Investec Derby clues expected as racing returns to Epsom Downs on Wednesday

Thursday, April 18, 2019 – Epsom Downs Racecourse stages its first fixture of 2019 on Wednesday, April 24, with a valuable six-race card featuring the £50,000 Listed Investec Blue Riband Trial (2.45pm, 14 entries).
The 10-furlong contest for three-year-olds offers the winner (if not already entered or a gelding) a wildcard entry into the £1.5-million G1 Investec Derby, Britain’s richest race and premier Classic, back at Epsom Downs on Saturday, June 1.
Trainer John Gosden has won the four most recent runnings of the Investec Blue Riband Trial and gained success six times in total, most memorably with Cracksman (2017) who went on to finish third in the Investec Derby, win back-to-back G1 QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot and be the 2018 G1 Investec Coronation Cup victor at Epsom Downs. Cracksman ended 2018 as the joint-highest rated horse in the world.
Newmarket-based Gosden has two entries this year – the unbeaten Alfaatik, successful on his sole start on Polytrack at Chelmsford City in December, and G1 Vertem Futurity Trophy seventh Turgenev, who filled the same position on his reappearance in a conditions race at Newbury on April 12.
Arthur Kitt (Tom Dascombe) is the most decorated of the 14 entries, having landed the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot in June last year. The Camelot colt also chased home Too Darn Hot in the G3 Solario Stakes at Sandown Park and ended the 2018 campaign with a good fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs, USA, in November.
Ireland’s many-time champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien could be doubly represented by G2 Royal Lodge Stakes third Cape Of Good Hope, a full-brother to five-time G1 victor Highland Reel, and Gowran Park maiden winner Albuquerque.
Mark Johnston is another trainer with two entries. The Middleham handler could run Persian Moon, who has already gained a wildcard entry into Britain’s premier Classic by winning a conditions race at Epsom Downs in September, and dual winner Massam.
Ed Walker has high hopes for Frankel colt Cap Francais, who was successful on two of his three starts last year. After an eye-catching second on debut at Newbury, he impressed when taking mile novice events at Salisbury and Haydock Park in September.
Cap Francais was bred by the late John Pearce, who died in January, 2017 aged 98. Pearce went close to Derby success as an owner-breeder when Dragon Dancer was the short-head runner-up to Sir Percy in 2006. Cap Francais races in Pearce’s colours under the John Pearce Racing Ltd banner.
Walker, who has yet to saddle a runner in the Investec Derby, said today: “Cap Francais is in good form and the target is the Investec Blue Riband Trial.
“He has not got a Derby entry, but he gets into the race if we win next week.
“He is a very well balanced horse and whilst Epsom is a very unique track, I am hopeful that he will cope with the undulations.
“He has wintered well and was impressive in two starts at Salisbury and Haydock last season.
“He is a horse that will stay well and is going to definitely improve for a step up in trip.
“It is very exciting to have a horse going for the trial at Epsom with real Derby ambitions.”
A couple of promising colts already with winning form this season are King Of Change(Ricard Hannon) and Technician (Martyn Meade). King Of Change, who was an Investec Derby second entry earlier this month, scored impressively at Nottingham on April 10, while Technician stayed on strongly to win a 12-furlong novice race at Leicester on April 5.
Mackaar defeated King Of Change in a novice event at Wolverhampton in November and the Roger Varian-trained colt defied a penalty on his reappearance in a similar contest at Lingfield Park on April 6.
Completing the 14 entries are Certain Lad (Mick Channon), a Listed victor in France in September, recent Redcar handicap victor Sameem (James Tate) andGetchagetchagetcha (Clive Cox).
The other highlight on the card is the £50,000 Investec City And Suburban Handicap (3.55pm, 20 runners), which could see the return of Mildenberger (Mark Johnston) who has not raced since finishing second in the G2 Dante Stakes at York in May.
Racing starts at 2.10pm and ends at 5.00pm.
The going at Epsom Downs is currently Good. The outlook is for conditions to remain dry and getting warmer.
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