It has been eight years since Camelot won the Derby, in the process becoming only the second horse to complete the 2000 Guineas/Derby double since Nashwan in 1989.
Both Dawn Approach (2013) and Saxon Warrior (2018) have attempted to do that double since – and failed – which serves as a timely reminder that horses with the necessary blend of speed and stamina to win both races don’t come along very often.
The latest to attempt the double in Saturday’s Epsom Derby is Kameko, who sets the clear standard on Timeform’s ratings after producing a high-class effort to win the 2,000 Guineas. Wichita and Pinatubo, who were second and third respectively in the opening Classic of the season, advertised the strength of that form when also finishing placed (in reverse order) behind Palace Pier in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
A Timeform master rating of 128 identifies Kameko as an above-average winner of the Newmarket Classic, but the big question is whether he’ll stay the extra half a mile at Epsom on Saturday.
His strength at the finish at Newmarket suggests that 1m 4f will be within his range, but his stamina for the Derby trip can’t be assured on pedigree. His sire, Kitten’s Joy, was a Grade 1 winner over a mile and a half in the US, but several of the most talented performers on the distaff side of Kameko’s pedigree showed their best form up to a mile.
Those doubts about Kameko’s stamina mean that he isn’t the favourite for the Derby that you might expect, with that honour going to English King, the impressive winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial on just his third start.
Stamina was tested thoroughly in a race run at a strong gallop, but it was the speed demonstrated by English King that impressed as much as anything, barely needing to come off the bridle as he shot clear in the final furlong to land the spoils by two and three quarter lengths. Admittedly, the bare form of that effort is a long way below what Kameko has achieved.
However, English King hasn’t yet shown all that he has to offer, and he looks sure to take plenty of beating as he attempts to provide Camelot with a first British Classic success as a sire.
Camelot’s trainer, Aidan O’Brien, could field up to seven runners in his search for an eighth success in the race. Russian Emperor is the highest-rated of them at this stage, with plenty to like about the way he ground out victory in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. His powerful late surge suggests he’ll relish stepping up to a mile and a half, and, with further improvement on the cards, he rates a big player.
Mogul and Vatican City are others to note among the Ballydoyle contenders. The latter is still unexposed after only three starts and caught the eye when a fast-finishing second behind Siskin in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh last time, while Mogul should do better than when fourth behind Pyledriver on his return in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. He had previously been touted as the leading Epsom contender from his stable and is well worth another chance to build on the promise he showed as a two-year-old.
Pyledriver showed improved form to win that Group 2, though he was undoubtedly seen to maximum advantage given how the race developed. He will need to take another step forward to play a hand in the finish here, a comment that also applies to the third from that contest, Mohican Heights.
Others who make more appeal at double-figure odds include Highland Chief, who showed smart form to defy top weight in the Golden Gates Handicap at Royal Ascot last time, and the one-two from the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood, Khalifa Sat and Emissary. The former showed a good attitude to land the spoils on that occasion, but Emissary is perhaps the better long-term prospect of the pair, given that he was conceding both experience (still green) and track position to the winner.
Kameko sets the standard on form but isn’t certain to stay this far on pedigree, so he could be worth opposing with the exciting English King. The latter’s success in the Lingfield Derby Trial could hardly have been achieved with more ease, demonstrating all the qualities needed to excel at Epsom.
He looks capable of taking another significant step forward and is fancied to provide jockey Frankie Dettori with a third win in the blue riband. Russian Emperor and Highland Chief complete the short-list.
*Prices quoted are ante-post until final decs on Thursday and are subject to change.
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