A total of 135 horses remain engaged after the first forfeit stage for the 2002 Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I) at Epsom Downs on June 8. The race is worth a record £1.2 million (U.S.$1,707,240), an increase of £200,000 ($284,540) from last year.
The 135 were all entered for the premier Classic as yearlings in December 2000. A second opportunity to enter, at a cost of £9,000 ($12,804), will be April 10 and a final chance comes June 1, a week before the race, for a supplement of £90,000 ($128,043).
Flat racing's two leading international teams, Godolphin and the Michael Tabor/John Magnier partnership, dominate the entries. Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin's trainer, won the premier classic in 1995 with Lammtarra, and he is responsible for 17 entries this year.
Godolphinês entries include Dubai Destination, winner of last season's Champagne Stakes (Eng-II) at Doncaster, Essence Of Dubai, winner of the UAE Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-III) in February, and Dubai Excellence, a half-brother to the great Dubai Millennium, won a Chepstow maiden on his only start in September. Godolphin also is represented by two Japanese-bred colts--Chantilly maiden winner Flag Day, by the record-breaking sire Sunday Silence, and Penumbra, an unraced son of Lammtarra.
The Irish-based Tabor/Magnier team, trained at Ballydoyle in County Tipperary by Aidan O'Brien, is 24-strong this year. O'Brien saddled the great Galileo to win the 2001 Vodafone Derby and his entries include Black Sam Bellamy, a Group I-placed brother to last year's winner.
Among other O'Brien entries are Johannesburg, last season's champion juvenile in Europe and America, who is the favorite with many bookmakers for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on May 4. No horse has ever won both the Vodafone Epsom Derby and Kentucky Derby.
O'Brien has also entered Group I winners Hawk Wing, the current ante-post favorite, Ballingarry, High Chapparral, and Rock Of Gibraltar, owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The maiden Diaghilev, another Ballydoyle entry, is the most expensive horse ever sold at public auction in Europe, having cost £3.57 million ($5,079,039) as a yearling.
Irish-trained entries total 38, including five representing John Oxx, who was successful with Sinndar in 2000.
Queen Elizabeth II looks to have one of her best Vodafone Epsom Derby contenders for many years in Newmarket with stakes winner Right Approach.
Epsom trainer Terry Mills has two chances of keeping the Vodafone Epsom Derby prize within a few hundred yards of the racecourse. Where Or When already boasts a Newmarket Group III success while Frankies Dream was a promising third in a Newmarket maiden in September.