Eight Pony Up for Investec Derby at Epsom

U.S. trainers McPeek and Hannon considering Epsom option.

Eight horses have come forward at the second entry stage for this year’s £1.25 million (about $1.9 million USD) Investec Derby (Eng-I) at Epsom Downs, highlight of the Investec Derby Festival June 5.

Connections of the octet paid £8,000 each to join those entries made at the yearling stage in Dec. 2008. There is one final opportunity for horses to enter the Investec Derby May 31, when there is a £75,000 supplementary stage for Britain’s Classic.

Successful owner Khalid Abdulla has twice been successful in the Derby with Quest For Fame (1990) and Commander In Chief (1993) and his familiar green, pink, and white silks may this year be sported by maiden winners Workforce and Bullet Train.

Workforce, who is trained by three-time Investec Derby winner Sir Michael Stoute, beat subsequent Tattersalls Timeform Million scorer Oasis Dancer by six lengths on his only start in a seven-furlong contest at Goodwood in September.

That scintillating victory earmarked the homebred son of King's Best as a future Classic prospect and he may bid to emulate last year’s outstanding Investec Derby victor Sea The Stars and try to land the 2000 Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket en route to Epsom glory.

Bullet Train is in the care of another master of Epsom Downs, Henry Cecil, who has landed the Derby on four occasions and won the Oaks no fewer than eight times.

On his sole appearance last season, the homebred Sadler’s Wells colt belied his greenness to gain a head victory over a mile at Yarmouth at the end of October.

Lord Grimthorpe, racing manager to the owner, revealed in a release: “I previously said that Workforce was not certain to stay a mile and a half because he was by King’s Best. Obviously, Sir Michael and Ryan Moore think differently and so he has been given an entry in the Investec Derby.
“He has plenty of stamina on his dam’s side but if you look at King’s Best, he was a miler and he tends to produce similar types. Sea The Stars was by Cape Cross, but unfortunately Workforce’s dam Soviet Moon is no Urban Sea!

“He will hopefully progress towards the Investec Derby and the 2000 Guineas is a possibility at the moment. He would probably go straight to Newmarket if he were to take his chance there. 

“Bullet Train is the other side of the coin compared to Workforce in terms of breeding-- he is by Sadler's Wells out of a fast mare. There is a lot of stamina in his family and he is a three-parts brother to Powerscourt.

“He won his maiden nicely at Yarmouth when he ran green, but we are hopeful that he is a progressive type of horse. He has done very well over the winter and Henry is pleased with his progress so far.”

While both Workforce and Bullet Train have yet to realize their full potential on the racecourse, United States-based performer Noble's Promise  already boasts a grade I victory to his name having triumphed in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity over an extended mile on Polytrack at Keeneland in October.

The Cuvee colt is trained by Kentucky-based Kenny McPeek, who sent over Hard Buck to take second in the 2004 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot.

In a productive juvenile campaign, Noble’s Promise was a close third behind Godolphin’s Vale Of York in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) on the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita and ended his season by coming second to 2009 U.S. champion 2-year-old Lookin At Lucky in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) on Cushion-Track at Hollywood Park.

He made his seasonal return when filling the runner-up spot once more behind Lookin At Lucky, going down by a head in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park March 13. 

“It depends how Noble’s Promise gets on in his next couple of starts whether we decide to come over to the UK, but we wanted the option of running him in the Investec Derby,” said McPeek in a statement. “He is set to run in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park on Saturday and we are aiming him at the Kentucky Derby (Presented by Yum! Brands, gr. I) after that. 

“I walked the course at Epsom when Hard Buckcame over to England in 2004 and I think that this horse will like the course. There is a slight question of whether he will get the mile and a half but I know that he will handle the sharp turns and he won his maiden on turf.

“He has a high cruising speed and I think that you need a colt who travels handy to win a race like the Investec Derby, rather than a galloping type.

“I was really pleased with his run in the Rebel Stakes and he probably went into that race at about 90%--we felt that it would be a good start for the season. I expect him to improve for that outing and he is doing well at the moment.

“If he were to skip the Preakness (gr. I), then I would be more inclined to run him at Epsom and then go for the Belmont Stakes. He is by far the best of my 3-year-olds and he ran well against Vale Of York at the Breeders’ Cup, so we have a fair idea of where he stands in relation to the good European colts.”

Trainer Richard Hannon has given an Investec Derby entry to Kalypso King, who was a seven-length winner of a mile Newbury maiden in October and ended his campaign with a clear second in a Newmarket conditions race over the same distance eight days later. The Giant's Causeway  colt, who carries the colors of leading Barbados owner Sir David Seale, is certainly bred to appreciate a mile and a half around Epsom Downs, being out of the 2000 Oaks runner-up Kalypso Katie.

Richard Hannon Jnr, assistant to his father, commented in the release: “Kalypso King couldn’t have been more impressive when winning his maiden at Newbury. He has done well over the winter and we thought that he deserved to get an entry in the Investec Derby.

“We will possibly have a look at running him in one of the trials--he’s got an entry in the Dante Stakes--but it is very early days at the moment and we haven’t got that far with him so far this season.

“He showed plenty of speed last season but I am hopeful that he could be a middle-distance horse as a 3-year-old. He is by Giant’s Causeway and his dam was second in the 2000 Oaks, so you would think that he would get the Derby trip.”

The Godolphin operation has made three second entries, giving them a total of 18 horses going forward, headed by the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Passion For Gold, who romped to a six-length victory in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I) in November.

Bin Suroor, successful in the 1995 Derby with Lammtarra, has also engaged Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I) third Al Zir, while Godolphin’s newest trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni may be represented by the unbeaten French group III scorer Zeitoper, whose dam Kazzia won the 2002 Oaks.

Further representation from the Maktoum family is provided by the Barry Hills-trained Rashaad, who made a winning debut when taking a seven-furlong maiden at Doncaster in October. The Smart Strike colt is one of 11 entries representing dual Derby-winning owner Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Europe’s top 2-year-old of 2009, St Nicholas Abbey, trained by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland, remains the hot favorite with bookmakers for the 2010 Investec Derby. He is one of 128 3-year-olds aiming for the premier Classic.