The 2015 Investec Derby is in danger of losing much of its credibility – after 12 horses stood their ground for the world’s most famous Flat race at the final declaration stage on Thursday morning. However, with the prospect of fast ground prevailing in two days time, the participation of at least two leading fancies is in some for the “Blue Riband” of the turf.
Shortly before the deadline for the 48-hour declarations the news broke that the leading Irish-trained runner Zawraq would not be taking part – after failing to recover fully from the minor setback suffered by the son of Shamardal earlier in the week, of which trainer Dermot Weld explained: ” Zawraq did a strong canter this morning and Pat (Smullen) was delighted with the way he moved.
“However, when the horse cooled down after exercise, he was slightly lame and – consequently – he won’t be running in the Derby.”
As expected, warm favourite Golden Horn (13-8 Betvictor) was declared along with stablemate Jack Hobbs (11-2 Betbright), although trainer John Gosden issued a word of warning regarding the Dante runner-up due to the prospect of the ground drying out considerably ahead of Saturday, with the handler of the first two in the betting saying: “The key thing is these thunderstorms that are set to be around Epsom tomorrow.
“They could contain as much as 5mm, which would change everything but they could well miss Epsom all together.
“If they miss, with all this drying weather, the ground would suit Golden Horn but I would have to walk the track on Saturday morning before making a decision regarding the participation of Jack Hobbs.”
With Andrew Balding, trainer of 8-1 chance Elm Park (Betvictor) already stating that he would have to think seriously about withdrawing last season’s Racing Post Trophy winner in the event he considered the ground to be unsuitable, the great race could easily lose two of it’s strongest contenders should the present mini heat-wave win this particular battle.
Along with those two horses there are a number of others whose form suggest plenty of cut in the ground is needed – the supplemented Success Days and French challenger Epicuris in particular.
Together with Zawraq, the other horses failing to declare were Best of Times and Rocky Rider, and Epsom will be hoping those thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow materialise, otherwise the number of absentees could be increased come the start time of 4.30 on Saturday afternoon.