Derby Day at Epsom is one of the great days in our racing calendar and it finally goes ahead on Saturday – a month later than scheduled. Just like Royal Ascot it will be so strange competing behind closed doors and I reckon we jockeys will notice it more around Epsom than anywhere else.
The stands and the Downs will be empty on Saturday when they are usually packed full of people.
I suppose the strangest thing will be the lack of noise.
When you make your way out onto the track on a normal Derby Day the noise and general razzmatazz is deafening.
It will be weird without the fairground and the smell of burgers wafting across the track!
The lack of noise will help some of the horses as it will prevent them from boiling over.
However, don’t forget those horses that love the big occasion and the big stage. There are plenty who save their best, a bit like some footballers, for the big days.
They will need to be woken up if they’re to be seen at their best, otherwise it will be like a sleepy work morning for them!
Anyway, it’s great that we are actually racing and I’ve got three nice rides for Andrew Balding and King Power Racing on the card to look forward to previewed below. I also recorded a Zoom Room chat with the lads on Friday morning so look out for that below.
SHINE SO BRIGHT (2.25pm – Surrey Stakes)
Only the six runners for the Surrey Stakes where I ride Shine So Bright (pictured below). He gave me a nice feel for a long way at Royal Ascot last time, despite the fact that he dropped out to finish last in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. He’s just got a bit tired and I wasn’t hard on him once his chance had gone. The combination of the step back up to seven furlongs and the drop in class all play to his strengths. This is a listed race whereas he was running at Group One level at Ascot. I suppose we just need him to recapture the form he showed last season and, if he does, he will be a danger to all. Looking at the others it is difficult to rule out any of them, with the obvious one to beat being Safe Voyage.
JOHNNY DRAMA (3.00pm)
Next up, I ride Johnny Drama in the 10 furlong handicap. This trip should suit him better than Ascot did last time and he won’t mind any rain if it falls. He has yet to get his head in front over here since moving over from Ireland, but has run well on a number of occasions. He put up a decent showing at Glorious Goodwood last season and ran well at York on two occasions. This will be his first run at Epsom, but he is well balanced and handled Goodwood fine. Here’s hoping he can put his best foot forward and show us the talent we know he has. It looks a really competitive race as you might imagine, although Desert Icon was really impressive last weekend and sets the bar pretty high.
3.40pm – Investec Oaks
Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden have dominated this race over the last decade and again they hold all the aces. Love was hugely impressive when she won the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and it will take a hell of a good filly to beat her here. That filly could easily be Gosden’s Frankly Darling with that man Frankie Dettori in the saddle. She was brilliant at Royal Ascot and it should be an intriguing match between the two of them. With only the eight runners and Aidan O’Brien saddling three of them, it could become a tactical affair. Therefore, I guess I’d side with Love if I had to choose between them as she may just have more speed at the business end.
4.55pm – Investec Derby
Sadly, no ride for me in the Investec Derby itself, so it’s a race I’ll watch on from the weighing room. I was really impressed with English King when he won at Lingfield and he is a worthy favourite. Frankie will be looking for his third Derby winner and he will go very close, despite having an awkward draw in stall one. Obviously, you have to respect the Aidan O’Brien team and it wouldn’t surprise you if any of his six landed the spoils. Ryan Moore has chosen Mogul who is bound to improve a hell of a lot from Royal Ascot. However, if I had to pick one in the race it would be Vatican City who ran an extraordinary race to finish second in the Irish 2000 Guineas. That was only his second racecourse start and he is unquestionably a very exciting colt. I suppose there are stamina doubts, but he showed an electric turn of foot that day and, if he stays, he should go very close.
STRAIGHT RIGHT (5.35pm)
My final ride of the afternoon comes in the last where I partner Straight Right in the seven furlong handicap. This looks like a pretty tough task off top weight for a horse that hasn’t been in great form of late. However, he loves chasing a very strong pace and he should get that here as they tend to go very hard early. Whether he handles the track or not remains to be seen, but he may just enjoy it and could easily get involved. He didn’t run too bad in the Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and is 3lbs lower at the weights here. It will be a tough task though with the likes of Muntadab and Knowing Glance looking two well-handicapped challengers.
THE ZOOM ROOM