English King shot into the Epsom picture after showing an impressive turn of foot to secure a taking victory in the Betsafe Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield.
Ed Walker’s charge is joint-favourite with Ladbrokes and Coral at 6-1 for the Investec Derby on July 4, with Sky Bet making him their 5-1 favourite, having put his rivals to the sword in some style under Tom Marquand.
There was a charge for the early lead in the extended 11-furlong heat, with King Carney eventually allowed to take it up and he appeared to set a decent pace.
Berkshire Rocco was travelling well in behind and he looked to have made a winning move as he kicked for home with a couple of furlongs to run.
However, English King was just starting to motor and he swept down the outside with only the minimum of encouragement, stretching away to win by an eased-down two and three-quarter lengths.
Fellow 9-4 market leader Berkshire Rocco was in turn seven lengths clear of the third, Summeronsevenhills
The race was won by subsequent Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck 12 months ago, and Marquand said: “Coming here today, there is always a question mark down that hill and he still clearly has signs of immaturity, so to have won that impressively and gone away in the style he did, we are all pretty excited about him.
“He is one to look forward to for the future, not just for Epsom.”
Walker was delighted with the performance and is now looking forward to a Derby bid.
He said: “That was exciting and you just wouldn’t quite know with him. He goes through the motions at home and is a very relaxed and a playful horse. It has been a fact-finding mission today and he couldn’t have done any better.
“The exciting thing is he has a high cruising speed, he has a turn of foot and he stays and those three together are the three qualities you need in a very good horse.
“We’ve had some good horses, but not a Group One horse. Stormy Antarctic has bashed on the door a few times, we’ve had a few others place in Group Ones, but now he is as exciting as we have had.
“We were hoping, but not expecting, because we have nothing to match him at home, so it’s really exciting.”
On having a live chance in the premier Classic, Walker said: “The Derby is one of those races that gets me going, so it is very exciting to have a live contender, God willing – we still have a long way to go.
“Bjorn (Nielsen, owner) and I chatted about it beforehand and we both agreed that if we had a genuine Derby horse on our hands we needed to win and win very easily.
“I know the distance wasn’t that far from Berkshire Rocco, but I think he did it pretty easily. He is that kind of horse, he’s not a horse who will win a race by 10 lengths, that’s not his style and his home work would suggest that as well. He’s a cool dude.
“It’s not ideal (having had just three career starts), but we’re not in an ideal world right now. I definitely wouldn’t cram one (another run) in, it was pretty quick ground out there too and we need to get him home and make sure he’s in one piece. We’ll freshen him up again for Epsom in a month’s time, I think it would be reckless to try to squeeze in another one.
“I don’t think he needs it, he will have learnt amount round there.”
Asked if Marquand would keep the ride in the blue riband, Walker added: “Tom has done absolutely nothing wrong, we’ll chat to Bjorn and see, but Tom at the moment is full of confidence and confidence as we all know is absolutely key to any sportsman. At the moment Tom is full of it, so I see no reason to change it while he is riding so well.”