This week’s top-class horse racing action is all about Epsom this week, with The Oaks taking place on Friday 1 June and The Derby taking place on Saturday 2 June. There’s also a strong supporting cast of races on both days, with other highlights including the Coronation Cup, Diomed Stakes, and the Epsom Dash.
Epsom (Friday 1 June)
Coronation Cup (3.10)
The Coronation Cup is one of two Group 1 races run on the first day of Epsom’s Derby Meeting and it is run over the same 1 mile 4 furlongs and 6 yards that The Derby and The Oaks are run over. It has been dominated in recent seasons by trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has won eight of the last 13 editions. His winners have included Yeats, Scorpion, Soldier Of Fortune, Fame And Glory, St Nicholas Abbey (three) and Highland Reel.
O’Brien has a trio of entries at the five-day declaration stage and these are headed by last year’s Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher. He also has recent Chester scorer Idaho and the useful Yucatan. The latter could be especially suited to stepping-up to 12 furlongs as he is by Derby winner Galileo out of a Celtic Swing mare.
However, they all look to have plenty to find with Cracksman who looks to have improved significantly since he finished a neck behind Cliffs Of Moher in last year’s Derby. Cracksman has to most to fear from Hawksbill on official ratings but the Godolphin representative was only third in the 2017 renewal.
The Oaks (4.30)
The Oaks dates back all the way to 1779 and remains the world’s premier race for middle-distance three-year-old fillies. The race has produced some notable winners in the last few years in Taghrooda, Minding and Enabled, who all went on to defeat the colts in Group 1 company later in the season.
Whether there is a filly of that quality in this year’s field remains to be seen but most of the major trials are represented. Wild Illusion will be looking to give the 1,000 Guineas form a boost after finishing fourth in that race over a mile. Meanwhile, Cheshire Oaks first and second Magic Wand and Forever Together are likely entries for Aidan O’Brien, who has won three of the last six editions of the Oaks. There has also been a big buzz about the Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Perfect Clarity and she’s been backed in from big-prices over the last week or so. However, it could be significant that William Haggas, who won the Musidora with Give And Take, thinks that Sea Of Class is the better of his two entries.
Epsom (Saturday 2 June)
Diomed Stakes (3.10)
The Diomed Stakes is a Group 3 race run over 1 mile and 113 yards that has traditionally been run on Derby Day since 1971. This season’s renewal looks sure to be interesting as Arod and Sovereign Debt look likely to battle it out for a second win in the race after winning the 2015 and 2017 renewals, respectively. They could be joined by another old campaigner in Breton Rock, whilst Century Dream will be looking to notch up a victory for the younger brigade.
Investec Corporate Banking ‘dash’ Handicap (3.45)
The Epsom Dash, as it is known by most punters, is one of the fastest races run anywhere on the planet. It is run over 5 furlongs and the record time for the race is an amazing 53.69 seconds, which was set by Stone Of Folca in 2012. However, the race has become synonymous with Caspian Prince, who has blitzed his rivals to win three of the last four renewals, which is amazing seeing as only one other horse has managed to win it more than once. Caspian Prince looks sure to try and make it four wins in five years though and he can’t be ruled out having already shown his powers are not on the wane with victory on the all-weather in January.
Plenty of his old adversaries are also entered though including the 2015 winner Desert Law and Boom The Groom. Last year’s runner-up Dark Shot is also amongst the favourites having highlighted his well-being by finishing second to El Astronaute at York.
The Derby (4.30)
The original winner of The Derby in 1780 won just over a £1,000. However, the winner of the 2018 Derby will collect a serious £850,650, which will probably pale into insignificance if he is to go on and become a top stallion.
It’s certainly a race that the Coolmore Stud are eager to get their hands on every year, and Aidan O’Brien has trained four of the last six winners for them. Two of those winners, Camelot and Australia, came via the English 2,000 Guineas, with Camelot winning the race and Australia finishing third to two very useful milers. Therefore, it is easy to make a case for Saxon Warrior who absolutely routed this year’s 2,000 Guineas field. O’Brien’s other two winners in the last six years have come via The Derby Trials with Ruler Of The World and Wings Of Desire both running at Chester’s May Meeting.
It could be argued that Saxon Duke has the other horses that ran in the 2,000 Guineas covered, as he beat both Masar (third) and Roaring Lion (fifth) convincingly. However, Roaring Lion looked at least an each-way threat when winning the Dante Stakes.
As the stamina of leading fancies has often yet to be proved over the 12 furlongs trip, there have also been many big-priced winners of The Derby, such as last year’s Wings Of Desire. Therefore, the likes of Hazapour shouldn’t be ruled out with his connections winning the 2016 renewal with Harzand. Chester Vase winner Young Rascal must also have a chance after beating Aidan O’Brien’s representatives in a Derby Trial the boys from Ballydoyle usually harvest.
Meanwhile, Lingfield Derby Trial winner Knight To Behold deserves a mention as he looked sure to have the stamina for this contest when winning at Lingfield, and the trainer’s father won The Derby with Shirley Heights and Erhaab.