VATICAN CITY is the answer to punters’ prayers in the Investec Derby (4.55) at Epsom today.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 running of the world’s greatest horserace is unlike any of the 240 that preceded it, taking place four weeks later than originally scheduled and run behind closed doors.
But some things haven’t changed – notably a six-strong challenge from the Ballydoyle powerhouse as Aidan O’Brien seeks to claim an outright record of eight Derby triumphs.
Ryan Moore has plumped for Mogul from the sextet, but he got his sums wrong with Sir Dragonet, fifth to stablemate Anthony Van Dyck 12 months ago and when opting to partner Cliffs Of Moher, second to O’Brien’s Wings Of Eagles in 2017.
Padraig Beggy sprang from obscurity to immortality aboard 40-1 outsider Wings Of Eagles, and the man who gets out of bed only to ride Derby winners has a prized mount in Vatican City.
Co Meath-born Beggy, who also captured his home Derby aboard Sovereign last summer, was on board when the son of Galileo made his return to action in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh 22 days ago.
Vatican City, a Dundalk maiden victor on the latter of two starts as a juvenile, was hemmed in on all sides when Lope Y Fernandez edged to his right after sweeping down the outside of the field under Seamie Heffernan.
It was only passing the furlong marker that Beggy’s mount found daylight, and the way Vatican City gathered momentum to take second place marked him out as a colt of great potential.
My selection has additional four furlongs to see out this afternoon, and, while most of his siblings – including dual 2,000 Guineas hero Gleneagles – made their name at a mile, brother Taj Mahal scored twice at the Derby distance after relocating from Co Tipperary to Australia.
There is much improvement still to come on the fourth start of Vatican City’s life, and the chestnut can move O’Brien past training greats Robert Robson, John Porter and Sam Darling, with whom he currently shares the Derby record of seven successes.
Favourite English King, bidding to give his handler Ed Walker a first Group 1 win, impressed when landing Lingfield Park’s Listed Derby Trial last month and Frankie Dettori’s mount is feared.
Breathing down English King’s neck at the head of the Derby betting is Kameko.
Andrew Balding’s challenger is already a Classic winner, having lifted Newmarket’s 2,000 Guineas four weeks ago, but may find 10 furlongs the upper limit of his stamina.
Staying the distance will not be a problem for Russian Emperor, strong at the finish in claiming Royal Ascot ’s Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes over a mile and a quarter.
Highland Chief also came home in front on the Royal heath, beating Tritonic for the Golden Gates Handicap, but Moore’s pick Mogul could managed just fourth place to Pyledriver in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes.
Splitting the pair in third was Mohican Heights and David Simcock’s strong galloper, who wasn’t favoured by bidding to come from the back in a race run at a funeral cortège pace, is the recommendation for those seeking an each-way play at bigger odds.
1.50 MODERN NEWS
2.25 SHINE SO BRIGHT (NB)
4.55 VATICAN CITY (NAP)
12.00 MAC AILEY
1.30 GOLDEN MELODY
2.05 DANA FOREVER
3.15 FIRST KINGDOM
3.50 DECLARING LOVE
4.25 ARCH MOON
4.35 SUNSET BREEZE
5.10 RECOVERY RUN
5.40 BIG CITY
6.40 BILLESDON BROOK
7.40 GOODWOOD REBEL
8.10 ASTRO KING
8.40 LADY SANSA
6.55 VENTURA TORMENTA
8.25 IN THE RED
8.55 ICE ICE LADY
DOUBLE: VATICAN CITY and SHINE SO BRIGHT