Ante-post favourite English King is among 17 entries for Saturday’s Investec Derby at Epsom.
The mile-and-a-half Classic finds itself in an unusual position on the calendar this year, coming a month later than normal and after both Royal Ascot and the Irish Derby, because of the late start to the campaign.
That will not matter one iota to the winning connections come this weekend, though – and for Ed Walker, trainer of Lingfield Derby Trial winner English King, it would be the realisation of a childhood ambition.
“Anyone who says they don’t think about winning the Derby is surely lying,” said Walker.
“I’ve been thinking about it since I discovered horseracing when I was 13 years old, so of course you think about it in this position. It would be a great day if it happened.
“It’s been quite nice that we booked our ticket very early – it was only the fifth day of the season. It’s been nice watching all the other trials and seeing who else is putting their hands up as Derby contenders.
“I always vowed I wouldn’t run a horse in the Derby who didn’t deserve his place, because we’ve all seen nice horses get ruined in the race.
“I’m very hopeful and confident he genuinely deserves to take his chance. Whether he’s good enough, we’ll find out, but I think he ticks a lot of boxes – and I think that’s why he’s at the top of the market.”
Aidan O’Brien had mooted turning Irish Derby winner Santiago out again quickly after he added to his Royal Ascot win at the Curragh, but his name was not on the list.
Instead the seven possible Ballydoyle runners are another Ascot winner in Russian Emperor, Irish Guineas runner-up Vatican City, Mogul, Amhran Na Bhfiann, Armory, Mythical and Serpentine.
Andrew Balding’s Kameko was a clear-cut winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and he takes a leap up in trip, with stablemate and Goodwood winner Khalifa Sat also set to take his chance.
Pyledriver was one of the more popular winners during Royal Ascot for William Muir and he will aim to give Martin Dwyer a second win in the race following on from Sir Percy in 2006.
Highland Chief was another Royal Ascot winner for Paul and Oliver Cole, another family who have tasted Derby glory before with Generous in 1991.
Emissary, Gold Maze, Max Vega, Mohican Heights and Worthily complete the contenders.