Will Golden Horn get his chance at Epsom Derby glory?
Imagine that you owned an unbeaten horse who just won the season's deepest Epsom Derby (Eng-G1) trial in the manner of a top-class prospect, propelling himself into the forefront of the betting market. Yet the colt hadn't been made eligible for the Derby. You have the means, however, to pay the £75,000 easily to supplement him. Wouldn't you rectify matters as quickly as possible?
That's the decision faced by Sir Anthony Oppenheimer after his homebred colt Golden Horn swept to an emphatic success in Thursday's Dante S. (Eng-G2) at York. But in the immediate aftermath, Oppenheimer sounded very hesitant about advancing to Epsom. Reportedly convinced that the son of Cape Cross is a 10-furlong specialist, he sees the May 31 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (Fr-G1) as a more natural target.
But there's only one Derby, as the saying goes, and Golden Horn surely deserves to line up, especially in a year when the Epsom picture has been a muddle. He's the one who brought clarity and focus. Should it be taken away on account of a hypothetical?
Watch how readily the John Gosden trainee gets the job done -- how he rates kindly, travels best of anyone, and accelerates on cue in the 10 1/2-furlong Dante. Also note how the field is strung out behind him. That well-beaten third-placer is none other than Racing Post Trophy (Eng-G1) winner Elm Park, who's 13 lengths clear of the fourth home, Nafaqa. Aidan O'Brien's pair of John F Kennedy and Ol' Man River threw in clunkers again.
Aside from the visual evidence suggesting that Golden Horn can do the same over an additional 1 1/2 furlongs at Epsom, his pedigree isn't exactly a forlorn hope either. Sire Cape Cross is responsible for such luminaries as Sea the Stars and Ouija Board, and Golden Horn's dam, the unraced Dubai Destination mare Fleche d'Or, hails from a deep family. Although her most famous half-sibling, Rebecca Sharp, won the one-mile Coronation (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot, other half-siblings have stayed 1 1/2 miles (or beyond), including Group performers Mystic Knight and Hidden Hope.
Golden Horn has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to contest the Derby at Epsom. If that turns out to be beyond his optimal trip, he can always revert to 1 1/4 miles. But if he swerves Epsom for Chantilly, we'll be left wondering what might have been.
Hopefully, Gosden's powers of persuasion will carry the day, and Golden Horn will have the opportunity to prove himself in the Blue Riband.