Breakfast With The Stars thoughts of owners, trainers and jockeys

Over 220 people attended today’s Investec Derby Breakfast With The Stars at Epsom Downs Racecourse, eight days before the two-day Investec Derby Festival commences at the Surrey track.

Contenders for the two Classics, the Investec Derby and the Investec Oaks, worked on the course as did two likely runners for the Group One Investec Coronation Cup.

There were lots of interviews with connections, conducted by Clare Balding and Nick Luck, as well as news from Epsom Downs Racecourse.

Investec Derby, Saturday, June 1, Epsom Downs

France’s 24-time champion trainer Andre Fabre brought Pour Moi to the Investec Derby Breakfast With The Stars two years ago prior to the colt’s Investec Derby success and he is hoping Ocovango can replicate that effort.

The Monsun colt travelled over from France and worked under big-race pilot Pierre-Charles Boudot this morning. Ocovango, unbeaten in three starts in France, cruised up to his lead horse Hidden Rainbow two furlongs out and steadily went clear. He was nearly six lengths ahead by the winning post.

“The horse’s owner, Prince Faisal, was happy to come here after the last race in which Ocovango was very convincing. He’s a definite runner as long as he doesn’t have any setbacks,” said Fabre. “The idea today was to show him the bend and go downhill. It was not a serious workout but he was moving well and it was very useful to come here for the horse and jockey.

“It was really important to come also because it is very quiet in French racing but it will be a lot more hectic here next week.

“It is difficult to assess Ocovango’s form but he is a Derby horse. He has a very good balance and cruising speed. He’ll have one day of rest after today and then just do regular canters ahead of the race.

“There is a slight doubt about him staying because there is a lot of speed on his dam’s side but his sire Monsun is a very strong staying influence so I think he should be OK. He goes on any ground. The race is all about Dawn Approach if he stays but everyone has a chance for places.

“Although Pierre-Charles is young, he has been around all the courses in France and is very experienced.”

Sir Michael Stoute revealed during a telephone interview that Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s Investec Derby hope Telescope will not be ready to take part following a disappointing gallop at LingfieldPark racecourse yesterday.

He said: “Telescope has eaten up and is sound but we have detected a bit of soreness on his left fore shin. I have just had a brief word with Harry (Herbert of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing) and I think this horse will not be going to Epsom for the Investec Derby.

“He missed the Dante, had a bit of a hold-up here and there and things are not going right. I think he is just telling us to back off for a little bit. He definitely won’t run.”

Jim Bolger, successful with New Approach in the 2008, is pleased with how the unbeaten Dawn Approach is coming into the 2013 Investec Derby.

Dawn Approach won the first colts’ Classic, the mile QIPCO 2000 Guineas, at Newmarket in early May and is 4/5 with Coral, the official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival, to win at Epsom Downs on Saturday, June 1 over an additional four furlongs.

His trainer said in a telephone interview with Clare Balding, the main Breakfast With The Stars presenter: “When I said at York that the best trials had happened at Coolcullen that was a throwaway remark – it was said in jest as they are not the only ones to matter.

“I am very happy with Dawn Approach. He has come out of the Guineas very well. His performance in the Guineas was spectacular. And I think that is recognised by everybody.

“I couldn’t be happier with the horse – he has been thriving ever since. He is still costing me – I would say he is eating more than he was before the Guineas.

“Because he settles so well, has such a good temperament and so much class, he may well get a mile and a half but we won’t be sure until we try it.

“I will be leaving the tactics to Kevin (Manning) but hopefully there will be plenty of pace because we need pace to get him settle early on. We would be disappointed if we didn’t get pace and, after that, may the best horse win.

“I don’t know by what factor you would need to multiply the decibels at Newmarket by to replicate Epsom but I am sure he will be able to cope anyway.

“I am very happy with Dawn Approach and hopefully all will go well in the meantime. Kevin and I know every blade of grass at Epsom – we have walked the track umpteen times and we are happy enough about that.

“As regards the competition, I wish them all well. I respect each and every one of them. I will not be losing any sleep over them.

“For security reasons, we are not divulging at this stage our travel plans – we do expect to be there in time! I won’t need security – I didn’t need it five years ago and I don’t need it now.

“Of course I am enjoying it. I have been following Epsom Derbys now since the great Sea-Bird who happens to be the sire of the fourth dam of Dawn Approach. I am well used to Derbys both as a racegoer and as a trainer and now as a small-bit owner.”

An international renewal of the Investec Derby is set to feature the premier Classic’s first German-trained challenger in Chopin, whose trainer Andreas Wohler was at Epsom.

The son of Santiago was bought by the Al Thani family following his victory at Krefeld in April and is set to be supplemented for the Investec Derby on Monday at a cost of £75,000.

“The horse works on Sunday and if he is fine he will be supplemented,” said Wohler. “We wouldn’t have done it ourselves but it was the new owner’s plan when he bought the horse.

“Chopin is very relaxed and laidback and I have no worries about the trip – he needs further than the extended mile he ran over last time. The faster they go the better for him but I don’t have a clue about the other horses in the race.

“We’ve been all around the world for big races but this is something different. This is the Derby of Derbys – it’s the original and this is very exciting for German racing.

Chopin’s owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani added: “After the horse won at Krefeld, all of our people were impressed. I was impressed and David (Redvers) was impressed.

“There are a lot of doubts about other horses staying. I think the horse has a proper chance of finishing in the first four although it’s a different thing to say that he could win.

“The Derby is the number one race in the world – the race you want to have a runner in. A race too that you want to have a runner with a proper chance, which is why we have not been represented until now. Everybody is happy for Chopin to run in the Derby.”

Chopin’s jockey Jamie Spencer commented: “Chopin has a good attitude and is relaxed, although all I did with him was to ride him over five furlongs in the wrong direction when I went over to Germany.

“The horse he beat by eight lengths last time was just touched off in the German Guineas on Monday and if Chopin improves for the step up in trip he has a chance.

“I’m looking forward to the race and he’s bred to stay. He has won at a mile and that means he has the pace to get a good position and he should travel. Then it’s just down to whether he is good enough. You ride the race to suit your horse, you can’t try and be in a set position, and you just have to hope they travel down the hill.”

Ireland’s champion Aidan O’Brien, bidding for a fourth Investec Derby success, is still finalising plans for this year although Battle Of Marengo and Mars both look likely to travel over to Epsom.

“The trials all went well and everything is up in the air at the moment,” said O’Brien in a telephone interview. “Battle Of Marengo was always going to Epsom and that’s why he stayed at home in his two trials while the other horses came to Britain. Joseph (O’Brien) has always ridden Battle Of Marengo and he’d be short odds to ride him again at Epsom. The other jockeys should fall into place when we firm things up – we have Seamus (Heffernan), Colm (O’Donoghue) and Ryan (Moore), who has also ridden for us.

“Mars is probably a definite runner, we said after the Guineas we would come to Epsom. We also have Ruler Of The World, who also has the options of Royal Ascot and the Irish Derby, while Magician and Flying The Flag have been declared for the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. They all work individually and so far are in good shape.

“Obviously, Dawn Approach is a top horse and Jim has trained him brilliantly. He was a five-length winner of the Guineas and wasn’t stopping.”

Karl Burke, whose wife Elaine trains Dante Stakes winner Libertarian, believes the New Approach colt has a realistic chance of reaching the frame.

“He’s come out of the Dante as well as could be hoped,” said Burke. “He lost seven kilos at York but has put that on quickly and we’re very happy with him. The Investec Derby meeting has been lucky for us, I think we’ve had seven or eight winners over the years, but I don’t think I’ve had an entry in the Investec Derby, let alone a runner.

“It has created a buzz in the yard but we’re not doing anything differently. He’ll have another blow on Tuesday next week and that will be it.

“Like a lot of people, I think we’d like the race to be a bit later on as he’s not the finished article yet. He’s a high-class horse, he’s guaranteed to stay the trip and, if handles the track, I can see him running into a place. Then if anything happens to the other horses, who knows?”

The rank outsider in this year’s Investec Derby is likely to be Ocean Applause, a 500/1 chance with Coral, but both trainer John Ryan and owner Bill McLuskey are keen to take their chance.

“We like boxing out of our weights a bit. You have to have a dream and if you don’t you wouldn’t get up in the morning,” said Ryan. “But Bill’s had a Listed winner here before with an outsider in Ocean’s Minstrel.

“Everything has gone wrong for us this year. The horses hadn’t been well earlier in the season but they are coming back now. This fellow won’t disgrace us but whether he is good enough I don’t know.

“This was our vision when we bought this horse because he was out of a mare (2003 Princess Elizabeth Stakes winner Aldora) that had done well here,”

McLuskey added: “I agree with John. He can pick horses well and it’s a day we’ll probably never get again.”

DAWN APPROACH 4/5 FOR EPSOM AS TELESCOPE RULED OUT

Dawn Approach is the 4/5 favourite with Coral for the Investec Derby on June 1 following the news that Telescope, who had been a 10/1 chance, will miss the premier colts’ Classic.

“Telescope had been well-backed for the Epsom Classic but the vibes weren’t good following a recent setback and his racecourse gallop yesterday failed to impress, before the almost inevitable news of his absence was revealed,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

Investec Derby betting from Coral, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival: 4/5 Dawn Approach, 4 Battle Of Marengo, 7 Ocovango, 8 Chopin, Ruler Of The World, 14 Mars, 16 Libertarian, Magician, 20 bar

Investec Oaks, Friday, May 31, Epsom Downs

Trainer Hughie Morrison confirmed that he is set to supplement Banoffee for the Investec Oaks at a cost of £30,000 on Saturday.

“If the wheels stay on between now and Saturday then she’ll be supplemented,” said Morrison. “She’s never been over-expressive in her work or movement and, as our grass gallops have not been up to scratch this year because of the weather, we have never tested how good she is at home. She only ran two weeks ago at Chester so we haven’t done too much with her since.

“I think that if you have a filly that wins one of the trials then you have to go for the Investec Oaks. It’s the most important race for fillies in this country. Kieren Fallon is available and keen to ride.”

The Lark galloped ahead of stable companion Madame Defarge and their trainer Michael Bell is likely to run both in the fillies’ Classic on March 31.

“The Lark has come on a lot from her run at Newbury, which we knew she would. She needs plenty of work and will improve significantly for that run,” said Bell. “She’s bred to stay and be here – she’s a three-parts sister to Sariska. I’ve got to speak to her owner Carole Bamford but I would love to give it a go and run. I’d be keen to roll the dice.

“Madame Defarge is gorgeous-looking, she has bags of scope and is bred to stay. She got squeezed on the rail and was very unlucky when running over a mile and a quarter at Newmarket. She’s like Motivator in that she doesn’t need much work. Tom Queally rode her today and he won on her at Yarmouth.

“Both fillies have to step up on what they have done but I think they are capable of that.”

Jamie Spencer added: “I’d had nothing to do with The Lark before today and not thought much about her but I’d be happier and look forward to next week after riding her today. She obviously has to improve on form.”

Sir Michael Stoute has the unbeaten Liber Nauticus in the Investec Oaks.

He said: “She has just cantered in front of me on Warren Hill. She is stretching well and is a fine, big athlete who does very little at home. She was very green in her Goodwood race last year and she did well when winning the Musidora (at York last week).

“She wasn’t spectacular or anything but that is never going to be her style. I think the race will have mentally sharpened her up for the Oaks.

“We have a got a good chance in the Investec Oaks with her.”

Aidan O’Brien is likely to have two runners as he bids for a fifth Investec Oaks success. He said: “The plan is for Snow Queen to go to the Irish 1,000 Guineas on Sunday and for both Moth and Say to run in the Investec Oaks.”

Ralph Beckett, who won the 2008 Investec Oaks with Look Here, is set to be double-handed in this year’s race with Secret Gesture, Coral’s 5/2 favourite, and Talent.

“We properly realised what we had with Secret Gesture after she won her maiden at Newbury,” said Beckett. “She’s quite a narrow, light-framed filly and we hadn’t done a lot with her. But she’s been straightforward all of her life. Look Here got into a flap in the paddock before she won the Oaks but this filly should be fine. I hope she’s special but I’m not brave enough to say that just yet.

“She hasn’t done much since Lingfield but will work in the morning on the grass. Jim Crowley, who has ridden her in all races, will be on board.

“Richard Hughes will ride Talent at Epsom and he is coming down to us to ride her in the morning as well.

“She has done very well since the Pretty Polly Stakes, both physically and in her work, and if she was my only runner I’d be looking forward to the race. She’s well-balanced, will handle the track and her pedigree says she will stay.”

Investec Coronation Cup, Saturday, June 1, Epsom Downs

The Aidan O’Brien-trained St Nicholas Abbey is on course to bid for an unprecedented third success in the Investec Coronation Cup next week.

“St Nicholas Abbey is in good shape. He’s had a day away and everything is good so far,” said O’Brien of Coral’s 4/7 favourite.

Second in the betting at 9/2 is Dunaden, whose owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani was on hand to watch the 2011 Melbourne Cup winner work with Chapter Seven ahead of a tilt at next week’s Investec Coronation Cup.

“Jamie (Spencer) was quite happy with Dunaden,” said Sheikh Fahad. “He’s a much fitter and better horse than he showed last time. Obviously, St Nicholas Abbey is the one to beat but, the way Dunaden won the Caulfield Cup, I think he’ll give him a good race. He is not a two-miler – he won the Melbourne Cup with his class – he is a mile and a half horse rather than a stayer.

“He’s been our flagship horse for Pearl Bloodstock and he helped my brothers get involved in racing. We set up Qatar Racing after that so we owe the horse a lot for that.”

Spencer added: “Dunaden is a lovely horse with a great record and has done things a lot of horses can’t do. I presume it will be a small field and I respect St Nicholas Abbey hugely but the boss likes a challenge and we’ll take him on.”

Trainer Mikel Delzangles commented: “Dunaden’s preparation for the Investec Coronation Cup is going very well. We came here today for him to have a look at the track and I think Jamie (Spencer) was quite happy with him. Dunaden went well.

“I was surprised at how well he ran in the Prix Ganay (finished strongly in third over an extended 10 furlongs) because the pace was not as fast we thought it would be.

“It looks like he is getter quicker. His performance in the Caulfield Cup (12 furlongs) last year was pretty amazing and he was quite impressive.”

Epsom Downs Racecourse

Epsom Downs’ Director of Racing Andrew Cooper commented: “If we were racing today, I would call the ground good and I’m pleased with where we are.

“I’d be very pleased to start the meeting on ground like this. The intention is not to run the Investec Derby on anything quicker than good-to-firm.

“We could have some showers today then rain tomorrow and there is a mixed forecast next week. At the moment, it is looking like it should be mainly dry with possible sunny spells and temperatures of 16 to 17 degrees for the Investec Derby Festival.”

Rupert Trevelyan, in charge of Epsom Downs Racecourse in his role as Regional Director, London, of Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “This is an international Investec Derby – we have had the flavour of that today. Andreas (Wohler) saying this is the Derby of Derbys and Sheikh Fahad saying the Derby is his number one goal.

“The Investec Derby is the world’s greatest Flat race and this year’s renewal is building up into a very special one. Last year was a perfect stage for the Investec Derby to become even more international. We had worldwide media coverage and the media interest this year is just as great

“Investec is just a fabulous sponsor – not only do they understand what makes sponsorship work but they keep us on our toes and spur us on to deliver the spectacle that we should do.

“It certainly is the best sporting day in the world as far as I am concerned and we try and do it better every year.

“The Investec Derby for 2013 is building up to be a great spectacle.”

Richard Harris, Head of Group Marketing at Investec, said: “We are very excited by another nine years of sponsorship at the Investec Derby Festival. It gets bigger and bigger each year and is a fantastic branding opportunity for us. Our brand is all about being a little bit different – we are not just another bank.”

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