Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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Weekend tips: get on-board for Glorious Journey at Ascot
The first classics have been run and Derby trials are coming thick and fast, writes Thom Malone.

“THE THOROUGHBRED EXISTS because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby.”

Federico Tesio’s words are most pertinent at this time of year.

The first classics have been run, and Derby trials are coming thick and fast, with Lingfield and the Derrinstown still to come this weekend. One theme continues; the dominance of Ballydoyle.

Aidan O’Brien won both Classics and both recognised Derby prep races at Chester this week. He has six of the top eight in the Derby betting, so looking elsewhere initially appears foolhardy.

The Dante and the action at the weekend should help clear the picture slightly, but there have to be some concerns that Too Darn Hot will struggle when stepped up in trip for the Derby.

This weekend Broome should enhance his own Epsom credentials in the Derrinstown trial at Leopardstown on Sunday while it might not be the biggest shock if stablemate Anthony Van Dyke were to get turned over at a short price in Lingfield on Saturday.

Royal Ascot International Challengers Press Morning PA Archive / PA Images Trainer, Charlie Appleby. PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

The only horse, who isn’t a complete unknown represents last year’s winning connections, Godolphin, is Line of Duty (14/1). He has won at Goodwood, so should cope with the undulations of Epsom. He ran well fresh last year when just being touched off by the now 110 rated Arctic Sound on debut.

His International wins suggest he is a very relaxed horse. Both his parents are Classic winners, although his mum was eventually disqualified. Intriguingly it could be one of the most significant moments in the thawing of relations between the two global bloodstock superpowers.

Godolphin is the racing arm of the Darley operation, but Line of Duty is by The Coolmore superstar stallion Galileo. Should Line of Duty be first past that ‘piece of wood’ on June 1st, the 400,000 guineas forked out for him will look like chump change and Darley will add a Derby-winning son of Galileo to their stallion ranks. Back him before the Dante at York next week.

The Victoria Cup at Ascot at 4.00 is the weekly token monster handicap charge. Glorious Journey (4pm Saturday, Ascot – 11/1) could be the token group horse in a handicap.

He was campaigned last year as if they hoped he could make into a group horse and was sent off favourite in a French derby trial. He was too keen in Chantilly that day and did pick up a group race in France towards the end of the season.

There was soft in the going description for that win, so should handle the underfoot conditions, the big field will help him settle on a strong pace and he is drawn in stall 18 so, should the field split, William Buick may have options about where to go.

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32Red Winter Festival - Day One - Kempton Park Racecourse Julian Herbert Mr Fisher and Nico de Boinville. Julian Herbert

Elsewhere in the UK on Saturday, Haydock hosts an all too rare mixed card, given the recent weather it will be more suitable terrain for jumps horses. The Swinton hurdle is the feature jumps race at 3.10, and Mister Fisher (3.10pm Saturday, Haydock  – 6/1) jumps off the page. Nicky Henderson’s horse has had ample opportunity to make up for his Cheltenham disappointment.

A mark of 145 for this horse on a track he has won at looks a gift from the betting gods. This lot are nothing like the opposition he faced when last seen. It was reported pre-Cheltenham that Mister Fisher may not be the fastest learner in the world and the Cheltenham opener came a little too soon. He has always been held in a very high regard and the break following the Supreme can only be a good thing, for Saturday’s good thing.

At Naas tomorrow waiting until the last at 5.05 will be worthwhile. It’s family day so it’ll be easy to keep the kids entertained until then. Stanhope (5.05pm Saturday, Naas – SP) finished third over course and trip in a hotter race than this. Damien English’s horse was taken off his feet at Tipperary over five furlongs when last seen.

An inside draw is crucial here and the stable apprentice’s seven-pound claim will be far from a hindrance. The stars look to have aligned for Stanhope in the lucky last.

Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella and Bernard Jackman tee up Saturday’s Champions Cup final and look at the backroom problems in Munster.:

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