FRENCH raider Epicuris has his sights set firmly on the Investec Derby as the field for the Epsom Classic began to take shape yesterday.
Dual 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles and the classy filly Found have been ruled out, but ante-post favourite Golden Horn was supplemented at a cost of £75,000, as was Irish raider Success Days, leaving 15 contenders.
Among them is the Criquette Head-Maarek-trained Epicuris, whose route to the blue riband has had one or two twists.
Unbeaten as a juvenile when his wins included the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 10 furlongs, he was successful on his return to action at Longchamp in early April.
He was due to have his prep run for the French Derby in the Prix Greffulhe last month, but refused to enter the stalls. While he has since passed a stalls test, he will only enter them with the assistance of Nicolas Blondeau, a horse behavioural expert who also followed Goldikova all over the world.
French rules prevent anyone other than the official stalls handlers assisting down at the start, so Head-Maarek decided not to risk Epicuris refusing in the Prix du Jockey Club and switched her sights to Epsom instead.
The Khalid Abdullah-owned Rail Link colt will become Head-Maarek’s second runner in Epsom showpiece after the French Guineas winner, American Post, finished sixth behind North Light in 2004
“He worked well this morning, I was very happy with him,” said Head-Maarek, who is on a high after the return of her brilliant filly, Treve, last week.
Gleneagles and Found will head directly to Royal Ascot instead of the Derby. It had been expected that Gleneagles would at least be left in at the confirmation stage for Epsom, but owners Coolmore decided to keep him to a mile in the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal fixture.
Found, a Group One winner last season, missed the Guineas at Newmarket and was a narrow runner-up in the Irish version, but speculation had mounted in recent days that she could be supplemented to take on the colts. She will now be prepared for the Coronation Stakes.
Trained by Ken Condon, Success Days has won the key Irish trials in the Ballysax and Derrinstown Derby Trial.
Both those wins came on soft ground, but Condon feels there will be sufficient give to allow him to run to his best.