Derby 2020 – the leading contenders and what their trainers say
With entries for the Investec Derby 2020 set to be made on Monday, we look at some leading contenders and hear what the trainers have to say (odds from Paddy Power, 29 June, 13.25)
Ahead of this season, English King was considered a dark horse for the Derby but the son of Camelot, winner of the 2012 Derby, showed he was far more than that with a dominant victory in the Listed Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield earlier in the month.
English King, favourite for the Derby at 5/2 (Paddy Power), will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, replacing Tom Marquand who rode him at Lingfield. The change of jockey was confirmed by trainer Ed Walker, following a discussion with owner Bjorn Nielsen, who said:
“I feel desperately sorry for Tom, and it is absolutely no reflection of our faith and trust in his ability.
“Bjorn and I mulled it over and watched all the trials, and it became increasingly clear John (Gosden) wasn’t going to have a Derby runner. After Tom won on the horse at Lingfield he asked if he’d keep the ride in the Derby, and I said to him ‘your only danger is Frankie’.
“Frankie obviously has a wealth of big-race experience and raises his game to stratospheric heights for the big races. We feel very privileged to have him on board.”
On English King’s Derby Trial win, Walker said:
“He has come out of Lingfield very well, it was the perfect prep. I always wanted to go to Lingfield because I think it mimics Epsom really well. The ground was quite quick but he came out of it great and handled conditions very well and we have had plenty of time to freshen him up, get weight back on him and he is ready to go.
“We always thought he was a really nice horse, he only does what he’s asked to do at home. He’s not the most flashy work horse but he was very impressive at Newcastle and that was solid form so we knew he was a horse who was going to turn it on on the track and he’s just one of those horses that has got everything in terms of he relaxes, he stays, he travels and like all those good horses they have got to be able to quicken off a high tempo which he proved really well.”
This will be Ed Walker’s first runner in the Investec Derby. He spoke of the excitement of having a leading contender:
“There has always been a bit of a buzz through this Winter coming into Spring and we were obviously very frustrated not to get going, as everybody was, but there has been a real buzz and obviously with him winning like that and having one of the leading contenders for the Derby has really upped the excitement in the yard.”
On training English King he added:
“He is a real joy to train to be honest, he’s obviously by Camelot who was by Montjeu and when I worked for Luca Cumani we had a lot of lovely Montjeu’s and they have all got that great personality, that big character and I think Camelot’s inherited that and passed it on to his progeny. I always really enjoyed training Monjeu’s when I was with Luca and we have had a few Camelot’s and they are very similar, very playful horses.
“They need a lot of work and very active mentally and need plenty of graft to keep them in the right place and he is like that. He does strong canters most days which he takes really well and he needs that to keep him in a good place. He can be quite playful to and from the gallop and he was quite fresh through the winter but he is much better now and got his back down a bit.”
Kameko (7/2), trained by Andrew Balding (pictured), ended 2019 with Group 1 success in the rearranged Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle, historically a good trial for the Derby, and was again strong at the finish over a mile when capturing the opening Classic of the season, the 2000 Guineas, at Newmarket on 6 June.
The son of Kitten’s Joy has the chance to emulate Sea The Stars (2009) and Camelot (2012), who are the only 2000 Guineas winners in the last 30 years to double up in the Investec Derby.
Balding said: “The whole thing about Derby Day is not just the examination of a horse created by the track and the idiosyncrasies provided by Epsom Downs, but also the atmosphere. It is a test like no other and it is sad that there will be no crowds there this year. It is what it is, and the absence of a crowd should not be to the advantage or disadvantage of any horse.
“I have found since the resumption of racing that the horses have been so relaxed, it is amazing. We have hardly had a horse sweat on course pre-race, even the two-year-olds, which is extraordinary. Having no crowds has been a help for trainers, but we certainly don’t want it to last!
“I thought English King was very impressive at Lingfield when he beat one mine Berkshire Rocco, who went on to run well in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot. Obviously, Frankie is going to ride English King and he has everything to go with it. He looks a worthy favourite – the Lingfield Derby Trial is a good test for Epsom and he obviously stays, so he has already answered two of the questions which we have over Kameko.
“We are really pleased with the way that Kameko came out of Newmarket, he is a very laid-back horse. He slept that night got up the next morning on Monday morning and back to work and hasn’t looked back since.
“We sent him upsides on Saturday which was his first faster piece since the Guineas and I was really pleased with him, he is just such a professional and I couldn’t be happier at this stage. We have got one more big piece of work to go and as long as that goes well we are all systems go.”
Reflecting on Kameko’s success at Newmarket, Balding said:
“We went into the Guineas with high hopes that he would run very well but I was really pleased with the way he won the race. I think it was a strong Guineas, I think both Wichita and Pinatubo are two very good horses and he picked them up and was on top at the end and that was important.
“I think his last furlong was his best furlong even though he hung slightly across the track he was really strong at the end of the race. I think that has got to be encouraging in terms of looking towards Epsom.”
On training Kameko he added:
“From the day he arrived in the yard Kameko has just been the most sensational horse to have anything to do with. He’s so relaxed, he’s so professional, he’s always worked to a high standard. He is an easy horse to read which is important and helpful for a trainer.
“The only time I think I felt we got it wrong was when we had him a little too fresh for the Royal Lodge that day but we learnt from that and he is a horse who needs and enjoys plenty of work and thats fantastic, we have had a good lead up to Epsom so hopefully we can keep that going for another ten days that would be great.”
“Whatever Aidan (O’Brien) sends over has got to be given the utmost respect. He has a strong team of middle-distance horses every year.
“I will also be running another horse called Khalifa Sat, who won the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood. He is a horse we think a lot of, and he stays well. As long as the ground is fast, he will run. As with any Derby, there will be 14 runners or so and you wouldn’t fall over in amazement if any of them won.”
Speaking about jockey Oisin Murphy (pictured), who will partner Kameko, Balding added: “What Oisin has done so well at over the past couple of years is developing a big match mentality, which is a massive help when you are in the pressure cauldron of G1 races. Obviously, Frankie and Ryan (Moore) have got it in spades, but for some as young as Oisin to have it is a big help and I am thrilled he is riding for us.”
Ireland’s perennial champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien (pictured) has a formidable record in the Investec Derby with a joint-record seven successes in total, five of which have come since 2012.
After his nine-length victory in a maiden at the Curragh, Serpentine is now booked to line-up in the Epsom classic, but Irish Derby winner Santiago is not attempting a Derby double.
O’Brien’s quest for a record breaking eighth Investec Derby success is also set to feature Mogul (7/1), who was sent off at odds-on when fourth behind Pyledriver (16/1), trained by William Muir, in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Joining Mogul at Epsom are the Hampton Court Stakes victor Russian Emperor (7/1) and Group Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up Vatican City (7/1).
The stable also confirmed that this trio will be joined by Mythical (40/1), who finished third in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October, and Amhran Na Bhfiann (50/1), a full-brother to 2012 Investec Oaks winner Was. Group 2 scorer Armory has the option of the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly the following afternoon.
More for Epsom
The Gary McKenzie View http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4lJ
Whistlejacket’s Derby 2020 Betting Plan http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4lu
Horse-by-horse guide to the 2020 Derby http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4l7
Leading Derby contenders and what their trainers say http://wp.me/s8e3Dl-16517
10-year key stats for the Derby 2020 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4jg
10-year key stats for the Oaks 2020 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4jQ
Aiden O’Brien would love a 1000 Guineas/Oaks double http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4jz