Breakfast With The Stars at Epsom on Tuesday featured Classic hopefuls working on the track and leading connections afterwards speaking about their hopes of glory in either the Investec Derby or Investec Oaks. Andy Stephens was on hand to get all the inside track.
1 Ferguson rewrites history:
The blue colours of Godolphin have never been carried to Derby glory and interviewer Oli Bell seemed to touch a nerve when mentioning that to John Ferguson, the chief executive of Sheikh Mohammed’s 25-year-old operation.
"Lammtarra was trained by Godolphin to win the Derby," Ferguson insisted, even though the 1995 winner raced in the colours of Saeed Maktoum Al Maktoum.
“There’s no point to prove. We are a stable that wants to maximise the potential of every horse and if we have got a horse good enough to win the Derby, then we would very much like to win the Derby.”
This year, perhaps history will repeat itself because Godolphin are describing Permian, the Dante winner, as one of their team even though he is likely to run in the silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum - who at 34 is Sheikh Mohammed’s second eldest son.
The quartet who will race in blue are Benbatl, Best Of Days, Best Solution and Dubai Thunder.
“We’ve got five names on the teamsheet and we will see what happens over the next ten days,” Ferguson said. “All five have got legitimate chances. It would not surprise me if one of them won.”
Ferguson said jockey arrangements would be made over the coming days.
2 Eminent enjoys away day:
Eminent stayed overnight at Epsom before impressing in his 8.15am breeze with stablemate Solo Hunter.
Trainer Martyn Meade explained: “He has never been away from Newmarket in his entire life and to have a new experience was very important to him.
“I wanted him to come here to get used to a different environment, although he will travel on the day of the race. I wanted to see how he would react under different circumstances, particularly around this track, which is very unusual.
“I always felt he was going to react well and I was thrilled - for me it was perfect and could not have gone better.”
Eminent enjoyed his first trip away from Newmarket (Racingfotos.com)
Eminent, a general 10-1 for the Derby, was outpaced when sixth in a steadily-run 2000 Guineas and Meade added: “This trip is what we’ve been waiting for.”
Big-race jockey Jim Crowley was happy with the way Eminent came down the hill and changed his legs. He crossed the line about half a length clear hard held, with his ears pricked, and the Meade camp will be thrilled with the same outcome on Saturday week.
3 Gosden satisfied with Cracksman:
It was difficult to gauge the merit of Cracksman’s mile workout with fellow Derby entry Pealer.
The latter set the tempo and Frankie Dettori invited Cracksman to sweep him aside two out.
Pushed along, Cracksman went a few lengths clear before being eased down near the finish line. Pealer, ridden by Robert Havlin, was not asked any sort of a question.
It was not the kind of piece of work that had you rushing to phone up your bookmaker but Gosden was satisfied.
He said: “I’m happy with him - he did everything right and is full of himself.”
Reflecting on his defeat of Permian, the subsequent Dante winner, at Epsom in April, he said: “He picked up a nice horse and has come on a lot. I think the mile and a half will be right up his alley.
“The result [the Dante] was a positive from our point of view.”
Touching on the opposition, he said: “There isn’t a Rhododendron amongst the boys - it’s an open and competitive race.”
Cracksman is a best-priced 9-2 for the Derby with Betfair.
4 Horsesplay delights Balding:
It is unlikely anyone left Epsom more content that Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy, who were delighted with the work of Oaks hopeful Horseplay.
Ridden by Murphy, Horseplay and the older Elbereth, partnered by Leanne Masterton, finished almost upsides.
Elbereth, who Balding suggested might run in the Coronation Cup, went a fair gallop and Murphy was content to sit in behind and just ask his mount to nudge ahead near the finish.
Nick Luck asked what weights the pair carried. Balding was not specific but, smiling, said: "Put it this way, the three-year-old worked very well.”
The trainer, who won the Oaks 14 years ago with Casual Look, had said earlier: "Elbereth is no slouch and is in the form of her life. Horseplay was looking around a little bit but the pair of them finished very well.”
Murphy said: "I felt she handled the track as well as any horse I've ridden here. She took a fair bit of pulling up without me pushing any buttons."
Horseplay, a general 14-1, will surely not be beaten for lack of stamina in the fillies’ Classic.
She is a sister of 150-rated hurdler Devilment, a winner at Cheltenham in the past, and a half-sister to Social Media, a 2m winner on the all-weather.
5 McPeek’s Lil Darling:
There will be an American challenger in the Oaks in the shape of Daddys Lil Darling, trained by Kenny McPeek.
It will add further intrigue to the £500,000 showpiece and McPeek is no stranger to running such invaders, having first visited these shores 20 years ago.
He explained he was instrumental in Keeneland-based compatriot Wesley Ward sending his horses to Britain and winning regularly at Royal Ascot.
“Wesley originally came to me and said ‘should I go or shouldn’t I?’ and I said ‘Wesley, go if you’ve got a fast horse - there’s nothing to be fearful of.
“You [British] all come over and take out money all the time. We really should travel in this direction more.
“The history of this place attracts me. The better horses I get, the more you will see me.”
Daddys Lil Darling’s flight over has been delayed but she will arrive in the next 24 hours and be housed at the yard of Jim Boyle in Epsom.
She is set to work at Epsom on Friday and Olivier Peslier has been booked to ride in the big one.
6 Safety in numbers:
Aidan O’Brien confirmed he is likely to saddle seven runners in the Derby with Dee Stakes winner Cliffs Of Moher his No 1 candidate.
That is one less than in 2007, when his army of eight could not cope with Authorized.
It also suggests he has no Galileo (his only runner when winning in 2001) or Camelot (one of only two in the race for him when triumphing in 2012) in his ranks.
Speaking via telephone, O’Brien said of Cliffs Of Moher: “We think he is going to improve and he has done a couple of pieces work since then and we are very happy with that. We think he will step up.
“He relaxed and went to the line very strong [at Chester]. He was a little bit behind with his fitness.”
O’Brien said it was not a foregone conclusion that Ryan Moore would ride Cliffs Of Moher but it will be a huge surprise if he rejects him in favour of Venice Beach, Wings Of Eagles and The Anvil - the first three home in the Chester Vase - or Douglas MacArthur, Yucatan and Capri, who dominated the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.
John Gosden jokingly suggested that he was going to put O’Brien in charge of the Ministry Of Disinformation. He also congratulated Nick Luck, the interviewer, on answering all his own questions very well. Ouch.
Highland Reel is favourite for the Coronation Cup after stablemate Seventh Heaven was ruled out (Racingfotos.com)
7 Big Derby field on cards:
A big field is on the cards in the Derby because Coolmore and Godolphin alone look like being responsible for a dozen challengers.
There is a safety limit of 20 for the race and, while that number is unlikely to be reached, there has to be a chance that the biggest field in a decade (17 ran in the 2007 renewal) will go to post.
Dual Derby-winning trainer John Gosden was asked who he feared most among the opposition and indicated he was more fearful of traffic problems.
“I think the biggest challenge is for the jockeys to get a clear run,” he said. “I think there will be a pretty big field and there might be a couple in there wheeling back at the wrong time who probably should not have been put in the race.
“I think the jockeys are the guys who have got a far bigger problem than us trainers trying to steer a course around there.”
A smaller field looks on the cards in the Oaks, for which Gosden’s Enable and Coronet remain on target.
8 Security measures:
A minute’s silence was held for the victims of the terrorist atrocity in Manchester the previous night and Phil White, London Regional Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, was asked about security measures at the two-day meeting.
Nick Luck said: “Anyone who runs a major leisure venue now has to be acutely aware of the security implications. What plans are Epsom putting in place?”
White replied: “Firstly, it’s deeply saddening what happened last night and our thoughts are with everyone involved and affected.
“People's safety and security is our number one priority and always has been. We’ve been working with Surrey Police and all other partners to ensure we've got robust and appropriate measures in place for the Derby and that hasn't changed. We will of course be in constant contact with the police leading up to the event.”
9 Dapper Dettori:
Frankie Dettori worked Derby favourite Cracksman and then got changed into a snappy suit and shiny shoes.
His attire caught the eye of Luck and Dettori sheepishly offered an explanation: “I’m not very proud of it, but I’ve got to do Loose Women at lunch time.”
It is unlikely the hosts of that TV show grilled Dettori too much about Cracksman’s victory at Epsom in April but he told the audience: “What happened at Epsom was a blessing because it was a slow-run race and he had to move out, quicken, do a lot of things.
“He answered every call and it was great to see the second winning the Dante and the fourth won a very competitive race at Chester.
“It gives me a lot of confidence going into the race that we have a horse who can be very competitive. He’s not Golden Horn yet by any means but potentially he could be anything and a week Saturday we will find out.”
10 Blow for Ballydoyle maestro:
Much of the morning revolved around positive bulletins but there was one negative to relay with Aidan O’Brien divulging that Seventh Heaven had suffered a setback and would not be in action again until the autumn.
A dual Group One winner last year, she had looked a filly bound for more big things this summer after gaining a runaway success in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket this month.
O'Brien said: "Seventh Heaven had a little bit of a setback so she probably won't be back out until the autumn.
"We are thinking that the brothers might go there (Highland Reel and Idaho)."
Highland Reel is the 7-4 favourite for the Coronation Cup with Godolphin's Jack Hobbs 7-2 and Idaho 7-1.
Rhododendron and Alluringly remain on course for the Oaks.