English King favourite as 16 declared for Saturday's Investec Derby
English King faces 15 rivals as he bids to justify his position at the top of the market in the £500,000 G1 Investec Derby (4.55pm) behind closed doors at Epsom Downs on Saturday, 4 July.
English King has been the plunge horse in the betting for Britain’s premier Classic and that confidence solidified last week with the announcement that Frankie Dettori would be taking the ride.
Prior to that news, English King had marked himself down as a live contender with a dominant success in the Listed Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield Park on 5 June.
The Bjorn Nielsen-owned runner is the 11/4 favourite with Unibet, official betting partner of the Investec Derby. Since 1970, 17 Investec Derby favourites have triumphed, most recently Golden Horn in 2015.
Trainer Ed Walker, ahead of his first runner in the Investec Derby, said: “I am massively excited by English King and I would not swap him for anything else.
“I know that sounds mad with a Guineas winner [Kameko] in the field, but I wouldn’t.
“I always vowed that I would not run a horse in the Derby if he didn’t deserve his place.
“I think he will have learnt a lot at Lingfield and hopefully he can cruise round Tattenham Corner.
“Whether he is good enough – we will find out, but he ticks an awful lot of boxes. I think that is why he is at the top of the market, because he ticks all the boxes.
“At home, he was always a nice, good looking athletic horse. He is not a horse you expect to see blasting past his lead horse in Frankel style. He does what he has to do; he is not a flashy workhorse.
“Anyone who says they don’t think about winning the Derby is surely lying. I have been thinking about it since I discovered horseracing when I was 13 years old, so of course you think about it in this position. It would be a great day if it happened.
“Frankie sat on him last week and just wanted to come down and have a feel of the horse. He really wanted to get inside the horse’s head, which is a mark of Frankie’s professionalism and he was very happy.”
English King’s chief danger according to the betting is QIPCO 2000 Guineas hero Kameko (Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy), a 4/1 chance with Unibet, who has stamina questions to answer as he races beyond a mile for the first time.
A total of 37 horses have won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and Investec Derby, but only two in the last 30 years – Sea The Stars (2009) and Camelot (2012). One statistic Kameko does have to overcome is that he is drawn in stall 11, which has not produced a single Investec Derby winner since starting stalls were introduced at Epsom Downs in 1967.
Ireland’s perennial champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien is bidding for a record breaking eighth Investec Derby victory. Five of his seven wins in the race have come since 2012.
The master of Ballydoyle is launching a six-pronged assault on the world’s greatest Flat race, with his team headed by Mogul, the pick of Coolmore’s retained jockey Ryan Moore, G3 Hampton Court Stakes victor Russian Emperor (Seamie Heffernan) and G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up Vatican City (Padraig Beggy). Mythical (James Doyle), who was G1-placed in France last year, wide margin Curragh maiden scorer Serpentine (Emmet McNamara) and Amhran Na Bhfiann (William Buick) also run.
Russian Emperor is one of three Royal Ascot winners in the field alongside Pyledriver (William Muir/Martin Dwyer) and Highland Chief (Paul & Oliver Cole/Ben Curtis). Pyledriver had Mohican Heights (David Simcock/Andrea Atzeni) and Mogul in behind when landing the G2 King Edward VII Stakes, while Highland Chief defied top weight to win the Golden Gates Handicap.
Kameko’s stablemate Khalifa Sat (Andrew Balding/Tom Marquand) and Emissary (Hugo Palmer/Jim Crowley) meet again, after the pair were separated by a neck in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood on 14 June.
Britain’s champion trainer John Gosden has sent out two Investec Derby winners, most recently Golden Horn in 2015, and the Newmarket handler is represented by once-raced Newbury maiden scorer Worthily (Martin Harley). Worthily is a three-parts sibling to Lucarno, who was fourth in the 2007 Derby before going to take the St Leger.
The 16 runners are completed by G3 Zetland Stakes winner Max Vega (Ralph Beckett/Harry Bentley) and Gold Maze (Jessica Harrington IRE/David Egan), who turns out quickly after finishing sixth in last weekend’s G1 Irish Derby.
The Investec Derby is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Investec Derby – Unibet prices: 11/4 English King; 4/1 Kameko; 5/1 Mogul; 13/2 Russian Emperor; 17/2 Vatican City; 14/1 Highland Chief, Pyledriver, 20/1 Mohican Heights, Serpentine; 22/1 Khalifa Sat; 33/1 Emissary, Max Vega, Mythical, Worthily; 50/1 Amhran Na Bhfiann, Gold Maze
Each-way 1/5 1,2,3
Ed Nicholson, Head of Unibet Racing Sponsorship & Communications, said: “The biggest mover in the Investec Derby betting following today’s declarations has been Mogul. We cut him from 13/2 at all rates into 5/1 on the news that he will be ridden by Ryan Moore.
“As a result, English King has eased slightly to 11/4 from 5/2, but he is still favourite. His draw has also been viewed negatively by the public. Only three stall one winners have been successful since 1967. But it should be noted that in the last 20 years alone, only five horses drawn stall one were in single-figure odds.”
The going at Epsom Downs is currently Good.
GoingStick reading: 6.9 at 8.00am today.
Weather: There was five millimetres of rain on Saturday, 26 June with one millimetre following on Sunday. Monday was dry, with 3.5 millimetres of rain on Tuesday and 4.6 millimetres on Wednesday.
The forecast is for showers today, with tomorrow looking likely to be dry. There is the chance of further rain on Saturday morning. Temperatures are set to remain in the high teens/low 20s for the rest of the week.
Andrew Cooper, Head of Racing & Clerk of the Course at Epsom Downs, said today: “We have seen some passing showers today but nothing really measurable. We are set for similar conditions and temperatures up to and including Saturday.
“The rain on Tuesday and Wednesday was beneficial and the going is currently Good all over.
“We look set for a great Investec Derby following today’s final declaration stage and the Investec Oaks similarly looks high-quality.”