Arabian Crown’s exit from Classic makes Derby an even bigger puzzle

<span>Arabian Crown winning the Classic Trial at Sandown in April.</span><span>Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images</span>
Arabian Crown winning the Classic Trial at Sandown in April.Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The betting for the Derby at Epsom on 1 June lost another significant player on Friday when Arabian Crown, the Godolphin operation’s leading candidate for the Classic, was ruled out after suffering a setback at Charlie Appleby’s Newmarket stable. His absence leaves Ancient Wisdom, the runner-up in the Dante Stakes here on Thursday, as the only likely Derby runner for Appleby’s stable as he seeks a third win in the Epsom Classic since 2018.

Arabian Crown, who won three of his four races last season including the 10-furlong Zetland Stakes at Newmarket in October, was one of the first three-year-old colts to establish himself as a serious Derby contender when he took the Classic Trial at Sandown on 26 April by three-and-a-quarter lengths.

Related: Economics adds up for Dante delight but Derby picture left murkier than ever

At that stage City Of Troy, last year’s champion juvenile colt, was the hot favourite for both the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby. Eight days later, however, City Of Troy beat only two of his 10 rivals to the line in the Guineas, and Arabian Crown’s Sandown form had been looking better by the day over the last fortnight as one underwhelming Derby trial followed another at Chester, Lingfield and York.

As a result, Arabian Crown was a solid second-favourite at around 5-1 before he was ruled out on Friday. In his absence, and at the end of a fortnight that would normally be expected to bring a little clarity to the Derby market, the 2-1 favourite – City Of Troy – is a colt who was beaten out of sight on his latest start, while the 5-2 second-favourite – Thursday’s impressive Dante winner, Economics – would need a £75,000 supplementary and is quoted “with a run”.

Aidan O’Brien, City Of Troy’s trainer, said this week that the son of Justify, a US Triple Crown winner on dirt, is possibly the most talented horse he has ever sent to Epsom, and since he has already trained nine Derby winners, that may well be enough for many punters to keep the faith in two weeks’ time.

The fact that another live runner has come out of the race might also increase the chance that Economics will be supplemented, but at the same time, his connections have expressed reservations about his stamina for the 12-furlong trip at Epsom as well as his relative inexperience, which was evident after he hit the front here on Thursday.

Economics would be making only the fourth start of his career if he goes to the Derby, and while it is true that Shaamit, Haggas’s previous winner of the Classic, had even less experience when he won in 1996, on his third career start and his first outside maiden company, Haggas has few peers when it comes to bringing horses along at their own pace and thinking about their careers in the round.

If Haggas sticks to his Plan A with Economics and looks towards targets later in the season, punters in search of an each-way alternative to City Of Troy may well alight on either James Fanshawe’s Ambiente Friendly, the winner of Lingfield’s Derby Trial, or Los Angeles, a stable companion of City Of Troy, who took the Leopardstown Derby Trial 24 hours later. Both colts are priced up at around 6-1, while Ancient Wisdom, and Diego Velazquez, fourth home in the French 2,000 Guineas on Sunday, are around 16-1.

O’Brien saddled the favourite for the Group Two Yorkshire Cup, the feature race on the final day of the Dante meeting at York on Friday, but Tower Of London proved to be a serious disappointment as he finished only fifth behind Marco Botti’s Giavellotto, who followed up his success in last year’s race by nearly five lengths.

Big Rock holds key to Lockinge

The Lockinge Stakes at Newbury has been one of the season’s most punter-friendly Group Ones in recent years – the last winner at double-figure odds was back in 1998 – and it is likely to be a similar story in the latest renewal as Big Rock (3.35) and Inspiral, the joint-favourites at around 9-4, are several pounds in front of their rivals on official ratings and in the case of Big Rock in particular, significant scope for improvement this summer.

Big Rock was the runner-up in his first three Group One starts last year, a sequence that included a one-and-a-quarter length defeat by Inspiral in the Prix Jacques Le Marois, but finally made the breakthrough at the highest level in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day in October, when he broke well and made all the running to beat a high-class field by six lengths.

The soft ground that forced Inspiral to miss the that race probably exaggerated Big Rock’s winning margin, but it was still a big step forward in his form and sufficient to see him rated 127 by the international handicappers at the end of the season, just 1lb behind the impressive Arc winner, Ace Impact.

Inspiral is well in front of her main market rival in terms of Group One wins, as her narrow success in last season’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf was the sixth of her career.

Her best form, though, is on a faster surface, and while Big Rock’s recent switch from Christopher Head’s stable to Maurizio Guarnieri is a slight concern, Aurélien Lemaitre, his regular jockey last year, retains the ride on the uncomplicated front-runner, who could again prove very difficult to pass on Saturday.

Newbury 1.50 He has a very long absence to overcome, but So Moonstruck, a close third in the German Derby in 2022, is an interesting new recruit for Owen Burrows and potentially overpriced at around 12-1.

Newmarket 2.05 Love Billy Boy was touched off over track and trip last time and has an obvious chance off a 4lb higher mark.

Newbury 2.25 The drop back to six furlongs should suit Mister Sketch after a promising return to action in the Greenham.

Newmarket 2.40 Gorak does not have much to find to make an impact after a solid seasonal debut last month.

Newbury 1.50 So Moonstruck 2.25 Mister Sketch 3.00 Chantilly (nb) 3.35 Big Rock 4.10 Under The Twilight 4.45 Aalto 5.15 Siyola


Newmarket 1.30 Patsy Snugfit 2.05 Love Billy Boy (nap) 2.40 Gorak 3.15 Great Blasket 3.50 Lake Teo 4.25 Rebaatt 5.00 Tremblant


Thirsk 2.00 Mademoiselle 2.35 Unspoken Love 3.10 Seantrabh 3.45 Los Toldos

4.20 Brooklyn Nine Nine 4.54 New Image 5.30 Hale End 6.02 Prospect


Bangor 3.55 Crystal Glance 4.30 King Of The Hill 5.05 Commanding View 5.40 Sacre Coeur 6.15 Abaya Du Mathan 6.50 Miss Ghillie


Doncaster 4.57 Baltic 5.35 Georgecandoit 6.07 Fiorella Princess 6.42 Ananda

7.15 Churchella 7.50 Mythical Phoenix 8.20 Kodiac Thriller 8.50 Beach Point


Uttoxeter 5.20 Dasher 5.55 Dexterity 6.30 Hitching Jacking 7.03 Icare Allen

7.33 Ballinoulart 8.03 Happy Boy 8.33 Jasmin De Grugy

Newbury 3.00 Even after a 10lb hike, Chantilly looks on a fair mark to follow up an easy win at Leopardstown last month

Newmarket 3.15 Great Blasket has hit a rich vein of form and has an obvious chance to complete a hat-trick.