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Beckett confident Macduff will cope with Derby distance

Beckett confident Macduff will cope with Derby distance
Beckett confident Macduff will cope with Derby distance

Macduff, Deira Mile and the once-raced Voyage are all set to take their chance in the Betfred Derby after getting a sighter of the famous Epsom turf on Tuesday morning.

In all, four hopefuls for the premier Classic took part in the traditional Derby Festival gallops event, with Roger Teal also confirming his French 2000 Guineas runner-up Dancing Gemini an intended runner after he delighted connections in his early-morning workout.

The Ralph Beckett-trained Macduff is a particularly interesting contender, having finished best of the rest behind one-time Derby favourite Arabian Crown in last month’s Sandown Classic Trial.

Arabian Crown has since been ruled out of the Derby after suffering a setback, but Beckett is looking forward to seeing Macduff line up on June 1 after traversing the track in the hands of Rossa Ryan.

He said: “I’m very happy with the horse, he’s a very straightforward customer with the right mindset, who very much enjoys his work and gets on with it.

“He’s well balanced and after a gap since he last ran, we needed to go somewhere and do something. I hope he will come forward for his run (at Sandown).”

While Macduff is a son of the great 2009 Derby winner Sea The Stars, there are mixed signals in his Juddmonte pedigree when it comes to stamina limitations, as he is closely related to star miler Kingman and his dam’s sire is top-class sprinter Bated Breath.

Macduff (left) delighted Ralph Beckett on Tuesday morning
Macduff (left) delighted Ralph Beckett on Tuesday morning (John Walton/PA)

“From his breeding, he shapes more like Sea The Stars than Kingman or Bated Breath in the way he’s made and the way he trains. There’s also more cause for optimism as we go up in trip,” Beckett added.

“I schooled him in the paddock, so he knows where he is. Unlike Westover (third in the 2022 Derby), he doesn’t need much managing. Both horses enjoy life in general but Westover needed managing.

“Rossa is pretty confident Macduff will cope with the hill and the nature of the track.”

Owen Burrows is excited about the prospect of saddling Deira Mile, who rounded off his juvenile campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster and was visually impressive on his reappearance in a novice event at Windsor.

Trainer Owen Burrows (right) walks out with Jim Crowley aboard Deira Mile
Trainer Owen Burrows (right) walks out with Jim Crowley aboard Deira Mile (John Walton/PA)

The Camelot colt is readily available at 66-1 for the Derby, but with ante-post favourite City Of Troy needing to bounce back from a disappointing run in the 2000 Guineas and Charlie Appleby’s hand weakened by Arabian Crown’s setback and the fatal injury suffered by Chester Vase winner Hidden Law, Burrows is keen to roll the dice.

“He had a nice confidence boost round Windsor and we are very happy with him. I have fond memories of Hukum running here, as well as the North Light, Kris Kin and Workforce Derbies when I was with Sir Michael (Stoute),” he said.

“It wouldn’t normally be my style to bring one here (to gallop), but Jim (Crowley) was very positive about everything and I feel it will be of benefit to the horse.

“The trip won’t bother him at all, and with Aidan’s horse (City Of Troy) needing to bounce back and Godolphin having such bad luck at Chester, it’s a wide-open Classic for sure.”

Crowley also feels Deira Mile merits his place in the field, saying: “He’s improved a huge amount since Windsor, while physically he’s done very well. He is surprising me.

“He handled the track very well and I’m very much looking forward to riding him. I think he will stay and he’s a well-balanced horse who is thriving at the moment.

“It’s exciting how well he’s done both mentally and physically and I was impressed with how he switched leads at the right places. It’s a wide-open Derby but one thing for sure is he’s ready to go there.”

Voyage is a potential dark horse in the field for trainer Richard Hannon and owner Julie Wood, having won on his only previous outing at Newbury in mid-April.

Hannon admitted to having some doubts about whether the son of Golden Horn will stay the Derby trip, but was encouraged by what he saw in his Tuesday morning racecourse spin.

He said: “I’m very pleased. When he won first time like he did, we didn’t really know we were there with him. I just hope he’s not too keen, because if he does that, he won’t get the trip. But he’s a good horse, and if he settles anything can happen.

“With the Derby, it’s a lot about horses hiding that we haven’t seen the best of yet. He took me by surprise the way he kept going at Newbury after being so keen. He’s inexperienced but he’s unbeaten, it’s whether he’s good enough.

“Pat (Dobbs) is riding well and rides all of Julie’s. It’s good that she sticks with him.”

Epsom clerk of the course Andrew Cooper
Epsom clerk of the course Andrew Cooper (Simon Cooper/PA)

On the current ground conditions at Epsom, clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said: “The track is in good nick, just on the slow side of good.

“In the last fortnight, we’ve seen six millimetres of rain, which is drier than normal. Once we get the next 48 hours out of the way, it should be brighter leading up to the meeting.

“It would be quite nice to see a wet day tomorrow.”

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