Serpentine takes O’Brien’s Derby entries to seven
English King and Kameko, first and second-favourite respectively, head a field of 17 for the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday, the day when owners will finally be allowed on a racecourse this season.
Normally, the Derby is a bit like Eton, you are nominated at birth for it. But for this year only – though it will no doubt be one of the many things up for discussion at the end of this season – there was a one-off £10,000 entry stage yesterday.
Given the cost, barring any lastminute injuries, it might be expected that this is pretty much the final field. Aidan O’Brien, who shares the record of seven wins in the race with Robert Robson, John Porter and Fred Darling, has seven in the race. Though he has resisted the temptation to run Santiago, Saturday’s Irish Derby winner, for a third time in three weeks, he has put in Serpentine, a nine-length winner of a maiden over a mile and a quarter at The Curragh on Saturday, on top of the six he had pencilled in.
With no riders coming from Ireland, his jockey bookings will be telling. Whatever Ryan Moore rides will give an indication as to what is seen as the best hope. William Buick is on standby to ride another.
Ben Curtis will make his Derby debut on the Ascot winner Highland Chief for Paul and Oliver Cole. “The call came out of the blue, but it was a nice call,” said Curtis, who also rode his first Royal Ascot winner this month. “It’s an exciting ride to get, particularly in a year like this. He couldn’t have been more impressive in the last two furlongs at Ascot.”
There will be two test fixtures at Southwell and Kempton tomorrow to pilot the reintroduction of owners to the racecourse. They will have to undertake an online Covid-19 training module, answer a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken on arrival. They will then be restricted to an “owner zone”.