This weekend saw a number of runners taking to the track who will be hoping to strut their stuff at Royal Ascot later this month, with key trials taking place at Haydock and Naas.
Undoubtedly the star of the show on an excellent card at Haydock on Saturday was the Karl Burke trained Quiet Reflection. The son of Showcasing wasn’t the most fancied runner in the field heading into the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes, but following what was one of the most impressive sprint performances of the season to date, is now many peoples idea of this year’s Commonwealth Cup winner. Coral were clearly impressed by the manner in which he dispatched the likes of Gifted Master and Buratino and now make him their 7/2 favourite for the Ascot event.
Over in Ireland on Sunday, the most eye-catching display came from the Aidan O’Brien trained, Cuff. In the capable hands of Ryan Moore, the filly took a big step forward on her previous efforts to take the Coolmore Stud European Breeders Fund Fillies’ Sprint Stakes in smooth style.
From being unquoted in the market, this rapidly improving daughter of Galileo has now usurped the Wesley Ward trained Create A Dream as favourite for the Albany Stakes. Bet365 making her a 7/2 chance for that event.
We have the small matter of two classic contests on the agenda before Royal Ascot arrives on the scene, with this week seeing Epsom play host to the Oaks and Derby.
Fridays Oaks had looked something of a foregone conclusion given the manner in which Aidan O’Brien’s Minding destroyed the field in the 1000 Guineas. However a most unexpected defeat at the hands of Jets Setting in the Irish 1000 Guineas has led some to believe that Minding may be vulnerable here after all.
The market still makes her much the most likely winner however as despite this extra half mile in distance being an unknown and having been turned over last time, she still heads the betting at 10/11. Of the challengers, Jim Bolger’s Turret Rocks should be well suited by this step up in trip, whilst Skiffle looks a very interesting supplementary entry for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby.
Trying to figure out the 2016 Derby has been one of the most difficult puzzles of the season so far. The waiting and guessing will soon be over however as the moment of truth arrives at Epsom on Saturday afternoon. Trying to pick the winner has become a little easier as the final field is at least now beginning to take shape. It is again a Ballydoyle runner who heads the betting here in the form of US Army Ranger, but this year’s Derby looks one of the most open in years.
Connections of Wings Of Desire, Humphrey Bogart, Cloth Of Stars and Red Verdon all clearly deem the race to be worth a crack, as they have all stumped up the supplementary fee of £75,000 in order to be added to the field. With the addition of those fees taking total prize money past the £1.5m mark, the 2016 Epsom Derby will become the richest race ever to be run in Britain.