We are on the cusp of arguably the most exciting time of the year. Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and The Open are all just around the corner and The Derby is now just days away.
The Epsom Classic remains the most significant Flat race in Britain. Its importance to the thoroughbred industry is best illustrated by the list of Derby winners that have gone on to become influential stallions.
Since 2000 the list of those that have produced Group 1 winners and Classic performers include Sinndar, High Chapparal, Motivator, New Approach, Sea The Stars and the daddy of them all, Galileo.
So it is little wonder that the most powerful breeding operation in the world, Coolmore, have targeted all they can muster at the great race.
Aidan O’Brien has saddled an incredible 55 horses in the last 15 runnings of the Derby and accounted for 26 per cent of the total number of runners since his Aristotle trailed in 10th behind Sinndar in 2000.
The Ballydoyle Maestro will have three representatives in this year’s renewal, Hans Holbein, Kilimanjaro and Giovanni Canaletto (a close relation to Biddestone Stud's young broodmare Pearlofthequarter) and it is the latter that I believe gives O’Brien his best chance of an incredible fourth successive win in the Derby and sixth in total.
Giovanni Canaletto’s full-brother Ruler of the World stormed home to win in 2013 and it is encouraging that Ryan Moore, who was aboard that day, has picked Giovanni Canaletto ahead of two bona fide Classic Trial winners in Kilimanjaro and Hans Holbein.
If you watch the 2013 running again you may note the strong sustained and sweeping run that Moore conjured up from his mount once out in the clear and with plenty of racing room.
Although this is just my hunch, I felt that Giovanni Canaletto looked like he was cut from the same cloth judged by the way he finished his race when second in the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh on his reappearance. He sat a little too far back on that occasion but finished his race off well and is almost certain to improve physically and mentally come the big day.
He’ll need to be because Golden Horn sets a high standard based on his Dante win, but must prove his stamina around one of the most demanding mile and a half courses in the world and at the prices I’m going with the leading modern day Derby Trainer, Jockey, Owner combination.
Personally I can’t wait for it all to begin. I will be working for Channel 4 during the two-day meeting and will be in the studio alongside Jim McGrath and Graham Cunningham on both afternoons.
Nick Luck will be fronting the coverage and there will be a big team on the ground with Gina Harding, Emma Spencer, Tanya Stevenson, Brian Gleeson and Mick Fitzgerald, while Simon Holt will be up high for his commentaries.
Hope you enjoy it all and if you can’t make it to Epsom then tune into to Channel 4.
Once the Derby is over I’ll be dashing home to watch the Champions League final and then, if I can hang on, the Belmont Stakes, when I hope American Pharaoh will become a Triple Crown hero.
Okay, I might be doing a little after-timing here, but when I was in Dubai for the World Cup back in March, I remember asking Victor Espinoza, off-camera, if he had a confirmed ride for the Kentucky Derby ahead of interviewing him on-camera before he sat on California Chrome in the world’s richest race.
Espinoza smiled and said ‘Yeah, I have. He’s called American Pharaoh and he might be the best horse I have ever ridden.’
American Pharaoh has matched his rider’s Classic champion of 2014, California Chrome, by winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness so far, but victory on Saturday will take him into the pantheon of, not just racing, but sporting legends.
I really hope he does it.
Rishi is a sports broadcaster who has covered some of the greatest events across many sports including the last three Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing and London for the BBC. He has also presented or reported on golf, snooker, cricket, eventing plus many more and in the last few years I have covered the Ryder Cup, US Masters, The Open, The Cricket World Cup, Snooker World Championship and Eventing at Badminton and Burleigh.