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Bangkok seeks to provide poignant win in Investec Derby

30 May 2019

The Andrew Balding-trained colt will carry the colours of the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in worlds greatest Flat race.

Bangkok has won both his races this season and is a leading Derby fancy. Pic: Racingfotos.com

Emotions will run high at Epsom on Saturday when Bangkok contests the 240th running of the Investec Derby.

The colt features among a final field of 13 for the world’s greatest Flat race and will carry the colours of the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the owner of Leicester City Football Club who was among five people killed in a helicopter crash outside the stadium in October.

Srivaddhanaprabha had purchased Bangkok for 500,000gns as a yearling the previous year and named him after his birthplace. His horses continue to race under the banner of King Power Racing and Bangkok, a general 8/1 chance trained by Andrew Balding, has developed into a leading Derby contender.

The £1,625.000 showpiece is Britain’s richest race and one of the highlights of the sporting summer. It forms part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series.

Bangkok beat Telecaster, the subsequent Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes winner, on his return at Doncaster in March and on his latest start landed the bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown, a race the brilliant Shergar won en route to winning the Derby by a record-breaking ten lengths in 1981.

Srivaddhanaprabha was not present when purchasing Bangkok at Tattersalls’ Book 1 Sale, in Newmarket, but Alastair Donald, Racing Manager for King Power, says he monitored closely from afar.

“Vichai sat in front of his computer on holiday that year and I think he watched every horse through the sales ring,” Donald said. “He was very familiar with lots of the stallions and would point to certain lot numbers out that he wanted our opinion on. He got very much involved in the buying process and he [Bangkok] was high on the list of the ones we wanted.

“He named a few horses after places in Thailand. This horse stood out on pedigree, being by Australia, and it seemed a good one to give the powerful name of Bangkok too.

“It’s just very sad that the Chairman, as we call him, cannot see his plans coming to fruition. His legacy lives on with his family enjoying it now. They are very much horse people, all quite involved with polo and used to dealing with horses, and they all used to attend the races regularly last year.

“It’s [King Power Racing] going well and the intention is to keep it going. Top [Srivaddhanaprabha’s son] will be there on Saturday with his family and friends and there will be a big crowd cheering from Thailand, from Leicester, and all parts. I’m sure he’d be a popular winner.”

Bangkok is a son of Australia, easy winner of the Derby in 2014, and his

preparation has gone smoothly. Donald can see no negatives ahead of him tackling opposition that includes seven challengers trained by Aidan O’Brien.

“It’s been so far, so good. He had his last proper gallop on Saturday and I saw him on Tuesday morning when all was tickety-boo,” Donald said. “He had a leg-stretch on Wednesday and now it’s finger crossed for the next couple of days.

“The one thing we wouldn’t have wanted was soft ground as that would have been a bit of an unknown, but it looks likely being on the good to firm side. He’s a medium-sized, well-balanced horse so I think the track should be fine. He’s a middle-distance horse with a proper turn of foot. Hopefully he’s got a few more gears than some of them.

“He travels strongly and he’s bred to get the trip, so hopefully the extra two furlong won’t be an issue.”

With regard to his temperament for the big day, he added: “At Sandown he was on his toes but in a good way. He always sweats a little bit between his back legs but that’s him at home. It’s quite a small paddock at Epsom and they are not in there very long, so hopefully he will cope with the occasion. There’s certainly nothing in the family to concern us.”

Standing in the way of Bangkok and all those associated with King Power will be O’Brien, who seeks a  record-equalling seventh success in the Derby after the previous triumphs of Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler Of The World (2013), Australia (2014) and Wings Of Eagles (2017).

O’Brien’s formidable team for Saturday consists of Anthony Van Dyck (Derby Trial Stakes winner at Lingfield), Broome (Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner Leopardstown), Circus Maximus (Dee Stakes winner at Chester), Japan (fourth in the Dante Stakes at York), Norway (runner-up in the Chester Vase), Sovereign (third in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial) and Sir Dragonet (Chester Vase winner).

O’Brien’s team of jockeys will include his son, Donnacha, who seeks to emulate his older brother Joseph, who won on Camelot and Australia, plus two-time Derby winner Ryan Moore, successful on Workforce in 2010 and Ruler Of The World in 2013.

Bookmakers make O’Brien, 49, Ireland’s 21-time champion Flat trainer, odds-on to train the winner (and achieve a 35th British Classic win in the process) but his rivals should take the heart from the fact that he ran a record eight challengers in the 2008 renewal and returned home empty-handed.

The unbeaten Sir Dragonet, the only member of the field who did not race as a two-year-old and a runaway winner of the MBNA Chester Vase winner, is perhaps the Ballydoyle maestro’s most intriguing contender. He and Telecaster, trained by Hughie Morrison, were each supplemented at cost of £85,000 on Monday.

Supplementary entries were introduced for the Derby in 1998 and, since then have produced two winners – Kris Kin (2003) and Golden Horn (2015) – from an extra 25 runners.

Golden Horn was added to the field after landing the Dante, so the portents are good for Telecaster, who had Surfman (third) and Japan (fourth) adrift when winning the latest renewal of that Group 2 contest a fortnight ago. Benny The Dip (1997), North Light (2004), Authorized (2007), Workforce (2010) and Golden Horn (2015) have been recent Dante winners to go on to glory at Epsom.

Masar, trained by Charlie Appleby, ended Sheikh Mohammed’s long quest for a Derby winner in the blue colours of Godolphin last year. This time, the same connections are represented by Line Of Duty, who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs but disappointed on his return when beating one home in the eight-runner Dante.

In addition to the O’Brien squadron, there is another Irish challenger in the shape of Madhmoon, trained by 86-year-old Kevin Prendergast. Madhmoon stayed on to be fourth in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and his octogenarian handler is hopeful his stable star will stay the extra half-mile.

Madhmoon is owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, triumphant in 1989 with Nashwan and five years later with Erhaab. Nashwan’s triumph was gained at the principal expense of 500/1 chance Terimon, the longest-priced placed horse in any British Classic.

John Ryan would no doubt settle for a similar return from Hiroshima, who is chalked up at 250/1 in places. The Nathaniel colt, owned by Graham Smith-Bernal,  finished well adrift on Anthony Van Dyck at Lingfield last time, having previously lost his maiden tag at Southwell.

Ryan believes his second runner in the Investec Derby is capable of belying his minnow status and would be delighted with a top-six finish.

“It’s lovely to have a Derby runner and take an owner to a wonderful racecourse and meeting,” he said. “There’s only one Derby a year and not many chances to be in one. I’m excited about the prospect and I don’t think he will disgrace us. This isn’t just a whim.

“Once you get involved in horseracing – and specifically into Flat horseracing as the owner is – then the Derby is the ultimate prize. There’s only a handful of people every year that ever get a chance of winning it.

“Horses now have to prove themselves before they take part. They have to be rated 80-plus and this horse [who has an official rating of 87] has done that, so he’s earned his place. “We would be delighted if could finish in the first six. He’s come on for each of his runs and the one thing we do know is that he will definitely see the trip out.

“Grey Britain [rated 104]  is in the same ownership and has been his lead horse leading up to Saturday. Hiroshima works better than him, so you would hope he will be good enough to hold his own. I hope he can do us proud.”

Hiroshima is named after the Japanese city where Smith-Bernal has enjoyed success in the koi carp showing world.

The field is completed by the John Gosden-trained Humanitarian, winner of a novice stakes at Newmarket this month.