UK Racing this weekend looks at the Classics

Not a bad article last week even if I do say so myself and with three suggested options for two places among the bigger priced each way options. I will take that – along with a mention for the fast finishing runner-up in the Irish Derby at 14/1 (at the time of writing), I can only hope you all filled your boots.

Once again the double-barrelled shotgun has been out in force with racing shooting itself in the foot big time thanks to racing at Leicester on Tuesday evening – coincidentally the same day as they had the first UK based local lockdown announced. Certain trainers had their horseboxes turned around and were unwilling to put their staff at any increased risk, while the stalls handlers clearly felt the same leaving every race subject to a flag start. Unsurprisingly the moving start saw plenty of suspiciously fast times on the day though why the government and the racing authorities could not get together to call the meeting off in plenty of time is beyond me I am afraid.

After a week of pretty ropey racing the weekend moves into top gear with four classics plus the Eclipse this weekend so no need to cover any of the politics and straight into the racing.

English Oaks 3.40pm Epsom Saturday.

A rare occurrence to see both Derby and Oaks on the same day, but strange times are sadly upon us and hopefully terrestrial TV will see some new fans for our sport by the end of the weekend. Just the eight fillies are due to go to post over the mile and a half and one look at the betting suggests we are looking at a two horse race. Frankly Darling really impressed me when taking the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot and would be odds on in any other year with her stamina assured unlike most of her rivals – she is the only distance runner in the field barring outsider Bahrani Star. She has a potent turn of foot and is not passed over lightly, but Love was not stopping at the end of the 1000 Guineas and looks the likeliest winner assuming she stays which is the great unknown. One look at her breeding suggests that may not be the issue some think as a full sister to Flattering who won the Munster Oaks as well as Peach Tree (who took the Stannera Stakes over a mile and three-quarters last season), but there are also sprinters in her family tree and you can never be 100% certain until they come home in front.    

English Derby 4.55pm Epsom Saturday. 

Sixteen three-year-old colts create the possibility of traffic problems for those trying to come from off the pace and that in itself makes this that bit more interesting. With five Aidan O’Brien runners we can expect a solid early pace to try to draw the finishing kick out of those whose better form is over shorter. 

Comfortable Lingfield Derby trial winner English King heads the betting, partly down to the Frankie factor as the ever popular Dettori gets the ride ahead of Tom Marquand (who now rides Khalifa Sat for Andrew Balding), and he obviously has an outstanding chance. Kameko looked class when taking the 2000 Guineas by a neck from Wichita (who went on to finish third to Palace Pier in the St James’s Palace Stakes), though he arrives with more questions than answers stepped up to a mile and a half. He did win over a mile as a two-year-old which screams stayer to me, if only life was so simple though and as a son of Kitten’s Joy there have to be doubts about the mile and a half. If he gets home I think he wins (I seem to remember the Derby was always considered his prime target back in 2019) and he will carry my money accordingly though more in hope than with any real confidence.

Mogul appears to be the number one O’Brien contender with Ryan Moore on board and with five of the last ten winners his stable are hard to ignore, while those of us of a certain age will remember Generous (1991 winner) and cheer on Paul and Oliver Cole’s Highland Chief for the reason alone. Personally, I am a big fan of trainer William Muir and fellow Evertonian Martin Dwyer who are represented by King Edward VII Stakes winner Pyledriver and at 16/1 I will also be backing him each-way as racing looks for yet another fairy-tale in a sport that constantly serves them up on a platter.       

On to Sunday next with plenty to look forward to once again.

Coral Eclipse Stakes 3.35pm Sandown Sunday.

Seven runners this time but plenty of depth in among them and a race that may turn out to be that little bit more competitive than the early odds suggest. Enable won this last season on her first start of the season and is odds on to repeat the feat, but she is getting older and trainer John Gosden has warned that she may well improve for the run. My old mate Deirdre represent Japan and with close to £4 million in win and place prize money including the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last season to her name, yet she trades at 25/1 which goes to show you the strength in this field. If there is a massive shock she could possibly provide it as could Ghaiyyath who will make them all pull out the stops if he goes off in front as expected. All in all a no-bet race for me I am afraid - I change my mind about where the value lies every time I look at the line-up - but a cracker nonetheless and one well worth watching. 

Prix Du Jockey Club 2.10pm Chantilly Sunday.

If you ever get the chance to head off to Chantilly please do – it is one of if not the most beautiful racecourse in the world. Although it would come as a shock were the home team to fail to win this I need to mention that Aidan O’Brien is represented by both Order Of Australia and Fort Myers, while Paul And Oliver Cole could even be looking for a Derby double by now with Celtic Art – though that would be wishful thinking. The unbeaten Port Guillaume could be anything or nothing and is worth of consideration at 12/1 or thereabouts, as is Pao Alto (6/1), but they all have a bit more to find to get past Victor Ludorum, the French 2000 Guineas winner. He clearly needed the race when third at Longchamp back in May, but kept on well to score at Deauville and with plenty of stamina on the dam’s side, he may do even better stepped up to a mile and a quarter.   

Prix de Diane Longines 2.55pm Chantilly Sunday.

No British runners here but three high quality Irish contenders in Irish 1000 Guineas winner Peaceful, runner up Fancy Blue, and impressive Coronation Stakes winner Alpine Star. All three look to have serious chances of taking the prize back with them, but none more so than Jessica Harrington’s daughter of Sea The Moon who promises to be even better over this trip. She soon put daylight between herself and the field at Ascot and crucially looks able to handle the predicted soft ground here, and that may well be all that is needed to see her home in front under Stephane Pasquier, who takes over in the absence of Franke Dettori. Fancy Blue may well finish a lot close to Peaceful if left with a little less to do here, while the French runners can also get involved in the finish courtesy of the unbeaten Raabihah who steps up in class and perhaps Vadsena who I suspect is better than we saw when second here in a Listed race earlier in the month.  

Something else for the weekend

Away from the bigger profile races I do like the chances of Blazing Hot in the 12.30pm at Haydock on Saturday afternoon. Trained by James Tate and to be ridden by P J McDonald, the son of Hot Streak has failed to get home over a sixth furlong on both starts when second at Newcastle and then Thirsk. Connections have seen a sensible handicap mark of 74 as one they can potentially exploit and have ignored the more obvious maiden route, and if they can get to the front from the favourable eight stall as expected then he will hopefully prove difficult to pass.  

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Sean’s Suggestions:

Love 3.40pm Epsom Saturday

Pyledriver each-way 4.55pm Epsom Saturday

Victor Ludorum 2.10pm Chantilly Sunday

Alpine Star 2.55pm Chantilly Sunday

Blazing Hot 12.30pm Haydock Saturday