Racing returns to Epsom Downs tomorrow with the Spring Meeting featuring the Listed Blue Riband Trial over 10 furlongs. If not already entered or a gelding, the winner of this contest will receive an automatic entry for the Group One Cazoo Derby at Epsom Downs on June 5th.
The most high profile winner of the contest in recent years is undoubtedly Cracksman, who went on to win four times at Group One level and was named the Longines World’s Best Racehorse in 2018.
Cracksman was trained by John Gosden and this year the John and Thady Gosden training partnership is represented by Uncle Bryn, who impressed on winning both his all-weather starts over the winter months.
Top-rated of the nine runners with an official BHA rating of 98 is Pythagoras. The Sir Robert Ogden-owned son of Zoffany rounded off last season with victory in the Listed Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract.
Trainer Richard Fahey said: “He’s wintered very well. We’re very pleased with him and stepping up in trip is what we feel will make him better. He’s got to carry a 3lbs penalty for his Listed success at Pontefract, but we’ll see how we get on. He seems a pretty straightforward horse so I don’t think Epsom will be a problem, but that’s the thing with the track - you won’t know until you try.”
User Friendly recorded a memorable victory in the 1992 Oaks at Epsom Downs in the famous Gredley family silks and they are carried tomorrow by the George Scott-trained Too Friendly. The son of 2012 Derby hero Camelot is already a winner during the 2021 Flat turf season, having landed a 10 furlong maiden at Doncaster last month.
And Scott said: “I’ve been delighted with him since Doncaster. He is not a horse that shows a huge amount at home but he is in great health and we feel the track shouldn’t inconvenience him.
“He is a straightforward horse and we are looking forward to seeing where he sits. I’m pretty sure he will continue to improve physically. He was also in at Sandown but the track doesn't come into play as much there as it does here and he is a pretty agile horse that should handle the contours.
“I was impressed the way he made up the ground at Doncaster late in the race. He came off the bend cruising and when Callum (Shepherd) asked him to quicken he put the race to bed in about three quarters of a furlong. By the time he hit the front he was well in command. I’m under no illusions that this is a different test but he travels well and he has a great attitude.”
Mastercraftsman filly Technique makes her first appearance since landing a maiden on the all-weather at Wolverhampton in January.
Her trainer Martyn Meade said: “The form of her Wolverhampton win has worked out well. It is a big ask as it is a big jump in class.
“We debated a bit about going for a novice race but we thought if she is good enough let’s throw her in the deep end. She is very well balanced and coped with Wolverhampton well so hopefully she should be fine on the track.
“If she runs well then we can have a look at running her in the Oaks and if she doesn’t we have the option of dropping back and looking at a novice with her. She was head and shoulders above the rest of them at Wolverhampton and she won as she wanted. She won so easily and we don’t know how much more she has got to give. It was a pleasing first run and I think there is a lot more to her.”
Also making a first appearance since recording a winning debut is Star Caliber, although it was back in September that the son of 2015 Derby winner Golden Horn scored at Goodwood.
Trainer Andrew Balding said: “We’re very happy with him. Obviously it’s difficult to quite know what he achieved in his only run last year but he did win and the second has run well subsequently, so I think it’s a fair level of form.
“This is a big step up in class but he’s a lovely horse and he’s shaping like a horse that stays really well, so I hope he runs well. He handled Goodwood, so I shouldn’t have thought the track would be problem.”
Godolphin will be represented by Wirko. A son of Kingman, Wirko followed up a debut second by winning a novice contest impressively at Kempton Park in November.
Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “He has had two starts and he won impressively on his second start although admittedly you couldn’t see a great deal as it was in the fog there that evening but William was very pleased with him. His homework has been nice and he has done well from two to three. As respects to the track he travels well which helps there at Epsom with the undulations. He is another that comes into the mix that we are still trying to feel our way with and where we will be pitching him the first half of the year. I’m pleased with his preparation and I think he should be a live player tomorrow.”
There will an Irish presence in the contest with Aidan O’Brien sending over Naas nursery scorer Hector De Maris.
Of the nine runners tomorrow, those currently not entered in the Cazoo Derby who would gain an automatic entry for the premier Classic are Pythagoras, Technique, Wirko and Bodroy (Anthony Carson). Surprise Exhibit (Archie Watson) is a gelding,
The Spring Meeting also features two famous handicaps – the 10-furlong City and Suburban Handicap and the 12-furlong Great Metropolitan Handicap.
George Scott is represented by Sarvan in the City and Suburban Handicap and is hoping that the unique characteristics of Epsom Downs will suit the four year old.
Scott said: He is a horse I always felt might suit a track like Epsom. He does most of his best work on the bridle then he loses concentration. A turning track with contours might just suit him well. The trip should be perfect for him and he is in good form. In an ideal world he would handle some more cut in the ground but I’m sure they will have done a good job with the ground.
“He is more grown up now, as he used to misbehave at the races at times, but he seems more chilled now and that could be down to the wind operation. He has got plenty of ability, though he is not the biggest horse but it suits him running in these better races off low weights rather than carry a big weight in a lesser class of race.”
Andrew Balding runs Group One Power in the Great Metropolitan Handicap. The four year old ran well when fourth in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot last June, before running a disappointing race at Newmarket the following month, after which he was subsequently gelded.
Balding said: “He had some good form last year. His Ascot run was excellent in the King George V Stakes. It’s slightly faster conditions than it was that day but he’s in great form and we’re pleased with the way he’s been working so he should have a good chance.”
The going at Epsom Downs is currently Good, with a GoingStick reading of 6.4 at 9am today (Monday 19th April). Five millimetres of irrigation was applied to the track on Thursday, followed by a further 2.5mm on Sunday. No irrigation is taking place today.