Steve Simpson’s Derby preview

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THE Queen’s Carlton House has been declared for the Investec Derby tomorrow after an injury scare. But as to whether he makes it to the starting-gate, that could still go down to the wire.

The colt has been the long-time favourite for the premier Classic – and would give the Queen her first Derby success – but doubts over his participation arose after he developed swelling in his near-fore leg.

Steve Simpson.

Steve Simpson.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Dante Stakes winner suffered the setback during a work-out on Monday. However, he remains in contention for the mile-and-a-half Flat highlight after cantering yesterday.

As a result of the uncertainty, the Derby market has been volatile, with polarised variations based on the latest bulletin from the Stoute stable. Thirteen horses have been declared, with Andre Fabre’s Prix Greffulhe winner Pour Moi having also stood his ground.

Aidan O’Brien saddled Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) to win successive renewals and again has a strong hand. Ballydoyle’s two major hopes are Dante runner-up Seville and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner Recital.

O’Brien also saddles Memphis Tennessee and Treasure Beach. Native Khan, Ed Dunlop’s 2000 Guineas third, steps up half a mile in distance and will be ridden for the first time by Johnny Murtagh but needs to overcome stamina doubts.

Godolphin rely on Mahmood Al Zarooni’s Ocean War. Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Vadamar was beaten into third by Pour Moi at Saint-Cloud but renews rivalry.

Dante third Pisco Sour, Castlemorris King, Marhaba Malyoon and Masked Marvel complete the field.

There were no surprises among the four withdrawals, with Casamento, Genius Beast and Roderic O’Connor poised to run in Sunday’s French Derby at Chantilly instead. Nathaniel has also been scratched after John Gosden warned that conditions at Epsom were likely to have been too fast.

Carlton House has been drawn in stall 13 but seven of the last then winners have come from a single-figure draw.

Seville will come from stall two, Native Khan from three, Recital from four and highly-touted French challenger Pour Moi from seven.

Carlton House would be a hugely popular winner after winning the Dante Stakes, often the foremost Derby trial.

His times have not been particularly swift but such is his trainer’s record in the big race he deserves utmost respect.

The Queen is no stranger to English Classic success, having won the 2000 Guineas (Pall Mall) 1000 Guineas (Highclere) Oaks (Carrozza, Dunfermline) and St Leger (Dunfermline). However, her best Derby placing so far is Aureole’s second in 1953, the first year of her reign.

The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, won it three times, the final time in 1909 with Minoru, the only horse owned by a reigning monarch to triumph to date.

It could change 102 years on but there are some serious challengers, including this column’s selection Recital.

He looks like he could be a volatile character – most trained-to-the-minute thoroughbreds are – but the ability is there, as he showed when winning the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown.

His head carriage provoked some unfavourable comments but he has tonnes of talent and can prove that tomorrow.

Pour Moi comes from the yard of the best trainer in France, Andre Fabre, who has been bullish about the horse’s chances. He made a vivid impression on a racecourse gallop at Epsom last week.

Most will be cheering for a Royal winner but celebrations could be checked by the potent presence of Kieren Fallon’s mount Recital.