Best Solution in strong group of Godolphin challengers at Epsom Derby

Laura King looks ahead to the Epsom Derby where Godolphin will be bidding to win for the first time.

Laura King
by Laura King
2nd June 2017

article:2nd June 2017

Godolphin, Sheikh Mohammed’s multi-billion dollar racing operation, is yet to win the Epsom Derby – the race generally believed to be the ultimate test of the Thoroughbred.

However, his longstanding trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, tasted success in the race back in 1995 when Lammtarra swooped late for an unlikely victory in the hands of the late Walter Swinburn. Since then Sheikh Mohammed has seen New Approach triumph in the green silks of his wife, HRH Princess Haya, but never in his own royal blue.

That could all change today, when Godolphin field one of their strongest teams in a wide open Derby. None of their three runners feature among the favourites for the race, but in this year’s contest, anything can happen.

John Ferguson, Godolphin’s chief executive, appears to rate Lingfield Derby Trial winner Best Solution as the pick of the trio, and indeed the colt was most impressive when scoring well at a course similar in topography to Epsom. If he can come home first, it will be a boon for Meydan, Best Solution having run twice here over the winter.

Best Solution is all but guaranteed to cope with the Derby’s mile and a half of testing twists and turns, which can come as a shock to an inexperienced horse such as stablemate Dubai Thunder. The son of Dubawi won by ten lengths on his debut at Newbury last month, convincing Bin Suroor to enter him in one of the toughest races of them all. If he is to win, he needs to be very special indeed.

Godolphin’s third runner, the outsider Benbatl, may be unfairly dismissed by UK punters. Second behind HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed’s Permian in the Dante Stakes last time, he has a battling quality that could be seen to better effect now he is stepped up in distance.

That’s not to say Permian should be ignored either. Only the third Derby runner for prolific trainer Mark Johnston, he was second in the Derby trial at Epsom, just pipped by favourite Cracksman. He then went on to win the Dante at York, recently the best trial for this race. Having been beaten in a lowly Bath handicap at the start of the season, he isn’t the trendiest of Derby runners, but is tough and may well turn out to be the best of the Dubai-owned contingent.

As is often the case, this is a clash between racing’s superpowers; rivals Coolmore fielding no fewer than five colts. There’s more obvious choices, with Cliffs Of Moher rivalling Cracksman for favouritism, but this is anyone’s Derby.

Anyone, that is, except for 1000/1 shot Diore Lia. She has been well-beaten on both of her starts to date, but will give her little-known connections a day in the sun. In what other sport could such a no-hoper stand next to the elite? That’s what makes the Derby so special.