With the Aidan O’Brien pair Nelson and Rostropovich defecting, a total of 12 runners are set to go to post for the 239th running of the world famous race, which is expected to be run on ‘softish’ ground at Epsom on Saturday.
Nine Derby winners have come from the 10 draw, including notables such as The Minstrel (1977), Generous (1991) and Galileo (2001).
Trainer Charlie Appleby has given an upbeat report about Masar, who he believes has the pedigree and mental toughness to cope with the frenzy and challenges of Derby Day on the Downs.
The son of Darley stallion New Approach, the 2008 Derby winner, comes to Epsom following an excellent third in the G1 2,000 Guineas on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile.
“He came out of the race well, and that Guineas form is solid. I still believe it to be the best ‘trial’ for the Derby this season, and of course, the winner Saxon Warrior is the one we all have to beat,” Appleby pointed out.
“But it’s been noted that Masar is much more mature mentally these days. The travel to America and Dubai has benefited him. He’s grown up a lot. I think he has the right mind to go to Epsom,” the trainer added.
There can be no underestimating the mental and physical stress involved for a young horse going to the Derby at Epsom, a unique track with its acute undulations and bizarre adverse camber.
“As we all know, it’s a big stage there and it can be a challenge to a lot of horses. But what I’ve seen in Masar of late is a colt who is much more grown up. He is taking all the preliminaries well,” Appleby said.
“If he conducts himself at Epsom as he did at Newmarket, it is going to be a big plus. On pedigree, he should stay, and he is now mentally where you would like a horse who is stepping up in trip to be. He’s very relaxed in his work.
“Hopefully, this will give William (Buick) every chance of settling him early and ensure he gets the trip. He’s a very well balanced horse, and he learnt plenty on those right bends at Del Mar (in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) last November,” he added.
Godolphin fans can look forward to a stronger, more mature Harry Angel on his reappearance in Wednesday’s G2 Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, according to the colt’s trainer Clive Cox.
As a four-year-old, the son of Dark Angel has developed in the mould of the classic older sprinter, and Cox cannot wait to unveil his champion speedster on Knavesmire.
“He’s in good form and I’m very pleased with him,” said Cox.
“He has strengthened up and is stronger, both mentally and physically, which is good because he is required to carry a G1 penalty for what he achieved last year.”
Under the race conditions, Harry Angel has been burdened with 9st 13lb, considerably more than rivals Brando and Tasleet, who are both set to carry 9st 8lb.
Some theorists argue that weight is not a factor for concern in sprint races.
But Cox strongly disagrees. “It matters, don’t worry — 5lb is 5lb. Also, five of them have already had a run this season,” he added.
Harry Angel proved himself the best six-furlong horse in the world last year, with brilliant performances to take Newmarket’s G1 July Cup and the G1 Haydock Sprint Cup.
“It was unbelievable what he did last year,” Cox said. “Taking on the older horses and beating them when only three was great. He should be a better horse this season. He’s in a good place at present.”
After York, Harry Angel is to be aimed at the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, followed by the chance to defend his sprinting crown in the G1 July Cup
The opportunity to go to stud with another G1 race attached to an already impressive record has been presented to Godolphin’s Impending in the Doomben 10,000 in Brisbane on Saturday.
Trainer James Cummings is satisfied the four-year-old son of Lonhro has recovered fully from his first-up exertions in the G2 Victory Stakes at the same course two weeks ago and is looking forward to Impending adding the 10,000 to his G1 Stradbroke Handicap victory of 12 months ago.
“He galloped strongly during the week and looks to have absorbed his first-up effort as the targets become increasingly difficult,” Cummings said.
“But he’s trimmed up nicely as expected from his emphatic first up win in the Victory Stakes and he’s enjoyed a good couple of weeks since his last run.
“This is a top-class weight-for-age event and it will be very satisfying to see Impending race at his best.”
One of the most talented and consistent members of Godolphin’s Australian team, Impending (Damien Browne) has won four races, three of them Stakes level, and has only finished further back than fourth in one of his 15 starts.
He’s amassed close to A$2 million in prizemoney and has established himself as a worthy member of a star-studded family.
Impending has the pedigree to back his racetrack abilities. His dam, the Encosta De Lago mare Mnemosyne, won six races including the G1 Flight Stakes and G1 Thousand Guineas.
Impending is one of her five winners from six foals to race, a group that includes his three-year-old sister Epidemic who began her latest campaign with a stunning victory at Randwick last week.
“From any point of view there is a lot to like about Impending,” Cummings said.
“As a racehorse he is in the top bracket, he looks the part and he has a great family that makes him a really great stallion prospect.”
If he is to win on Saturday, Impending will have to produce one of his best performances to overcome such talented opposition as the Everest winner Redzel, the multiple G1 winners Le Romain and Lucky Hussler and the class fillies English and Houtzen.