action to enjoy over the next two days, not mentioning the return of racing’s Queen: Enable.
The Epsom Derby is the centrepiece of European flat racing. America has the Kentucky Derby, Australia has the Golden Slipper but in Europe, to win the Epsom Derby is the ultimate dream.
The market for tomorrow’s race isn’t dominated by any particular horse. Lingfield Derby Trial winner English King is currently favourite for Ed Walker and Frankie Dettori but surely the horse with the best for in the race is Andrew Balding’s Kameko?
It’s an unspoken prophecy that the 2,000 Guineas is the best trial for the Derby as the classiest horses tend to win over any trip. Just like Roaring Lion in 2018, Kameko carries the colours of Qatar Racing, Oisin Murphy and a certain doubt regarding his ability to stay 12 furlongs.
To my mind, Roaring Lion was the best horse to contest the 2018 Derby but having blatantly failed to see out the distance, he faded to third behind Masar. This raises the question – will Kameko do the same?
Ballydoyle have a typically strong team which includes Mogul, Russian Emperor and Vatican City. It’s unusual for Aidan O’Brien not to have the hot pot for Epsom but that doesn’t mean he won’t win!
The Epsom Oaks features a mouth-watering clash of this generation’s best fillies – Newmarket 1,000 Guineas Love versus impressive Ribblesdale Stakes winner Frankly Darling.
Personally, I think Love achieved more when winning at Newmarket on her seasonal debut than Frankly Darling did when romping home at Royal Ascot. I’d don’t think the Ribblesdale was nearly as strong a race but this is an extra half mile for Love. As a Galileo, one would expect her to relish the extra distance but she’ll have to step up again to contain the formidable British challenge.
Now for Saunday’s French Classics! Unlike the Irish and English equivalents, the Prix du Jockey Club is run over ten furlongs, a factor that should play to the strengths of French 2,000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum. The opposition includes The Summit, Pao Alto and Ocean Atlantique while Armory represent’s Aidan O’Brien who amazingly is yet to win this race.
Andre Fabre last won this with New Bay in 2015 and all things considered, Victor Ludorum looks rock solid this Sunday.
In contrast to the French Derby, the Prix de Diane features a strong Irish challenge. Jessica Harrington worked her magic by producing Alpine Star to win the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on her seasonal debut and is a worthy favourite to notch up her second Group 1 in Paris.
Due to travel restrictions, Harrington has opted to book French rider Stephane Pasquier to take the ride.
Alpine Star beat the classy American filly Sharing at Ascot but this Sunday in the French capital, she must contend with top-notch opposition from Tipperary. Donnacha O’Brien trained his first turf winner on Monday at Limerick and he has booked top rider Pierre-Charles Boudot to help him get his second while his father Aidan sends over Peaceful, the filly who beat Fancy Blue at the Curragh a fortnight ago.
The French Oaks looks more competitive on paper than the Epsom version. I wonder is it because Longchamp’s race is worth €340,000 compared to Epsom’s £141,000? Undoubtedly. Why else would three Irish fillies fly over Epsom to get to Paris?
Classic generation aside, Sunday’s Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown features the return of dual Arc heroine and all-round Queen of the turf, Enable. Not seen since narrowly failing to land her third consecutive Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, this has long been the plan for Enable and having watched Magical blitz inferior rivals in the Pretty Polly at the Curragh last weekend, this assignment appears much more difficult.
Japan blew away some cobwebs in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and should strip much fitter for this task. He’ll have to put up a career best to beat the mare but you never know.
She’s now six-years-old. Can she maintain her supremacy? The boys are challenging for her throne.
Over to you Mr Dettori!