It’s great to see racing finally resume this week in England. The high-class action over there will be coming fast and furious over the next six weeks or so as they attempt to play catch-up after the flat season’s start was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The classic 2000 (G1) and 1000 Guineas (G1) are this weekend’s features, but tasty appetizers take place Friday in the form of the Oaks and Derby trials at Lingfield and the Coronation Cup (G1) for older horses at Newmarket.
There won’t be too many preps available for those pointing toward for next month’s Epsom Derby (G1) and Epsom Oaks (G1) given the time restrictions, but it’s fitting that Lingfield’s traditional trials will be among them. Not only did last season’s Derby and Oaks winners both prep at Lingfield, but the course itself tends to give runners a sneak preview of the kind of undulations they’d encounter on any potential trip to Epsom.
The 1 1/2-mile Oaks Trial, Race 4 and scheduled for 9:40 a.m. ET, includes a potential improver in #3 HEART REEF (5-1). A winner at first asking at Haydock, she possibly struggled with the bottomless ground at Newmarket in her subsequent stakes debut in early November, finishing more than six lengths behind Born With Pride, a leading contender in Wednesday’s Classic Trial (G3) at Kempton.
The French-bred daughter of Derby winner Australia is out of a half-sister to the brilliant German filly Danedream, so should be well suited to the step up in trip.
The 1 1/2-mile Derby Trial, Race 5 at 10:15 a.m., doesn’t appear a strong prep for the Epsom classic on paper. However, #4 ENGLISH KING (12-1) is another whose pedigree suggests could make significant improvement.
A non-factor when seventh in his debut on turf at Newmarket, English King showed considerable upside last out when breaking his maiden over the all-weather at Newcastle over 1 1/4 miles after weaving through traffic. The son of Camelot is out of Platonic, already the second dam of Magic Wand, whom American racegoers have seen place in several Grade 1 races here, as well as Irish Oaks (G1) heroine Chicquita.
The Coronation Cup (G1), moved from its traditional Epsom home for this season, stays at 1 1/2 miles but will be run over the Rowley Mile course at “Headquarters.”
It’s a fascinating field, but several of the big names could be using this more as a means to an end. For example, the top stayer #7 Stradivarius could certainly win on class alone, but has his sights more on a title defense in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot in less than a fortnight.
Last year’s Derby winner #2 Anthony Van Dyck hasn’t yet given the vibe of being one of the better winners of the Epsom classic in recent years, so seems vulnerable to older rivals like the favored #6 Ghiyyath and #4 Defoe.
Ghiyyath, a top class performer in France and Germany, dominated in his one start at Meydan over the winter and could prove hard to catch here and with a 2-for-2 record at Newmarket to boot. Defoe won this race last season, handling Epsom slightly better than primary rival Kew Gardens, and could be sharp enough off a narrow loss at Meydan on Mar. 7.
One entrant who might fare better than expected, and perhaps belongs on exacta and/or trifecta tickets, is #3 BROOME (12-1), who entered the Derby last year with slightly more betting support than Anthony Van Dyck and wound up missing by less than a length to his Coolmore yardmate. As a course, Epsom is not every horse’s cup of tea.
Prior to the Derby, Broome had easily handled Sovereign twice in the Ballysax (G3) and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (G3). Sovereign later came back and rolled in the Irish Derby (G1) over both Anthony Van Dyck and Broome, with the latter completing missing the break and ineffective thereafter in a 15-length defeat.
Broome has so far proven a cut below Anthony Van Dyck in the Coolmore pecking order, but his Epsom performance suggests he might not be as far off as the running lines suggest. The start will be key for Broome as he sort of botched it in his last couple. But at a bigger price than Anthony Van Dyck and with the potential to be a better horse at four, he’s an appealing price play to hit the exotics frame.
The Coronation Cup is Race 5 at Newmarket with a 10:35 a.m. post time. You can watch and wager on it and Lingfield Friday morning at TwinSpires.com.