The last scraps of first-hand information before Saturday’s Investec Derby were recorded at the course last week as three horses with entries in the Classic, including leading antepost contenders Cracksman and Eminent, exercised on the course at the track’s annual Breakfast With The Stars event.
Horseplay, a 12-1 chance for the Oaks, was also given the chance to experience the famous downhill run around Tattenham Corner, and all three horses did enough to suggest this unique track will not catch them out.
Cracksman has been to Epsom before, having narrowly beaten Permian, another Derby contender, in the Investec Classic Trial in April, but John Gosden’s colt missed his intended prep run for Epsom when the ground for the Dante Stakes at York last week turned soft. Cracksman has had just one run this season and there was urgency about his gallop.
Eminent and Cracksman are sons of the outstanding Frankel and share an impressive stride with their sire. Both moved smoothly down the hill before moving clear of their lead horses and neither Gosden nor Martyn Meade, the trainer of Eminent, could have asked for more from their Derby contenders.
Cracksman is owned by Anthony Oppenheimer, whose Golden Horn worked on the track at the same event before giving Gosden and Frankie Dettori their second victories in the Derby.
“He did a bit of routine stuff, like we did with Golden Horn two years ago,” Dettori said. “We started at the mile and came around Tattenham Corner and pulled up at the furlong (200m) marker, so if I went past the winning post at snail’s pace, it was because I was already pulling up.
“He’s a horse that’s only run twice and you’d expect him to improve. He’s not Golden Horn yet by any means, but potentially he can be anything and a week Saturday, we’ll find out.”
Eminent recorded a fast time when successful in the Craven Stakes on his first run of the season but finished only sixth behind Churchill in the 2000 Guineas. The winner there could boost the form in the Irish equivalent on Saturday, while Meade feels that another 800m can bring further improvement from his colt, who will be his first Derby runner.
“I was thrilled, he did exactly what we wanted him to do today,” Meade said. “I always had the feeling he was going to act well, and I think he did. The [Derby] trip is what we’ve been waiting for, I think. The Guineas just wasn’t for us, things didn’t go according to plan and maybe it came a bit soon after the Craven.”
Aidan O’Brien, in a phone interview, confirmed he could have seven runners on Saturday, a squad likely to be led by Cliffs Of Moher, the winner of the Dee Stakes at Chester’s May meeting.
“We were very happy (with Cliffs Of Moher) at Chester, he went to the line very well. We think that he’s going to improve, he’s done a couple of pieces since and we’re happy with that.
“The three from the Derrinstown (Douglas Macarthur, Yucatan and Capri) all came on from their first to their second run and we think they will come on again, and the three from the Vase at Chester [Venice Beach, Wings Of Eagles and The Anvil] are all solid mile-and-a-half (2400m) horses that could even get further.” – The Guardian