The Investec Derby: Gosden's Golden Horn tipped to relish trip
Prospects of an Irish-trained horse winning the Investec Derby were dealt a blow after Dermot Weld pulled hot prospect Zawraq from the race.
Weld's unbeaten colt was found to be lame following routine practice earlier in the week and, after an assessment, the decision was made to pull him from the Derby.
Reports suggest the until-yesterday second favourite suffered a joint injury.
John Gosden fields the two short price favourites for the race in the hotly tipped and supplemented Golden Horn (13/8) and Jack Hobbs (4/1).
Hopes of an Irish-trained winner come in the form of three Aidan O'Brien horses - Giovanni Canaletto (8/1), Hans Holbein (16/1) and Kilimanjaro (14/1).
O'Brien will be looking to add to the last three Derby winners he has saddled but he faces a stiff task against the smart Gosden-trained horses. He will struggle to retain Derby dominance up against some smart prospects.
The weather will play a pivotol role in the outcome, however. Thundery showers, albeit sporadic, are expected in the coming days and the meeting is expected to start on good ground.
Morning rain has meant a slightly altered going change at Epsom, with clerk of the course Andrew Cooper now calling the ground good, good to soft in a few places.
"It's really only one area that I'd call good to soft, and that's the lower part of the hill, from the five furlong pole on the round course into the straight, otherwise it's good.
"The 3mm of rain that we've had thus far could be it. There are possibly bits and pieces of rain from the West, but the bulk of it has passed through. The GoingStick reading at 9.30 was 7.0. It was 7.3 yesterday afternoon, and the difference is about what you would expect after 3mm."
Those showers were good news for John Gosden.
Speaking yesterday, Gosden said the Derby may have come a tad early for Jack Hobbs, and that drying ground would not suit.
"Jack Hobbs is a grand, scopey, rangy individual, who should improve with age," he said, before adding: "The Derby comes soon enough for him."
Following a final exercise on Friday morning, Gosden said of Jack Hobbs and favourite Golden Horn: "They just did a routine canter on the Warren Hill polytrack and both seem fine. I walked the track at Epsom yesterday and it was mainly good but there were some good to firm patches up the straight.
"I hear they have had 3mm of rain this morning which will help but I will walk it again on Saturday morning to determine whether Jack Hobbs runs or, indeed, Romsdal in the Coronation Cup."
Andrew Balding saddles Elm Park (7/1) and he is in the same boat as Gosden with regards the ground.
He will be hoping for some rain after Elm Park was pulled from the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket because of fast ground. The colt was firmly put in his place by Golden Horn at York in early May and will have to be at its very best to reverse that form.
"He’ll run, but I’d obviously be a little bit more apprehensive running him (on fast ground)," Balding said.
"I’m sure it will be safe ground. There’s not a lot I can do. It’s just que sera sera. I’m sure whatever happens he’ll run a decent race."
He was very keen in the Dante and perhaps his early efforts told as he finished six lengths behind the reopposing Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs, although he was only headed inside the final 150 yards.
That outing should have brought him forward and he is very much bred to stay this 12-furlong trip.
At a bigger price the Haggas-trained Storm the Stars is appealing at 16/1. The progressive colt will get the trip and is better than his mark suggests.
Storm the Stars had two very smart horses behind him at Goodwood and will give a good account of himself for an in-form yard.
Regarding the trip, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Kilimanjaro represents an interesting choice along with Golden Horn. The favourite was thundering home over an extended 10 furlongs at York and will relish the extra furlong.
Golden Horn (13/8)
Storm the Stars (16/1 ew)
Elm Park (7/1 ew)