Andy Stephens takes you for a spin on The Magic Roundabout, remembers the deeds of Dante and touches on a big day for John Gosden
Brian The Snail goes through paces:
Naming racehorses is a delicate business but, if in doubt, opt for an available character out of The Magic Roundabout.
The children’s TV programme was a cult hit between 1964-1971 and inspired a film version in 2005.
Zebedee, a jack-in-the-box, was one of those to feature in more than 400 five-minute episodes and the equine version was among the top two-year-olds of 2010, when he won six of his seven races before being retired.
He has since proved a success at stud with one of his offspring being the smart and cleverly named Ivawood. It was Iver Wood who helped create the programme.
Brian was a cheerful snail in The Magic Roundabout and his horsey namesake, Brian The Snail, another of Zebedee’s offspring, has looked really exciting in winning each of his three starts.
The Richard Fahey-trained colt, snapped up by Godolphin this year, seeks to continue his winning spree in the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes. He has the Commonwealth Cup, for which he is quoted at 16-1, as a potential target.
Such a name did L’Escargot no harm either. He won two Cheltenham Gold Cups and a Grand National.
Oh, and for what it is worth, the name Ermintrude - the cow in The Magic Roundabout - is free to use. Definitely star filly material.
North search for Derby hero goes on:
How would you campaign him? pic.twitter.com/b37YgAdW9M— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) April 19, 2017
The Betfred Dante Stakes is renowned as the most significant trial for the Investec Derby, with Golden Horn (2015) the latest of ten horses to have pulled off the double since the race was established in 1958.
Dante himself won the Derby in 1945, although his Classic success was achieved at Newmarket and not Epsom despite the war finishing shortly before.
Famously, Dante is the last horse trained in the north to land the Derby but his story did not end happily. In retirement, he was afflicted by eye problems which eventually left him blind.
There are three northern-trained challengers in the Dante field this year - Syphax, Permian and Forest Ranger - but none of the trio are quoted shorter than 14-1.
The 72-year wait for a northern Derby hero looks unlikely to end just yet.
Cracksman aims for top of the class:
The only unbeaten runner in the Dante line-up is Cracksman but John Gosden, his trainer, feared the Frankel colt would lose on his return at Epsom last month because he has been something of a slow learner.
“He’s asleep all the time,” Gosden said the day before the Epsom race. “Some of them [the Frankels] are over-exuberant but he’s quite the other way.”
Mimicking an adolescent, he added: “He’s like ‘what, what did you say’? He’s just very babyish and slow on the uptake. He will come on, and you don’t half learn a lot at Epsom in a hurry.”
Cracksman did look like a horse learning on the job at Epsom - getting up in the final stride under Frankie Dettori after a slow-run race.
It will be fascinating to see whether the boy is now more of a man.
The bookmakers clearly expect a glowing report from Gosden shortly after the race finishes at 3.30pm because he 11-4 favourite for the Dante, and a best-priced 7-1 for the Derby.
So Mi Dar deserves a bit of good fortune:
It is a big day for Gosden and Dettori because they will also combine with So Mi Dar in the Betfred Middleton Stakes earlier in the card.
Owned by the Lloyd Webbers, So Mi Dar was a brilliant winner of the Musidora at the meeting last year and was trading at around 5-2 for the Oaks only to be ruled out days beforehand because of injury.
She then returned in the autumn and was one of the season’s unluckiest losers when third in the Prix de l'Opera.
Let’s hope she is not going to turn into a version of The Fugue, another filly owned by the Lloyd Webbers and trained by Gosden who was blighted by ill fortune during her career.
And, of course, before her there was Dar Re Mi, the dam of So Mi Dar, was who was disqualified after winning the Prix Vermeille in 2009 for no obvious reason.
So Mi Dar is 11-10 to return with a victory. She and her owners deserve the rub of the green this year.
Chelsea Lad makes swift return:
Many believed it would again be a long while before we saw Chelsea Lad on the racecourse when he pulled up lame after halfway on his return at Newbury last month.
He was having his first run for almost a year that day, after injury problems, but was strongly fancied - only for Ryan Moore to have to stop riding.
Yet, 26 days later Chelsea Lad will contest the Betfred TV Hambleton Handicap with Richard Kingscote taking over in the saddle.
It will be a case of once bitten twice shy for some punters but the bookmakers remain wary and offer no more than 7-1.
Meade believes a mark of 96 is lenient and had apparently Chelsea Lad had been delighting him in his work before Newbury. If the market speaks in his favour, it might be worth giving him another chance.