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Leading Derby contenders: Will they stay?



John Ingles assesses the pedigrees of the leading Derby contenders and how well they’ll be suited by the mile and a half at Epsom.

Market leader ‘shouldn’t fail for stamina’

Betfred Derby favourite City of Troy comes from just the second crop of 2018 US Triple Crown winner Justify. While Justify is himself a son of Scat Daddy, best known for much speedier types, Justify ended his career by making all in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes over a mile and a half, a rare if not unique test of stamina nowadays for an American three-year-old on dirt.

Justify’s early speed took him to the front where he was able to set steady fractions and won without quite having to show the same form as when winning the Kentucky Derby in a style which suggested he’d stay the extra two furlongs at Belmont.

Until very recently, there wasn’t a great deal of evidence from Britain and Ireland about whether or not Justify was passing on his stamina with just those two crops to go on. But wins in mile and a half handicaps for City of Troy’s stablemates Ortelius and London City at Leopardstown and York respectively in the last few weeks boosts confidence in City of Troy’s own prospects at the trip. In fact, London City, who put up a useful effort at York, looked so well suited by the step up to a mile and a half that Timeform’s report on the race suggested he could develop into a St Leger candidate.

Like City of Troy, London City is also out of a Galileo mare, the 1000 Guineas and Nassau Stakes winner Winter. City of Troy’s dam Together Forever was another Group One winner for Ballydoyle, ending her two-year-old season by winning a muddling and substandard Fillies’ Mile. Contrary to what has been said elsewhere, Together Forever did train on at three, though without the success that might have been expected from a two-year-old Group One winner by her sire.

But she did stay on strongly to go down by a head in the Musidora Stakes, conceding weight to the winner (subsequent Prix de Diane heroine Star of Seville) and improving on her Fillies’ Mile effort. She fared less well in the Oaks and Irish Oaks but had excuses both times; at Epsom she became unbalanced on the track and suffered trouble in running, while at the Curragh she was given an overly aggressive ride, racing in a clear lead before being collared a furlong out and finishing fourth behind Covert Love.

City of Troy is Forever Together’s second colt by Justify and an earlier developer than his brother Bertinelli, winner of Newbury’s London Gold Cup this time last year before putting up a smart effort to finish third under top weight when stepped up to a mile and a half for the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot won by subsequent St Leger third Desert Hero.

More encouragement for City of Troy’s prospects at a mile and a half comes from his dam’s full sister Together Forever. She was suited by the emphasis on stamina when losing her maiden tag in the 2018 Oaks run on soft ground, showing considerable improvement, and was only beaten a neck by Sea of Class – later to go close against Enable in the Arc – in the Irish Oaks.

If all the right elements in City of Troy’s pedigree come together, he shouldn’t fail for stamina in the Derby, though following his flop in the 2000 Guineas he has other questions to answer besides that one, and it will be particularly interesting to see how Ryan Moore chooses to ride him over the much longer trip.

Who else should see out the trip at Epsom?

There might also be other reasons why Economics’ connections are in no hurry to commit to putting him back in the Derby, but the way he won the Dante Stakes should mean that the son of Night of Thunder’s stamina is one less thing for them to worry about.

His sire failed to stay in the Eclipse on his only try beyond a mile, but his smart dam La Pomme d’Amour, by the Prix du Jockey Club (when it was run over a mile and a half) and Arc winner Peintre Celebre, was a dual winner of the Group 2 Prix de Pomone at Deauville over an extended mile and a half and stayed a bit further still.

Ambiente Friendly has proven his stamina the most so far among the leading Derby contenders as the winner of the Derby Trial at Lingfield, despite a pedigree – by 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles out of a French mile and a quarter winner – coupled with his keen way of going about things, which might have raised some doubts.

The one who makes plenty of appeal stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time, though, is City of Troy’s unbeaten stablemate Los Angeles. He looked a strong stayer when getting up late to win the Criterium de Saint-Cloud over a mile and a quarter on soft ground late last year so did well in the circumstances under much quicker conditions to make a successful return in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown when again strong at the finish.

By his stable’s 2012 Derby winner Camelot, Los Angeles is a brother to a couple of useful winners who stayed a mile and a half, including Be Happy who was runner-up in the Oaks Trial at Lingfield last year. Camelot went closest to siring a Derby winner of his own in 2019 when favourite Sir Dragonet was beaten less than a length into fifth behind Ballydoyle stablemate Anthony Van Dyck. Los Angeles’ dam Frequential, by Dansili, was unraced but she’s from a terrific family of Derby winners that includes not just Galileo and his half-brother Sea The Stars but more recent winner Masar too.

Ancient Wisdom was no match for Economics at York but was staying on in the final furlong as though he’ll stay a mile and a half, something backed up by the dam’s side of his pedigree at least. His sire Dubawi was a non-staying third in his Derby bid while none of his seven colts to contest the race have finished closer than fifth but Dubawi does get mile-and-a-half performers, including top-class horses like Ghaiyyath and Postponed, with the right sort of mares.

While top-class miler Goldikova is the stand-out name a bit further back in his French family, Ancient Wisdom’s more immediate relatives include some smart performers over middle distances, including his dam Golden Valentine who won the Group 3 Prix Minerve, another race over Deauville’s extended mile and a half.

Another Derby contender for the great Frankel?

Back with the Ballydoyle contenders, Frankel’s best chance of another Derby winner looks to lie with Diego Velazquez who, like City of Troy, will be stepping up from a mile if taking his chance at Epsom.

He shaped much better in the French equivalent at Longchamp than City of Troy did in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, staying on well in the closing stages having been drawn wide to be beaten less than a length in fourth.

Diego Velazquez comes from a family which Aidan O’Brien knows well as the trainer of his two very smart close relatives by Australia, Broome and Point Lonsdale. Broome finished a very close fourth in Anthony Van Dyck’s Derby mentioned above and proved himself at two miles later on, while Point Lonsdale could well be heading down the staying route himself after his win in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester earlier this month.

Frankel sired the 2021 Derby winner Adayar and Diego Velazquez looks sure to appreciate the longer trip.

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