Road To The Classics - Part 6

  • By: Lydia Hislop
  • Last Updated: May 22 2014, 16:09 BST

So seemingly underwhelming were last week’s stepping-stones to Epsom that bookmakers have even reached for the ‘betting-without-Australia’ option in the Investec Derby market. Meanwhile, among the fillies, a worthy contender to Taghrooda emerged – from within her own team.

Volume wins at Newbury last week - but could the runner-up be the more likely stayer at Epsom?
Volume wins at Newbury last week - but could the runner-up be the more likely stayer at Epsom?

But, remember, if you’re thinking about betting ante-post right now, horses will have been withdrawn by their connections for both classics at today’s forfeit stage, but the remaining fields will actually not be published until tomorrow. Buyer beware.

Investec Derby

New jockey, same story: after an exciting start to his season for Godolphin, True Story bombed on his next. Kieren Fallon made the best of it after their Dante third, but it wasn’t convincing.

Following his dominant Feilden success, the concern was True Story’s temperament (given the fuss it took to load him in the stalls) and his stamina (for the Derby). The latter query can be filed under academic if he reproduces his tame York effort at Epsom.

He might be better on “top of the ground” but the Knavesmire was barely the soft side of good – dead, at most – on Dante day and the Derby won’t be held on fast ground anyway. He might have finished a shade closer without the interference, but not by much and he was already labouring.

Truth is: he was flat. It was almost as if, in addressing his obstinacy, they had stamped out his fire. He makes zero appeal for the Derby and would need to get his mojo back in time for the St James’s Palace Stakes.

Arod probably did get a little too far back under Jamie Spencer – if that’s not a tautology – but the mission was to settle him after his free-going Windsor win and he did get a clearer run through, on the other hand.

You couldn’t be certain he’ll get 12 furlongs, although trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam is; he is progressing but needs to. Bunker wasn’t knocked about when beaten and, having been added to the Derby field at the second-entry stage, you suspect he’ll run. He has an even bigger leap to make but should stay.

At Newmarket on Saturday, Pinzolo won a Listed event and is bred to get 12 furlongs but the form isn’t good enough. He might be heading for Royal Ascot anyway.

If forced to have a bet now – and I do mean forced – it would be Orchestra at 12/1 each-way in the betting-without-Australia market.

Investec Oaks

Starting with the overwhelmingly positive, Tarfasha was an impressive winner of the Blue Wind Stakes last Wednesday. She handled undulating Naas with good balance and moves as though a sounder surface will suit.

There are no stamina doubts, being a close relation to last year’s Derby third and Irish Derby runner-up, Galileo Rock, among other stayers. Although third-placed Dazzling might have been a bit below par, there is no reason to believe she can reverse this form, especially over 12 furlongs.

The main concern is whether Tarfasha’s owner, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, will run her in the Oaks when, via a different yard, he is already represented by the dominant favourite, Taghrooda. Dermot Weld, Tarfasha’s trainer, will do his best to persuade him, not least because it is the ideal race for her.

For what it’s worth, when Nashwan and Erhaab each won the Derby for the Sheikh, they were his only representatives – albeit that he has only run more than one colt in the event on five occasions in 17 attempts. When Eswarah won the Oaks for him in 2005, she was his only runner; when Salsabil did it in 1990, she was accompanied by Gharam, who finished seventh.

On the same day as Tarfasha’s exploits, Madame Chiang won a dawdle of a Musidora on only her second-ever start. She was comfortably the best at the trip, weaving through horses to deliver a telling challenge to the strong-travelling Lily Rules.

She might well have a preference for some cut (albeit it was good-to-soft at worst at York that day) and David Simcock, her trainer, warned that she would not run at Epsom if the word “firm” appeared in the going. It’s never that fast, though, especially on Oaks day, but the Prix De Diane is another option.

Madame Chiang should benefit from a step up in trip but needs to improve again, markedly – not impossible for a filly making great strides. However, her time compared unfavourably with Clever Cookie’s opening handicap success. Her yard also has Lingfield Oaks third, Momentus, to juggle.

Regardez doesn’t appear good enough and Cambridge was disappointing, but not given a particularly hard time.

At Newbury last Friday, Volume showed more of what she was capable than when pulling too hard in a hot handicap at Newmarket on her seasonal debut. Given a fine front-running ride, she settled better and battled courageously when challenged late by Lahinch Classics.

The time was strong but ten furlongs is likely to be as far as the likeable Volume wants to go. The runner-up ran well and has more prospect of staying Epsom’s stiff 12 furlongs.

Behind her, both Hadaatha and Inchila (who came from last and travelled well into the race) shaped well for longer trips, albeit that the former was inclined to hang left. As she also runs for Sheikh Hamdan, Epsom is unlikely to be given an opportunity to expose that tendency.

Over in France, Shamkala won the Prix Cleopatre in some style but Alain de Royer Dupre, her trainer, showed no sign of deviating from his characteristic plan to run in the Prix De Diane (rather than that race at Epsom in which he always enters suitable horses and never runs them).

Fifth-placed Sinnamary was doubtless unsuited by the way the race was run, predictably exacerbated by being held up in last, and will be better suited to running at Epsom than Chantilly, given the stamina in her pedigree. If she does, she will be one of the livelier outsiders.