15 May 2009
It is time to start considering the two biggest races of the flat season, the Derby and the Oaks. There are races which carry much bigger prize money. There are races which attract bigger crowds and there are races which have a lot more money bet on them than the two timeless Epsom classics.
However, if you were to ask the owner or the trainer or the jockey of any three year old colt which race they would most like to win they would reply without hesitation "The Derby". And likewise if you asked the same people who had a three year old filly, their answer would be "The Oaks". Nothing carries the same prestige as these two races.
The two races which hold the key to the two Epsom classics will be done and dusted by the time most of my readers pick up their copies of The News I refer to the Musidora Stakes on Wednesday and the Dante Stakes on Thursday, both being run on the Knavesmire at York.
Looking first at the fillies race, hopes are high for a royal victory with the Sir Michael Stoute trained Enticement. The unbeaten filly created a favourable impression in her two races last year, sparking hopes that the Queen can land her first victory in the fillies classic since 1977.
In winning the Montrose Stakes last autumn Enticement finished in front of Super Sleuth and Midday who have both franked the form admirably this season. The Queen's racing manager John Warren commented that the form could not have worked out better and that everything is coming together nicely.
He went on to confirm that they were not worried about the trip of the Musidora because most of Enticement's female line are milers. He concluded by remarking that many people have asked whether Enticement is an Oaks or a Ribblesdale Stakes winner and his reply has been that the Musidora Stakes at York will provide the answer.
I think the royal filly will give a very good account of herself and give Her Majesty the chance of a right royal knees up at Epsom come the first Sunday in June.
Turning to the colts, I still tend to favour Brian Meehan's Crowded House as my probable bet in the Derby.
He will face nine rivals as he bids to enhance his credentials in Thursday's Dante Stakes. The Racing Post Trophy winner is as short as 5-1 in the Derby betting and will make his seasonal reappearance at the Knavesmire after completing his preparations on Monday.
"Crowded House had a nice breeze and he continues to please us in his build up" said trainer Meehan. "He remains on course for the Dante and we are really looking forward to the race," he went on "Crowded House has always had the Derby as his target and we will see how he gets on," the Manton trainer said on his website.
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