In another oddity that the lockdown period has thrown up, the Epsom Derby and Oaks will this year be run on the same day – rather than across the usual two day meeting. Although some of the supporting races have been lost, Epsom have done a fantastic job at squeezing in the two classics into one card, supported by the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes and Listed Surrey Stakes. I have four selections across the Epsom card, as well as one selection from Naas – who it must be said also stages a good card on Saturday. Be sure to give me a follow on Twitter @JakePriceRacing for live updates throughout the day, as well as a link to my Eclipse Day Preview at Sandown on Sunday when it goes live!
13:50 – Investec Woodcote EBF Stakes (Class 2) 2yo – 6f
Godolphin won the Woodcote Stakes at last year’s Epsom Derby meeting with Pinatubo, and whilst there clearly isn’t a Horse of that calibre in the field this time around, I think they will have the winner again thanks to Modern News. This Colt made his racecourse debut at Newmarket on the 7th June, running in a 6f Maiden Stakes. Four Godolphin Horses lined up that day so Mickael Barzalona picked up the ride on his journey over from France – a move that worked out well. Pushed along with 2f left to run, it did take Modern News a while before the penny dropped – but once he hit the rising ground he showed good speed to go on and win the race by a neck, with stablemate Noble Dynasty (half-brother to Barney Roy) back in second. Connections stepped Modern News up in class and trip for his next start at Royal Ascot, running in the 7f Listed Chesham Stakes. Unfortunately for his chances that day however, this Charlie Appleby Colt was drawn in stall 2 – which was a disadvantage for most of the Royal meeting. Still holding every chance on the farside with 2f left to run, Modern News just couldn’t go on with Aidan O’Brien’s impressive winner Battleground in the end, as he faded out inside the final furlong to finish fifth. My inkling with this performance is that Modern News understandably didn’t really see out the 7f trip on Soft ground, and the draw clearly didn’t do him any favours either. Dropping back to 6f in the Woodcote should be perfect for this Son of Shamardal however, and if some of the forecast rain does arrive, I don’t think it would inconvenience him as a stiff 6f seems to be what he needs. Charlie Appleby and William Buick have been in fine form lately, and Modern News should be able to make his experience count to start their day in the best possible way.
15:00 – Investec Handicap (Class 2) 4yo+ – 1m2f
I’ve been waiting to Ironclad to make his reappearance for a while, and this looks like an ideal race for him. This Son of Dubawi has an amazing pedigree, being by dual Group 1 winning Mare Heat Haze (half-sister to Dansili), making him a half-brother to Mirage Dancer (116 rated when with Sir Michael Stoute) and a full-brother to Forge (108 rated when with Sir Michael Stoute). Considering he’s bred in the purple, you’d have to imagine he’s got the potential to be much better than his current official rating of 86. Ironclad didn’t race at two, but he started his career as a three-year-old in March 2019 when finishing third in a 1m Novice Stakes, before then finishing fifth behind Bangkok (114) and Telecaster (113) in a 1m2f Doncaster Maiden Stakes – two Horses who have gone on to much better things since. Back on the all weather at Chelmsford for his next start in June, Ironclad stayed on strongly under Pat Cosgrave but just couldn’t peg back Durrell – being beaten three-quarters-of-a-length, but running with promise. Two victories would follow this run; the first coming at Beverley when winning by a cosy length, and the second coming at Newmarket’s July course, where he reversed form with Durrell to win on Handicap debut off a mark of 81. That performance was particularly pleasing as Ironclad travelled all over his rivals, before then showing a nice enough turn of foot to record another cosy success. Connections decided to give Ironclad one more spin on the all weather at Kempton in August when stepping him up to 1m4f, and he ran a nice race to finish in fourth place – only beaten one-and-three-quarter lengths. The form of this race is working out really nicely, with the second Laafy (98) bolting up at Newbury on the 12th June (and is now favourite for the Old Newton Cup at Haydock on Sunday), and the third Selino (102) has won twice since, finishing second in the Class 2 Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot on his last start. Ironclad was gelded over the winter in a bid to bring out further improvement in him this season, and his current mark of 86 makes him look very competitive based upon that Kempton form. Considering he stayed on at one-pace in the final furlong that day, dropping back to 1m2f shouldn’t be a negative. It’s also interesting that Andrea Atzeni has been booked to take the ride, as he has won this Handicap for the past two successive years. Whilst I do respect the worthy favourite Desert Icon, he faces a tough task running six days after his Newmarket success, especially under a 6lbs penalty.
15:40 – Investec Oaks (Group 1) 3yo – 1m4f
The 2020 running of the Oaks certainly doesn’t look to be a strong one, but there are three nice Fillies who head the betting, and I’d be very surprised if one of them doesn’t win. At the current prices available I certainly won’t be having a bet in the race, but Love was so impressive in her 1000 Guineas victory, and I’d expect her to take all the beating here. This Aidan O’Brien Filly was only beaten in Group company last season when there was cut in the ground, but that run behind Alpine Star in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes is working out pretty well now. Love took her form to a completely different level when winning the 1000 Guineas by four-and-a-half lengths at Newmarket on the 7th June however, and when you watch it back, she got better the further they went. This classy daughter of Galileo is a full-sister to Peach Tree, who won a Group 3 over 1m6f last season – so you’d have to imagine that she will have the stamina to win over the 1m4f Oaks trip. My only concern with her would be if the rain does get into the ground, but she still will take a lot of beating under Ryan Moore. Frankly Darling is another Filly who I really like, and she proved any doubters wrong at Royal Ascot when going from a Maiden winner to a Group 2 winner. That Ribblesdale victory over Ennistymon saw her keen in the early stages however, and she did need to benefit from a very good Frankie Dettori ride to win the race. Any such keenness in the Oaks will severely hinder her chances, but either way she mightn’t have the class to deal with Love. This is a race to sit back and enjoy for me, but I will be cheering on Love.
16:15 – Princess Elizabeth Stakes (Group 3) 3yo – 1m½f
Cloak Of Spirits holds an obvious form chance in this weak looking Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes, but she comes into this off the back of two hard runs – the first of which when a well beaten second behind Love in the 1000 Guineas, and then the second coming at Royal Ascot when again well beaten – finishing fifth behind Alpine Star in the Coronation Stakes. With this in mind, I’m going to take a chance on Roger Varian’s Fooraat, who was mightily impressive on her return to the track last month. This Dubawi Filly is a full-sister to Saeed bin Suroor’s multiple Group 1 winner Benbatl (125), and she made her only start as a Juvenile a winning one at Newcastle in October when keeping on gamely to beat Maria Rosa. That Godolphin Filly is a half-sister to Nyquist and cost a cool $1,750,000 – so it clearly was a good scalp to take on debut. The 7f trip that day probably was too sharp for her, but stepping up to 1m at Chelmsford last month took Fooraat to another level. David Egan took this Filly straight to the lead that day, and she made all in really taking style – quickening strongly off the front-end to win by seven-lengths. The performance was not only taking to watch, but she also proved just how far she had come on from her debut as Maria Rosa re-opposed on 7lbs better terms that day, but was stuffed by 11 lengths. The Handicapper clearly agrees that Fooraat has star-quality potential as he has already given this Filly a rating of 100 despite only winning twice on the all weather. Fooraat will need to step forward again to land this Group 3 contest, but this looks like a good opportunity for her. If she’s anything like her brother, then running on turf for the first time should actually bring out further improvement, rather than be seen as a negative.
16:55 – Investec Derby (Group 1) 3yo – 1m4f
A lot has already been said about English King, and he is just one of those Horses that really hasn’t captured my imagination – so the fact that he has been drawn in the infamous stall 1 and is favourite for the race gives me more than enough reason to take him on.
Call me mad, but the Horse that I quite fancy at a massive price here is Max Vega. This Ralph Beckett charge was an impressive winner of the 1m2f Group 3 Zetland Stakes at Newmarket at the backend of last season, where he beat subsequent Listed Oaks Trial winner Miss Yoda (102) by three-lengths, with Berkshire Rocco (108) a further three-quarters of a length back in third. Realistically, Max Vega beat Berkshire Rocco almost as impressively as English King did in the Lingfield Derby Trial in that Zetland win, so if you were being simplistic then you’d have to be interested in him at such a big price. Obviously things haven’t gone perfectly for Max Vega since – as he was last seen on the track when running in the Group 3 Classic Trial on the all weather at Kempton. This Lope De Vega Colt never really seemed comfortable on the artificial surface that day however, and he didn’t have the pace to quicken on with Berlin Tango (110) and Pyledriver (110) – but what you can say is that both of those rivals did the form no harm at Royal Ascot when finishing third in the Hampton Court Stakes and winning the King Edward VII Stakes respectively. Max Vega is clearly a Colt who will appreciate the step-up in trip to 1m4f for the first time at Epsom on Saturday, and any rain that falls would play to his strengths. Whilst he might not be the most talented Horse in this race, the fact that he has had a 31 day break between his trial and the Derby should be seen as a big positive. With four places available, Max Vega looks a huge price at 33/1 – and he’s already seen support from a best price of 50/1 just a few days ago.
16:40 – Syndicates.Racing Blackwater Handicap (Premier Handicap) 3yo – 1m
Lough Cutra may still be a Maiden, but he looks to have an outstanding chance of shedding that tag when making his Handicap debut at Naas on Saturday. The form of this Colt is working out left right and centre, going all the way back to when he made his two-year-old debut at the Curragh in October over 7f, where he was beaten half-a-length by Ten Year Ticket – the subsequent Listed Trial Stakes winner. Perhaps even better form from that race however comes from the third-placed Tiger Moth – a subsequent Aidan O’Brien Maiden winner who finished a head-second to Santiago in the Group 1 Irish Derby at the Curragh last weekend. Lough Cutra wasn’t seen back on the track until Naas in March, where he managed to get a run in on the first Flat day of the season before lockdown. Once more running a big race, Lough Cutra seemed to enjoy the step-up to a mile when only beaten three-quarters of a length – this time finishing third behind Russian Emperor (111). This is yet another Aidan O’Brien horse to have gone on to much better things since, having won the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot, and he will now take his chance in the Epsom Derby on Saturday.
Lough Cutra was fully expected to get off the mark at Leopardstown on his last start – running in a 1m2f Maiden on the 21st June. Whilst you can’t say that he didn’t stay the trip that day, this Oasis Dream Colt once more bumped into a smart looking Horse – beaten three-and-a-half lengths by Aidan O’Brien’s impressive Numen. Despite holding such strong form, Lough Cutra has been given a very lenient opening mark of 84 for his Handicap debut, and dropping back to a mile should help him finish his race strongly. In my opinion Lough Cutra is by far the best handicapped Horse in this race, and he should go really close for the in-form Ger Lyons team, under top rider Colin Keane.