YORK RACE WILL HAVE POINTERS FOR THE VODAFONE DERBY
VODAFONE DERBY ENTRIES DOMINATE DANTE FIELD
Three of the past 10 Vodafone Derby winners captured York’s totesport Dante Stakes en route to their Epsom Downs triumph and the extended 10-furlong contest promises to reveal more Blue Riband clues on Thursday, May 17.
Motivator in 2005 was the latest Vodafone Derby winner to have won the Group Two contest, while North Light (2004) and Benny The Dip (1997) also completed the double in the past 10 years.
Sakhee won the York race in 2000 before finishing runner-up to Sinndar at Epsom Downs and Moon Ballad came home third in High Chaparral’s Vodafone Derby after winning the Dante.
There are four Vodafone Derby entries in the six-runner field this year, and connections will be hoping for a big run to determine their chances of glory in the premier Classic on Saturday, June 2.
Saeed Suhail enjoyed his biggest day as an owner when Kris Kin powered up the final climb at Epsom Downs for a breathtaking victory in the 2003 Vodafone Derby. Al Shemali is a possible Vodafone Derby contender for the owner this year, with the colt’s participation in the Classic likely to hinge on how he performs at York.
Suhail’s racing manager, Bruce Raymond, reported today: "If Al Shemali were to win the Dante then we would obviously have to look at the Vodafone Derby but that’s up to Sir Michael Stoute. There are no firm plans with him, so we’ll see how he gets on at York.
"He was a little bit outpaced in the 2,000 Guineas and Richard (Hills) accepted that he couldn’t go with them and hung on to him in the hope that he would run on, which he did. We weren’t too disappointed with his Guineas run and Richard was very complimentary about him afterwards. A step up in trip will help him a lot, and he wouldn’t mind softer ground either."
Al Shemali was fourth on his seasonal debut when favourite for the nine-furlong Listed Feilden Stakes at Newmarket, which was won by fellow Vodafone Derby entry Petara Bay (50/1), with current 8/1 second-favourite Salford Mill in second. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt followed that effort with a respectable 13th of 24 behind Cockney Rebel in the 2,000 Guineas over a mile.
Suhail also owned Beat All who was third to Oath in the 1999 Vodafone Derby. The Dubai-based businessman also has the Stoute-trained Ladies Best still engaged in the Vodafone Derby and Raymond reported that the King’s Best colt could make his seasonal debut at Newmarket next week.
Other Vodafone Derby entries in the Dante field include the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Authorized, who is currently 4/1 favourite for the premier Classic, having won the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Newbury in October.
The unbeaten Proponent (20/1) won both his starts last term and is trained by Roger Charlton, who landed the Vodafone Derby in 1990 with Quest For Fame.
Beaten 2,000 Guineas favourite Adagio is also entered. The Vodafone Derby hopeful, trained by Stoute and 16/1 for the Classic, won the Group Three Craven Stakes at Newmarket on his seasonal debut.
The John Gosden-trained Raincoat does not hold an entry for the mile and a half Classic on Saturday, June 2 but was the impressive winner of the Weatherbys Bank Blue Riband Trial Stakes at Epsom Downs on April 25, and could be supplemented.
LATEST GOING REPORT FROM EPSOM DOWNS
Andrew Cooper, Clerk of the Course at Epsom Downs, revealed today: "The Vodafone Derby Festival is still a little way off but we’re happy with the course at this stage.
"There has been plenty of rain around in May and Epsom has been getting its fair chunk of that, so the ground is currently on the slow side of good. If we were racing today, I wouldn’t call the going any worse than good to soft.
"The track is in excellent condition and has recovered well from the Spring Meeting. The ground is in great nick and I’m very happy with it."
ANTON CHEKHOV STICKS TO THE SCRIPT
Anton Chekhov strengthened Aidan O’Brien’s Vodafone Derby hand with a game victory in the Group Two Prix Hocquart Mitsubishi Motors at Longchamp on May 8.
The Montjeu colt set a steady pace under Johnny Murtagh in the 11-furlong contest and was headed approaching the distance before rallying determinedly to secure a head verdict over the Andre Fabre-trained Royal And Regal.
The Ballydoyle colt had finished fifth to Mores Wells when making his seasonal bow in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown 16 days earlier and clearly benefited from that effort, but bookmakers were largely unimpressed and his Vodafone Derby odds remain around 33/1.
FORTUNE FAVOURS O’BRIEN AT CHESTER
Chester’s May meeting often provides valuable clues to the Vodafone Derby and Aidan O’Brien could hold the key to the puzzle after capturing the two major trials on the Roodee, the Chester Vase (May 10) and the Dee Stakes (May 11).
Last season’s Group Three Chester Vase saw Dragon Dancer finish runner-up to Papal Bull before filling the same position in the Epsom Classic, just a short-head behind Sir Percy.
The O’Brien-trained Soldier Of Fortune took the prize this time under Mick Kinane, rallying in the closing stages of the extended mile and a half contest to overhaul the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Arabian Gulf and snatch the verdict by the narrowest of margins.
Soldier Of Fortune was Group One-placed last term and had already secured the Group Two Prix Noailles at Longchamp this spring, whereas fellow Vodafone Derby hopeful, Arabian Gulf, was attempting to follow up a Newmarket maiden win, on only the third start of his career.
Bookmakers reacted by shortening the Khalid Abdulla-owned Arabian Gulf to 25/1, while Soldier Of Fortune is a general 16/1 shot.
The following day’s Group Three Dee Stakes brought further joy for O’Brien and Kinane as Admiralofthefleet sailed home by two lengths from the well-backed Barry Hills-trained Desert Dew, who was sent off the 2/1 favourite.
Admiralofthefleet, winner of the Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot last season, had disappointed on his seasonal bow when only seventh of eight to Creachadoir in the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial over a mile on April 7, but clearly relished the step up to an extended 10 furlongs as he drew clear of his six rivals for a commanding victory.
The Danehill colt is a general 16/1 chance to follow in the footsteps of Oath (1999) and Kris Kin (2003), recent Dee Stakes winners who went on to Vodafone Derby glory, although Kinane intimated after the race that Soldier Of Fortune may have posted a better effort the previous day.
The other two Vodafone Derby entrants in the race proved disappointing as the hitherto unbeaten John Gosden-trained Yazamaan crossed the line in fifth, and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ea trailed in last.
AQALEEM - ANOTHER SIR PERCY?
Marcus Tregoning enjoyed the biggest day of his career when Sir Percy won a scintillating renewal of the Vodafone Derby in 2006, and the trainer is hoping lightning can strike twice in 12 months after the inexperienced Aqaleem scored a decisive four-length victory in the totesport Derby Trial at Lingfield on May 12.
Aqaleem was having only the third start of his career in the Group Three contest, having raced twice without success as a juvenile. The Sinndar colt was ridden along entering the straight but picked up nicely for Richard Hills and stayed on strongly to lead approaching the distance.
Tregoning’s charge clearly relished the extended 11-furlong trip and his odds for the Epsom Classic have duly shortened to 14/1.
Six of the seven runners in the Group Three contest hold Vodafone Derby entries, including the runner-up Hearthstead Maison. The Mark Johnston-trained colt, winner of a Newmarket handicap on his previous start, was slightly hampered over a furlong out before running on to the line.
BALLYDOYLE ROLL CONTINUES
Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) both secured the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial for trainer Aidan O’Brien en route to victory in the Vodafone Derby, and the master of Ballydoyle will be hoping Archipenko can follow in the footsteps of those illustrious predecessors.
The Kingmambo colt was sent off an 8/1 chance in the five-runner field that included three of his stablemates and Ballysax Stakes winner Mores Wells.
Archipenko, winner of a Leopardstown maiden from three starts last term, travelled well throughout the 10-furlong race under Mick Kinane and kept on in good style to score by three quarters of a length from Yellowstone.
Macarthur, a brother to 2005 Vodafone Derby winner Motivator and well-touted for the Epsom feature, was sent off the 8/11 favourite but was a further two lengths adrift in third, while the Kevin Prendergast-trained Mores Wells ran below the form of his Ballysax Stakes win in finishing fourth.
As well as Galileo and High Chaparral, Sinndar added the Vodafone Derby to his Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial success in 2000, while Dylan Thomas took the race last year before finishing third to Sir Percy at Epsom Downs.
Bookmakers reacted by shortening Archipenko and he is now available at odds ranging from 10/1 to 14/1, having been a 50/1 shot with most firms prior to the off, while Macarthur, second-favourite for the Epsom Classic less than a month ago, has drifted to around 25/1. Mores Wells has been pushed out to 33/1.
KAUTO STAR SWEEPS THE BOARD AT THE ANGLO-IRISH JUMP RACING AWARDS
Kauto Star, owned by Clive Smith and trained by Paul Nicholls in Ditcheat, Somerset, was today hailed as one of the greatest steeplechasers in a generation, and named as Horse of the Year at the second annual Anglo-Irish Jump Racing Awards in central London.
In addition to the main honour, the seven-year-old landed three further Awards as Champion Two-Mile, Two-and-a-Half-Mile and Three-Mile + Chaser. He was also recognised as winner of the 2006/07 Racing UK Order of Merit, following a campaign that saw him record six straight victories, over a range of distances, at six different racecourses. His season culminated with success in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Mighty Man was Champion Two-and-a-Half Mile + Hurdler for a second successive season, while Hardy Eustace and Sublimity were joint Champion Two-Mile Hurdlers. The prolific Katchit and Denman were Champion Novice Hurdler and Chaser respectively.
The Awards were held by the British Horseracing Board and Irish Turf Club, and based on and coinciding with the publication of the Anglo-Irish National Hunt Classifications. A specially-invited audience of over 230, including leading owners, trainers, jockeys, industry figures and media from Britain and Ireland were in attendance. The event was co-hosted by leading broadcasters Clare Balding and Brian Gleeson, and the Awards presented by BHB Chairman Paul Roy and Senior Steward of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee John Moloney.
The full list of Award winners was as follows:
Champion Novice Hurdler - Katchit
Champion Novice Chaser - Denman
Champion Two-Mile Hurdler - Hardy Eustace - Sublimity
Champion Two-Mile Chaser - Kauto Star
Champion Two-and-a-Half-Mile + Hurdler - Mighty Man
Champion Two-and-a-Half-Mile Chaser - Kauto Star
Champion Three-Mile + Chaser - Kauto Star
British Champion Conditional - Tom O'Brien
British Champion Jockey - Tony McCoy
British Champion Trainer - Paul Nicholls
British Champion Owner - J P McManus
Horse of the Year - Kauto Star
The formal presentations for the Racing UK Order of Merit saw £300,000 in prize money handed out. Mighty Man claimed £25,000 for third place, Exotic Dancer collected £75,000 for second place, and Kauto Star's overall prize was £200,000. Each of the amounts was split 75% to the owner, 12.5% to the trainer and 12.5% to the stable team behind each horse.
BHB Chairman Paul Roy said: "This, like so many others over the 2006/07 season, was Kauto Star's day. Horses like him do not come along very often, and are to be cherished. To be top-rated in every distance category is an outstanding achievement, and he was a unanimous choice as Horse of the Year. The Awards are a great celebration of Jump Racing, and the close bond between Britain and Ireland."
Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee Senior Steward John Moloney said: "It has been another wonderful year for National Hunt racing both in Ireland and in Britain. We are delighted to co-host this prestigious awards scheme which once again highlights the fact that when it comes to National Hunt racing in these islands there are no country barriers. We are all partners in this wonderful sport of ours and that is perhaps the real secret of its success."