Racing UK

Editor's Blog

Epsom breakfast should be food for thought for many

23 May 2016

We are in an age where the smallest advantage in sport can make a huge difference.

Look at football, rugby, or formula one and every trainer, coach, fitness instructor or nutrition expert spends hours trying to find an angle.

There are those in racing who do this – I once listened to the Australian jockey Craig Williams theorise at length how various racecourses around the world were mowed, and how the turf would ride differently and therefore potentially affect the outcome of races staged on it.

This does not seem to be the case with regards the Breakfast With The Stars event on Tuesday.

Epsom gives connections a gilt-edged opportunity to see whether their horse will be able to handle the unique test that is the cambered horseshoe along which the Investec Derby is run.

Countless horses down the years have struggled to adapt to Epsom’s idiosyncratic exam. 

Presented with the chance to find out early, why wouldn’t any trainer take it?

You only have to look at the cast that have patronised the event over the past few seasons to see that it can only be a good thing.

John Gosden brought last year’s Investec Derby one-two Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs for a racecourse sighter 12 months ago.

The master of Clarehaven also brought Taghrooda ahead of her successful Oaks campaign in 2014, while Andre Fabre sent over Pour Moi in 2011.

They are perhaps two of the finest trainers in Europe, so why have not more followed in their footsteps?

Breakfast With The Stars works in the reverse, too.

Last year Andrew Balding brought Elm Park to the morning trackwork event as an 8-1 shot, and, realistically, the Phoenix Reach colt left as a 50-1 shot. 

The colt failed to handle Epsom’s camber, with Racing UK’s Oli Bell describing him as ‘awkward’ on the course. Elm Park finished  11th behind Golden Horn in the Derby. 

Andre Fabre outlined on Monday why the gallops morning was beneficial.

"It is a very peculiar track, unlike anything we have in France, so I feel it's important for the horses to get a good look at it,” he said.

"It's not necessarily about giving them a searching workout over the course, but more about letting them find their feet. 

"I have brought a few horses to Epsom for the Breakfast With The Stars, namely Pour Moi, Ocovango (5th in the 2013 Derby) and Al Naamah (8th in the 2015 Oaks)."

Contrast the opinions of the 24-times champion trainer of France, with those of Owen Burrows, the rookie handler of Massaat.

Burrows clearly knows his onions, having spent 12 years as assistant to Sir Michael Stoute. It was a golden period at Freemason Lodge when Kris Kin, North Light and Workforce all prevailed at Epsom without a racecourse workout.

But a decision about Massaat’s participation at Epsom, or indeed a day later in Chantilly for the French Derby, has yet to be made. Why not make an informed choice? Burrows does not want to bring Massaat because it is not something that, historically, he did with Stoute. The ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” approach. 

The deadline for supplementary entries, for which connections of Wings Of Desire, Cloth Of Stars, Humphrey Bogart and Linguistic have to pay the princely sum of £75,000, is on May 30. It is an excellent reason for bringing them. Why not take a little of the guess work out of it and see if your horse at least handles Epsom, before looking under the mattress for the cash? 

In Monday’s Racing Post, columnist Lee Mottershead makes an excellent point about how racing should not pay too much deference to connections. And in many ways he is correct. The Derby is the most important horse race in the world. It helps decide the fate of racehorses in their next careers as stallions.

Breakfast With The Stars should be compulsory – it should be a condition of entry to the race. There would be few connections that would duck the day to avoid it, and naturally the morning mist at Ballydoyle and across the Irish Sea would frequently prevent Aidan O’Brien’s horses from travelling. 

To ease the expense for those connections without limitless pockets, the first three home in the race should get their travel expenses reimbursed.

The Derby build up should start on Tuesday. It is an opportunity missed for many.

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