Focus on the favourite

English King (7/2)

English King created a good impression when getting off the mark at Newcastle last season, doing well to overcome a positional bias having been held up further back than ideal in a steadily-run race. That effort marked him down as a promising colt but he took a huge step forward on his reappearance at Lingfield in the Derby Trial last month, booking his ticket to Epsom with consummate ease. English King was always travelling powerfully and loomed up menacingly to join Berkshire Rocco before quickening clear inside the final furlong, readily drawing two and a quarter lengths clear. Berkshire Rocco subsequently finished runner-up in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot to Santiago, who followed up in the Irish Derby at the Curragh, so the form of that Lingfield Derby Trial looks a bit stronger than it did at the time.

It should be acknowledged that English King has achieved a lot less than Kameko (128), who is 11 lb higher on Timeform ratings. But we are only just starting to scratch the surface with English King, whose strong-travelling style and good turn of foot identifies him as a top-class prospect. He deserves his position at the head of the market.

An outsider to consider

Highland Chief (16/1)

Highland Chief is bred to come into his own over middle-distances, so it augured well for his prospects that he was able to win over five furlongs as a juvenile. He built on that performance when chasing home Pinatubo and Lope Y Fernandez in a high-class renewal of the Chesham Stakes but was off the track for three months before disappointing in the Royal Lodge on his final start of the campaign, beating only one rival home in sixth (Kameko was runner-up).

He was a different proposition on his reappearance in the Golden Gates Handicap at Royal Ascot, however, defying a mark of 101 and top weight. He was held up in the early stages of that mile-and-a-quarter contest and had only two behind him as they turned into the straight, but he launched an irresistible charge that carried him to the front inside the final 50 yards, beating Tritonic by half a length with the pair pulling two and a quarter lengths clear. 

Perhaps he has been slightly overlooked because that was a handicap, but it was a race contested by a number of progressive sorts who were put well in their place, and the rating he achieved puts him in a similar bracket to English King and Mogul, who are among the favourites. Quotes of 16/1 look generous.

The step up in trip to a mile and a half should also suit, keeping in mind how powerful he was in the finish at Royal Ascot in a race run at a strong gallop on rain-softened ground.

A stat to note

Frankie Dettori (English King) has a 33% strike rate over course and distance since 2015

Frankie Dettori had to wait until 2007 before partnering his first Derby winner, famously scoring at the 15th attempt aboard Authorized. However, his record over the course and distance in recent years has been phenomenal. Since 2015 Dettori is operating at a strike rate of 33%, riding five winners from 15 mounts, resulting in a profit of £11.48 to a £1 level stake at Betfair SP. Those five victories include a Derby on Golden Horn, two Oaks on Enable and Anapurna and a hard-fought success in the Coronation Cup on Cracksman. Dettori’s trackcraft takes on extra importance as he will need to overcome a potentially disadvantageous low draw on English King.

The Verdict

Kameko heads Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings but there is a doubt on pedigree about whether the 2000 Guineas winner will prove as effective over a mile and a half. ENGLISH KING has a pre-race rating that is slightly lower than that of a typical Derby winner but he is very lightly raced and possesses the scope to do much better, while his proven stamina is an asset. He has drifted to 7/2 since news emerged he would have to break from stall 1 – data suggests low draws are a negative – but he is a very exciting prospect and worth siding with. At a bigger price, HIGHLAND CHIEF should not be overlooked. He has not come the conventional route to the Derby, winning a handicap last time, but that looks like a solid piece of form and this test should suit.

Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:

  • 142    Kameko
  • 133p    Russian Emperor
  • 131p    English King
  • 129p    Vatican City
  • 128p    Highland Chief