Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond can't wait for an incredible weekend of racing, where Frankie Dettori could shine on English King, Frankly Darling and Enable.
This weekend has been billed in places as potentially the most exciting in world racing. It’s certainly unique with the Derby and Oaks at Epsom on the same card for the first time.
On Sunday, we can look forward to the return of Enable in the Eclipse at Sandown and also on that day the two French classics, the Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de Diane at Chantilly. So, that 48-hour period has all the ingredients to cook up a storm and I can’t wait to see what is served up.
Let’s kick off with Epsom then where there are a number of wonderful stories that could unfold in the Derby.
I can tell you what is bound to happen though, but for this I have to wind the clock back to June 5 (ironically the day before the Derby was originally scheduled to be run). I was in the Sky Sports Racing studio covering the Lingfield Derby and Oaks Trial with our senior form analyst Jamie Lynch.
Before racing we had discussed at length the merits of English King, his profile and why he ticked all the boxes, not just for that day’s race, but for the Derby itself. We also pointed out he was 40/1 for the Epsom classic and was bound to be considerably shorter if he were to win that day (turns out he was actually 66/1 in places).
Did I have a bean on him? Did I heck! So, this Saturday I foresee English King swinging round Tattenham Corner with Frankie Dettori skilfully avoiding the Ballydoyle battalion, hitting the front a furlong out and winning the world’s most famous classic, followed by a foot perfect flying dismount applauded only by the owners at the track and other essential workers.
That’s what I predict and I think they call that Sod’s Law! I am very happy for you if you have a lumpy ante-post voucher tucked away after heeding the advice I imparted, but then inexplicably ignored.
He’s 11/4 favourite now with Sky Bet, who are offering money back as cash (up to £10) if your horse finishes 2nd, 3rd or 4th.
With that offer in mind, it’s worth looking elsewhere and there’s no doubt that Kameko is the best horse in the race, but with stamina doubts surrounding the 2000 Guineas winner there may be value in something else.
You have to respect Ryan Moore’s decision to pick Mogul out of Aidan O’Brien’s team and he’ll definitely strip fitter for his run behind Pyledriver in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. He ambled round the paddock that day and was (like a lot of us after lockdown) a bit soft round the edges. He has an outstanding pedigree, cost a fortune and may well fulfil that heritage on Saturday. He’s 5/1 with Sky Bet.
The Oaks looks less open with 1000 Guineas winner Love the 6/5 market leader and Ribblesdale winner Frankly Darling next best at 2/1. Neither price necessarily grabs me, but having been an enthusiastic fan of Frankly Darling since she scooted up in her maiden at Newcastle on day one of the resumption of racing on June 1, I won’t be deserting her now. She’s a firecracker that’s for sure and has more than a touch of the ‘Frankel’ about her, but on what will be an unusually quiet Epsom Downs, I hope she will shine.
It could be a wonderful weekend for Mr Dettori with English King and Frankly Darling, but to put a cherry on top of what could be the most successful weekend in his racing career the Queen, Enable, returns to the racing arena in the Eclipse on Sunday; a race she won last year on her reappearance.
Trainer John Gosden has voiced his observation that as a six-year-old Enable is taking a little longer to get fit, but you can guarantee that the master trainer wouldn’t be letting her take her chance unless he felt she was up to winning the group one again. Top-class rivals Ghaiyyath and Japan will not make it easy for her and it’s worth bearing in mind, this is her first step on the road to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe which is her ultimate target again this season. She’s currently 9/2 with Sky Bet to win an historic third Arc at ParisLongchamp in October.
Also on Sunday we have another Derby and Oaks to look forward to, the French equivalents at Chantilly (albeit over 10 ½ furlongs). Two world class races with challengers from the UK and Ireland taking on the best of the French.
I think the Tricolour will be flying high after the Prix du Jockey Club though with French 2000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum a worthy market leader. Andre Fabre’s horses seemed a bit behind when racing resumed in France on 11 May and that along with a race that tactically was less than satisfactory for this son of the late stallion, Shamardal, contributed to his defeat on his reappearance.
He got back on track in style in the French Guineas and this mile and a quarter trip won’t be a problem. Let’s hope his jockey Mickael Barzalona is ok on Sunday after a freak incident that saw the rider’s leg badly bitten by another horse when he was working Earthlight before racing at Saint-Cloud on Sunday. It’s was quite extraordinary and shocking to see, but could have been much worse.
The French Oaks prize may well head to Ireland if Alpine Star can reproduce her win in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. Jessie Harrington’s filly has a sublime pedigree, being a half-sister to top class miler Alpha Centauri, but being a daughter of Sea The Moon, the step up to this trip should suit her well.
Not only is she classy, but she’s tough and I fancy her to beat a strong home challenge at Chantilly on Sunday.
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