Dubai: For someone who has never won the £1.5 million Epsom Derby (Group 1), Britain’s premier Classic and richest race, Irish trainer Kevin Prendergast is looking unusually confident going into the contest with a horse that he has so much respect for.
The 87-year-old veteran has had five Derby runners over the years, but none with the profile that he believes Madhmoon possesses and which he believes represents his best chance of winning the English blue riband on June 1.
A lightly raced son of former 2,000 Guineas (G1) winner Dawn Approach, Madhmoon’s Derby credentials were given a noteworthy boost recently following the exit of several heavyweight contenders, including long-time market-leader Too Darn Hot, who lost his unbeaten record in the Al Basti Equiworld Dante Stakes (G3) earlier this month.
Madhmoon represents two-time Epsom Derby-winning owner Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, whose previous wins in the great race came in 1994 with Erhaab and 1989 with Nashwan.
He was last seen running fourth in the 2,000 Guineas, a race often regarded as a strong Derby trial as evidenced by Godolphin’s Masar, who placed third but would subsequently go on to nail the Derby.
On that occasion Madhmoon chased home Magna Graecia, King Of Change and Skardu, who will not be making the trip to Epsom next weekend, which is even better news for Prendergast.
“The horse is going very well, he’s in very good shape, he came out of Newmarket very well,” Prendergast said in The Guardian. “It’s all systems go to run in the Derby. The way he finished I’d be surprised and disappointed if he didn’t get the extra half-mile.”
Madhmoon is a 12-1 shot for Classic glory behind the favourites, the Aidan O’Brien par of Sir Dragonet (7/2) and Broome (9/2), but that does not worry the Irishman one bit.
“We’ve beaten Broome once (in the Group 2 Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown in September) and I don’t see why we can’t beat him again.
“We beat him by two-and-a-half lengths, and Aidan O’Brien’s other horse that won at Chester, Sir Dragonet.
“Madhmoon finishes his races well. He won twice over a mile as a two-year-old and that is usually a good indication for longer trips as a three-year-old. Hopefully, he will get the extra half mile at Epsom.”
Predergast, who was born in Australia but returned to his native Ireland to pursue a career as a jockey and then trainer, is hoping that the ground remains the way it currently is.
The ground was bottomless (Leopardstown), so what will he do if the ground is good to dry at Epsom?” he said. “I would like to see good rateable ground, not rock hard and not soft. Good ground, which is what they usually have at Epsom.”
A total of 18 colts remain engaged following Tuesday’s scratchings deadline, with O’Brien revealing that he could run as many as eight horses in the Derby, which could well be a record of sorts.
Epsom Derby (G1)
Saturday, June 1
Sir Dragonet 7/2
Anthony Van Dyck 5-1
Circus Maximus 20-1
Uae Jewel 20-1
Cap Francais 25-1
Cape of Good Hope 33-1