Frankie Dettori set to stand in for Lester Piggott as king of Derby Day at Epsom
Piggott, who won the Epsom Classic a record nine times on superstars such as Nijinsky and Sir Ivor, has died at the age of 86.
But Saturday’s £1.6 million race, sponsored by Cazoo, has been named in his memory, and Dettori, a friend of his, is primed to grab success.
It took the popular Italian 14 attempts to break his Derby duck when Authorized justified favouritism in 2007 and, even now, he has won the marquee race only twice, following up on Golden Horn seven years ago.
But it’s significant he was booked some time ago for the ride on PIZ BADILE (10/1), owned by the racing operation of the Niarchos family, well known and long-standing owners who are still waiting for their maiden Derby triumph.
We are well used to Aidan O’Brien basking in Epsom glory. Indeed he has landed six of the last ten renewals. But Piz Badile is saddled by his 23-year-old son, rookie trainer Donnacha O’Brien, who could well steal the limelight this time.
A classy staying type, the colt impressed with his attitude when winning a key trial at Leopardstown in April and, in a race where stamina is essential, he looks sure to improve for Saturday’s step-up to 12f. Tellingly, the dam is a half-sister to Light Shift, brilliant winner at Epsom of the Oaks for Sir Henry Cecil in 2007.
Piz Badile’s biggest rival is almost certain to be the favourite, DESERT CROWN (15/8), trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who is seeking his sixth Derby success.
The son of Nathaniel landed the UK’s most important trial, the Dante Stakes at York, on his seasonal reappearance, even though he was wasn’t 100 per cent after a setback.
The wily Stoute, whose previous Derby winners include the mighty Shergar, reckons Desert Crown won’t need to improve too much for that run. And his confidence has been bolstered by an extraordinary piece of work on the Newmarket gallops, where the 3yo hammered stablemate Solid Stone, a solid, Group-winning 112-rated older horse.
The only concerns are inexperience after just two career starts, and his suitability for a severe test at the trip. If Piz Badile outstays him in the final furlong, the irony won’t be lost on Stoute, who trained the Irish raider’s brilliant sire, Ulysses.
The last five Derbys have been won by horses trained by Aidan O’Brien or by Charlie Appleby for the Godolphin team. They each field three candidates this time round, and all have a chance.
For Ballydoyle, both CHANGINGOFTHEGUARD (8/1)and STAR OF INDIA (16/1) arrive on the back of victories in trials at Chester. I suspect the latter will improve considerably, but both face stiff tasks from wide draws.
On jockey bookings, STONE AGE (4/1), the mount of Ryan Moore, is the pick of the Aidan O’Brien trio. A son of the mighty Galileo, he made all to win one of the most reliable trials at Leopardstown last time and is ideally berthed in stall four to make the most of similar tactics.
For Godolphin, NAHANNI (25/1)is already a winner at Epsom, but more attention will be paid to WALK OF STARS (18/1) and NATIONS PRIDE (7/1).
The former looked a serious prospect on his winning seasonal debut but failed to handle Lingfield (the track most like Epsom) when surprisingly beaten by one of Aidan O’Brien’s lesser lights last time. Mind you, that didn’t stop Adayar last season. He took the descent into the straight at Lingfield like a crab, but then came round Tattenham Corner at Epsom as if he was on wheels, en route to his shock Derby victory.
Nations Pride is respected, especially as he is the choice of ride for champion jockey-elect William Buick and especially after powering home in a Newmarket trial last month. However, it was a weak edition of the race and the colt wasn’t even being considered for the Derby beforehand.
Of the rest, WESTOVER (22/1) is an interesting contender for trainer Ralph Beckett, who knows what it takes to win an Epsom Classic and is sure the son of Frankel can make the first four.
The best of the outsiders could be Simon and Ed Crisford’s unbeaten colt, WEST WIND BLOWS (33/1), who lacks Group-race nous but looked a horse of immense potential when bolting up at Nottingham a month ago.
MY DERBY 1-2-3-4
1 PIZ BADILE
2 DESERT CROWN
3 STONE AGE
4 STAR OF INDIA
FRANKIE Dettori can make it a rare Epsom double by also booting home the winner of the Cazoo Oaks for 3yo fillies on Friday.
The 51-year-old is aboard the unbeaten hot favourite EMILY UPJOHN (11/8), who has blown experts away with the style of victories at Sandown and York this term.
Her Epsom credentials are underlined by the fact that the dam is a half-sister to Harzand, who won the 2016 Derby. Indeed trainer John Gosden has spoke of her in the same breath as Taghrooda, his brilliant winner of the Oaks in 2014 who went on to beat the colts in the King George and also finished a terrific third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe despite a debilitating wide draw.
Gosden also saddles NASHWA (4/1), who could make Hollie Doyle the first female jockey to ride a Classic winner in the UK. The daughter of Frankel is ultra-talented, but I wonder if she possesses too much speed for a stamina examination like this and might not get home.
Emily Upjohn’s most feared challengers are TUESDAY (9/1), who spearheads a strong Aidan O’Brien contingent, TRANQUIL LADY (14/1) an over-priced daughter of 2014 Derby hero Australia for Aidan’s son, Joseph, and Charlie Appleby/Godolphin’s WITH THE MOONLIGHT (14/1).
MY OAKS 1-2-3-4
1 EMILY UPJOHN
3 TRANQUIL LADY
4 WITH THE MOONLIGHT