Latest Horse Racing News – 9th May 2016

Derby Trials Muddy the Waters But No Doubt About The King Of Kentucky

With the exception of Sir Michael Stoute’s Midterm, many of the Derby hopefuls to have taken in a trial to date have failed to capture the imagination.

The most notable amongst these being US Army Ranger, whose performance in narrowly taking the Chester Vase from stablemate Port Douglas has been lauded by those close to the horse, but largely branded as disappointing by everyone else. Whatever the merits of that display, US Army Ranger still seems the most likely of the Ballydoyle runners to taste success at Epsom, following disappointing efforts by his stablemates in this weekend’s trials. The fly in the ointment would of course be if superstar filly Minding is asked to tackle the colts rather than take in the Oaks.

Sunday’s Derrinstown Derby Trial had something of a golden spell around the turn of the century, providing superstar winners, Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral in successive years. Whilst it hasn’t provided the Derby winner since, it is still considered one of the Key Irish races ahead of Epsom. Idaho was considered a dark horse for the big race by a few shrewd judges, but put in a somewhat laboured display in only finishing third here. Fellow O’Brien runner Shogun showed more promise in staying on into second but will still need to step up markedly.

Whilst disappointment seems to be the overriding theme surrounding team Ballydoyle’s efforts, it certainly isn’t for rivals Godolphin. Following a substantial restructuring the boys in royal blue are keen to re-establish themselves at the top level. Headed into the weekend though they lacked a really credible contender for Epsom glory. They now have two. First up came Moonlight Magic in the aforementioned Derrinstown Derby trial. Sent off at 6/1 for the race, the son of Cape Cross dispatched no fewer than four Aidan O’Brien runners with the minimum of fuss. Jim Bolger’s colt is now into as short as 10/1 for the Epsom Derby.

Over in France Andre Fabre got in on the act with his Godolphin owned runner Cloth Of Stars. Sire Sea The Stars showed masses of improvement at three and it looks like this could be a case of like father like son. Cloth Of Stars twice found Robin of Navan too good at two but easily mastered him here on their first encounter at three. He wasn’t previously entered at Epsom but looks sure to be supplemented now. Coral reacted by trimming his odds to 16/1. It is still Midterm who heads most Derby shortlists though, an impressive display in this Thursdays Dante Stakes at York will see him contract from his current price of 3/1 with Sky Bet.

Meanwhile Saturday evening saw the biggest race of the season take place over in America. Our US cousins are never averse to a bit of build-up and hype and they certainly move into overdrive when it comes to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Given the general hyperbole and fanfare that invariably precedes this race, it was somewhat surprising that Nyquist wasn’t more dominant in the previews and preliminaries. Here we had a colt arriving at the track unbeaten in seven starts, including four Grade 1 successes and clearly highly regarded by connections.

Maybe fans were still suffering something of a hangover from witnessing the heady heights achieved by last year’s winner of this race American Pharoah, who went on to be crowned world racehorse of the year having landed the prestigious triple crown. Whatever reasons Nyquist’s doubters had, be it the standard of opposition he had been beating, the less than stellar times, or simply that he seemed to lack star quality, those doubters were well and truly silenced by an authoritative length and a quarter success. He may not have been in the spotlight before but he dominates it now, as thoughts turn towards the Preakness Stakes and leg two of the triple-crown.