The Derby Countdown Gathers Pace, Just Don’t Mention the Food

With the Investec Derby less than three weeks away, the field is starting to take shape with the news favourite Golden Horn is to be supplemented for the race on Saturday June 6.

His victory under the ride of William Buick in the Betfred Dante Stakes at York, seen as the main trial for the Derby, seems to have quelled some doubts owner Anthony Oppenheimer had over his three-year-olds ability to stay the 1m 4f at Epsom. Oppenheimer had planned to run Golden Horn in the 10 furlong French Derby, but Thursday’s victory against another John Gosden-trained horse, the pre-race derby favourite Jack Hobbs, and Andrew Balding’s Elm Park, has been enough to plan for Epsom instead.

Golden Horn is widely available at either 7/4 or 2/1, with his beaten rivals at York, Jack Hobbs and Elm Park ranging between 7s and 9s. Golden Horn’s closest challenger in the betting is now Zawraq (5 or 6/1), trained by Dermot Weld for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. They are likely to skip the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh in favour of heading straight to Epsom. Zawraq is the son of Shamardal, a winner of both the seven furlong Vintage Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes in 2004, so staying the distance is likely to be a concern for the colt.

After Australia made Aidan O’Brien the first trainer to win the Derby in three consecutive years in 2014, he has had mixed fortunes as he prepares to go for four in a row. After promising wins for Hans Holbein in the Chester Vase and Kilimanjaro in the Lingfield Derby Trial Stakes, Ol’ Man River and John F Kennedy came in a well-beaten sixth and seventh out of seven runners in the Dante. Unless Giovanni Canaletto puts in an impressive showing in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday, O’Brien may not have a horse in single figures in the betting.

One horse who will not feature at Epsom is Andre Fabre’s Grey Lion. The Frenchman was the last trainer to win the race before Aidan O’Brien’s record run, with Pour Moi in 2011, but does not believe his horse, as low as 14/1 in places, will be at full health after a recent illness.

There are sure to be twists and turns in the remaining days leading up to the Derby, but one thing will be clear for all involved in the race – don’t mention the food. Jockey Cathy Gannon has been fined £290 after she tweeted a photograph complaining about the meals on offer at Friday’s meeting at Newbury. Although she posted the picture on social media after she had left the course, she still breached the rule of using a mobile phone in the jockeys’ changing room during racing.

It was not all bad news for Gannon though, as her colleagues had a whip-round to help her meet the costs of the fine. She tweeted, “Thanks for all your support. I broke the rules, I must accept the punishment. I only did it as they don’t listen.”

BY: GRANT FISKEN

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