Ben Linfoot unpicks the result of the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom as the race heralded the start of trials season for the Cazoo Derby on the first Saturday in June.
Derby trial season is under way.
Well, sort of. It’s now 82 years since Blue Peter won the Epsom trial on the way to Derby glory – via a 2000 Guineas victory – with no horse doing the double since, so at what point does a trial not become a trial?
Let’s not give up on it yet. The Blue Riband Trial might’ve been that in name only for many years, but John Gosden has used the race as a stepping stone for some good ‘uns over the past decade, including So Mi Dar and Cracksman, and he had the 11/10 favourite in Uncle Bryn this time around.
The son of Sea The Stars was bidding to become Gosden’s seventh winner of the race but he fluffed his lines, his coltish tendencies in the paddock a pre-cursor to him being keen in the early part of the race, which didn’t help. He should come on for this, but his pre-race position as the shortest-priced British-trained runner in the Derby market looks suitably false and he's been shunted out to 33/1.
But as Gosden has seen the benefits of running Classic hopefuls in this April trial others have followed, notably Charlie Appleby who can simply do no wrong at the moment.
WIRKO was just his third ever representative in this race, following on from Moontime, who was eighth in 2014, and Bay Of Poets, third to the aforementioned Cracksman three years later, but his team are in red-hot form at present and this son of Kingman finished well to lead on the line.
This was his turf debut following on from two starts on the all-weather, but he settled well under William Buick in fourth on the inside and benefitted for being switched to the outside after he was outpaced with a couple of furlongs to go.
At that point it looked for all the world like Martyn Meade’s filly Technique would win, but she had a real fight with Uncle Bryn to get the lead and once she’d seen him off it was asking too much to repel the very late challenge of the winner as well.
Wirko kept on strongly to seal the victory and looked to handle the unique cambers without fuss, while Buick said in the post-race interview that his mount ‘was always going to improve for today’.
He’ll have to, of course, to have a say in the Cazoo Derby, for which most bookmakers introduced him at 16/1 in the market, with the exception of William Hill who can’t have been impressed considering their chest-out quote of 33s.
Aggressive laying of Wirko may well seem a risk worth taking considering the Ballydoyle battalions they have on their side, but I wouldn’t be so keen to unnecessarily take on an Appleby Derby hope.
He is the only man to break the Aidan O’Brien stranglehold on the Derby in the last four years, after all, and, while Wirko might not be classy enough and he might not even be the number one Epsom hope from the yard, he looks a smart prospect.
I certainly wouldn’t rule him out of calculations because he’s by Kingman, as this horse looks a thorough stayer, perhaps even a St Leger type. Out of a German dam (Weltmacht) who stayed 1m6f, she’s from a family of strong stayers and Wirko looks cut from the same cloth.
Kingman’s best progeny so far have all been mile to 10-furlong horses at most, but lower down the food chain the signs are he can produce mile and a half winners. He’s only had four victories from 36 runners at 11.11% over 1m4f, but 12 of those that didn’t win were second or third and his record with horses running over 1m3f is seven wins from 29 at 24.19%.
Wirko looks likely to run in another trial pre-Epsom at either Chester or Lingfield next month, so we’ll get more of a handle on his Classic prospects then.
Ditto Technique, probably, who ran a stormer on just her second start. She could be the one to take out of the race given she travelled so well and looked the likely winner late in proceedings until being mugged by Wirko.
Given she wasn’t seen out until January, when she won at Wolverhampton on debut, you would think Martyn Meade would want to get some more experience into her before a possible Oaks tilt.
This will have buoyed the stable ahead of Lone Eagle’s bid for the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown on Friday, where their son of Galileo could take on a couple more Godolphin horses from Appleby’s including Yibir and Adayar.
Pythagorus ran well in fourth for Richard Fahey, suggesting he’d trained on. He was keen in the lead and had no answer to the closers in the last quarter mile, but he stuck to his task well enough to be beaten four and a half lengths.
He won the Listed Silver Tankard at Pontefract as a juvenile on soft ground and those could well be his optimum ground conditions.
One final one to mention would be Aidan O’Brien’s Hector De Maris, who was badly outpaced and left out of his ground at a crucial stage before staying on nicely for fifth.
O’Brien has only recently started to use this race regularly, Hector De Maris his fifth representative in this race in the last six years – and sixth overall.
If he uses this as a gauge to assess where he is with his Derby hopefuls he’ll be pretty pleased, given you wouldn’t think that this 94-rated son of Camelot will be anywhere near the top or middle or even bottom of his Derby pecking order.
Only one of his previous five Blue Riband Trial runners turned up in the Derby itself – Zabriskie in 2018 – and he finished last.
But Derby trial season is only just under way. We certainly haven’t heard the last of Aidan O’Brien yet!
1st Wirko 11/2
2nd Technique 22/1
3rd Uncle Bryn 11/10 fav
Winning Trainer: C Appleby | Winning Jockey: W Buick