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At around 4:30 on Saturday afternoon a diminutive Italian with a smile as wide as the Grand Canal will perform his most exuberant flying dismount yet in the winner’s enclosure of Epsom Downs racecourse.
Ever since Frankie Dettori powered home in the Dante Stakes at York on Saturday’s Vodafone Derby Stakes favourite, Authorized, it has been written in the stars that the ebullient Italian would finally break his duck in the great race. Saturday is D (Dettori) Day.
Putting aside the inevitable hype surrounding his jockey, does the horse deserve to be odds on in a nineteen-runner field at a notoriously tricky track? The short answer is “yes”.
Trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam says he is the best horse he has ever trained, a tip in itself from the man who masterminded the Derby victory of Dr Devious in 1992. Further, the Dante is the best trial for the big one, with three winners from the last ten renewals.
However, it was the manner not the fact of that victory that sets Authorized apart from his rivals on Saturday. He cruised up to previously unbeaten Raincoat and when Dettori asked for a little extra he powered away. He was value for at least double the winning margin of four lengths.
That form alone is good enough. But the gods of horseracing have sent a gift-wrapped present to Authorized and Frankie. Every drop of rain that has fallen on Surrey this week has boosted his chances.
Authorized is a son of Montjeu, who won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1999 on bottomless ground. Authorized showed his liking for soft going when hosing up in the Racing Post Trophy as a two-year old.
Soft ground will draw the finishing kick from any suspect stayers. Given that Authorized is also blessed with his father’s high cruising speed, many in this field could be struggling from a long way out.
Sceptics will point out the last odds-on chance to run in the Derby, Entrepreneur, was beaten by Benny the Dip in 1997. This is a field of three-year olds so something could improve past Authorized. Aidan O’Brien’s Archipenko is regally bred and must be respected and John Gosden’s Lucarno is a dark horse that has attracted each-way money.
However, on what we know to date, this will be Authorized’s Derby, even if its jockey hogs the headlines on Sunday morning.
2:00 Epsom Buccellati (each-way)
4:20 Epsom (The Vodafone Derby)
1. Authorized (win) 2. Archipenko 3. Lucarno