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Investec Derby 2016: A look at six of the leading contenders

| 18.05.2016

David Metcalf | May 16, 2016

With the major trials now complete, Coral look at six of the leading contenders for the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday, June 4th.

Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the race five times, including three of the last four runnings. The Ballydoyle maestro has several interesting contenders for this year’s renewal, including the much vaunted US Army Ranger:

Wings Of Desire

Wings Of Desire

Trained by John Gosden, Wings Of Desire burst into contention for the Derby when landing the Group 2 Dante Stakes on just his third start.

The son of Pitoval showed a good attitude to beat Deauville by a neck, and the race has proved a leading trail for the Derby over the years.

It was a tremendous performance given that Wings Of Desire didn’t put foot on a racecourse until April 16th when third at Newmarket before landing a lowly maiden at Wolverhampton.

He will need to be supplemented for the Derby, but Gosden said that is the plan and he will bid to follow in the footsteps of Golden Horn who won the Dante for the Newmarket handler last year en route to Derby glory.

Wings Of Desire is clearly progressing at a rate of knots, but Deauville is not considered among the best of trainer Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-olds and the Dante was a messily run affair in which several underperformed.

US Army Ranger

US Army Ranger

Impressed when scoring on debut over 1m 2f at the Curragh, making relentless progress through the pack to deliver a challenge inside the last before a nice turn of foot to score by 3/4 of a length.

The beautifully bred son of Galileo only had to be nudged out by jockey Ryan Moore to score with far more in hand than the winning margin suggests.

Followed-up with success in a controversial Chester Vase, scrambling home by a short-head from stable companion Port Douglas who was very tender handled and arguably would have won had his jockey become a bit more animated.

US Army Ranger clearly has bags of talent, and the way he travelled into the race at Chester was impressive. Trainer Aidan O’Brien is also very happy with the way he is progressing and has been unusually quick to respond to those who have knocked the horse following his victory on the Roodee.

O’Brien has clearly not lost faith in US Army Ranger, and it’s very rare that his faith is misjudged.

The Gurkha

The Gurkha

The Gurkha was slashed in the ante-post market for the Investec Derby after justifying the decision to supplement him for the French 2000 Guineas when storming away with the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Deauville.

An impressive winner of a Navan maiden just four weeks earlier after being well beaten into third on debut, the Galileo colt continued his dramatic progress by totally destroying the opposition to score by 5 1/2 lengths.

It was arguably one of the most impressive performances by a three-year-old in Europe this season, but connections are yet to commit The Gurkha to Epsom. Other alternative targets are the St James’s Palace and French Derby.

The Gurkha, who is also trained by Aidan O’Brien, is clearly on a serious upward curve has has the potential to be something very special.

Now has the strongest form of the O’Brien entries, and could well be the one to beat if allowed to take his chance.

Cloth Of Stars

Race horse trainer ANDRE FABRE. Copyright Martin Lynch.

Trained in France by Andre Fabre, Cloth Of Stars has won four of his six starts and looked the real deal in the last of those when coming when coming from off the pace to win the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud going away by 2 1/2 lengths from Group 1 winner Robin of Navan.

That race was over 1m 2f, and Fabre has said that a strong run 1m 4f would be ideal for the son of Sea The Stars.

Is that is the case then Cloth Of Stars has to be a major player at Epsom, provided he is supplemented, and Fabre knows what is required to win the race having saddle a similar type in Pour Moi to land the spoils in 2011.

Port Douglas

Chester day 2

Another Aidan O’Brien possible, and one that cannot be ruled. Should have won the Chester Vase, but still ran a cracking race to be beaten a short-head by US Army Ranger when attempting to give him 4lb.

That effort suggests that Port Douglas has improved from two to three, and he is a battle hardened sort who doesn’t have many chinks in his armour.

The big question is whether he has has much scope and improvement as some of the stable’s more fancied contenders, but Port Douglas cannot be underestimated judge on his run at Chester and is a likeable type that looks sure to give it his best shot.

Moonlight Magic

Moonlight Magic

Moonlight Magic booked his place in the Derby line-up with a win in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes over 1m 2f at Leopardstown when digging deep to beat Shogun by 1 1/4 lengths.

The Jim Bolger trained colt has now won three of his four starts, and is a tough and improving sort.

He is also bred to relish the step up to 1m 4f, being by Cape Cross who sired last year’s winner Golden Horn.

Moonlight Magic’s jockey Kevin Manning has also gone on record saying that he doesn’t fear anything in the race, and Bolger is a master at getting his horses spot on for the big day.

Conclusion: The Gurkha could not have been more impressive when landing the French 2000 Guineas and looks the one to beat if allowed to take his chance. Anything sent over by top French trainer Andre Fabre always commands the utmost respect, and that makes the progressive Cloth Of Stars look decent each-way value in one of the most wide open renewals of the Derby for many a year.


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David Metcalf

A lifelong Manchester United supporter, David has over 25 years’ experience in the media industry having worked for regional and national newspapers. He is a huge horse racing, football and greyhound fan and has done interviews on various radio and TV stations, including talkSPORT and Sky Sports, whilst working as a PR front man for a betting firm. David has also written for most of the top Premier League football fan websites, and produced a Cheltenham Festival guide with former eight-times champion national hunt jockey Peter Scudamore, MBE, after helping him to set up a syndicate for his trainer son Michael.