Even Dozen to Go in Vodafone Epsom Derby

Twelve 3-year-old colts were entered Thursday morning for the 223rd Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I) which will be run June 8. The only defection from the five-day confirmations is Dubai Destination, owned by Godolphin and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the team which is still represented by two runners: Naheef (post seven) and Moon Ballad (post four).

Leading trainer Aidan O'Brien is responsible for the two market leaders Hawk Wing (post 12) and High Chaparral (post nine), as well as outsider Louisville (post two).

Two other trainers have two runners, with Mark Johnston saddling Bandari (post 11) and Fight Your Corner (post five) while Epsom-based Terry Mills is responsible for Frankies Dream (post eight) and Where or When (post 10).

The remaining runners are the Michael Jarvis-trained Coshocton (posts six), the Andy Turnell-trained Jelani (post three) and Tholjanah (post one), who is handled by Marcus Tregoning.

The premier British Classic is worth a record £1,380,000 and is easily the richest race run in Europe this year.

All the runners except Hawk Wing and High Chaparral have named jockeys. The latest time to officially name jockeys for the Vodafone Derby is 1pm today. There has been speculation that Mick Kinane could switch to High Chaparral from his stated intention of riding Hawk Wing because of the easing in the ground.

There were 12 runners when Galileo captured last year's Vodafone Derby, the same number when Nashwan took the 1989 Derby and 13 when Generous was successful in 1991 and Benny the Dip took the honours in 1997.

Mark Johnston and Andy Turnell, both based in Yorkshire, are aiming to provide the first Northern-trained winner since Dante took the 1945 running at Newmarket.

Terry Mills, if successful, would be the first Epsom-based trainer to win the Derby since Straight Deal, trained by Walter Nightingall, in 1943 at Newmarket. The last Epsom-trained horse to win the Derby at Epsom was April The Fifth, handled by Tom Walls, in 1932.

Jamie Spencer and Fergal Lynch are the only jockeys with mounts who have yet to ride in the Vodafone Derby. Marcus Tregoning and Andy Turnell are having their first Vodafone Derby runners.

The going on the eve of the Derby meeting is "soft, good to soft in places" after a lot of rain Wednesday.

"We had 37 millimetres of rain, which amounts to about an inch and a half, between 11am yesterday morning and 3am today," said Andrew Cooper, the clerk of the course and United Racecourses director of racing. "There has been only light drizzle since the rain stopped and the forecast is that it will remain cloudy and overcast with the possibility of the odd shower for today and for the two days of racing.

"If that proves to be the case, I think the ground will slowly improve even though we are not forecast to have particularly drying weather, but the great thing about this track is how well it drains. Many other tracks would be in trouble having had 37 millimetres of rain but we do not have that sort of problem at Epsom."

In order to try to provide the best possible going for both days' racing, part of the course will be dolled off for tomorrow's programso fresh ground is available for Vodafone Derby Day.

"We have railed off a distance of between six and eight yards from the six-furlong marker to the winning post --around Tattenham Corner the distance is perhaps as much as eight yards," said Cooper. "The temporary rail will be removed for racing on Saturday so that the runners in the Vodafone Derby will have brand new ground to race on. This is normal practice for the meeting. The only variation is that sometimes we mark off a wider area but, in view of the size of the Derby field, we do not need more than the six to eight yards this year."