Good morning from Epsom racecourse, where what will probably be a smaller crowd than usual is starting to assemble a good deal earlier than usual, before what may yet come to be known as the Arrest Derby – if Frankie Dettori can get the likely favourite home in front – or the Multiple Arrests Derby, if activists from Animal Rising turn up in serious numbers. And there are, of course, many more possible outcomes too in what is, from many angles, as open a Derby as we have seen for years.
Arrest shot to the top of the market on Friday afternoon after his soon-to-be-retired jockey took the two biggest races on the opening day card, but the colt’s actual chance is no better than it was on Friday morning.
He was a clear favourite with all major bookmaking firms last night, but only the joint second-favourite behind Auguste Rodin on the Betfair exchange, where the players do not need to worry about liabilities running up. And he has duly drifted a little with the bookies too this morning, with Auguste Rodin and Military Order both marginally ahead of him in the lists.
Arrest, Auguste Rodin, Military Order and Passenger are all potential favourites – or co-favourites – when the stalls crash open, while four more of the runners in the 13-strong field are likely to go off at 20-1 or shorter and only three really qualify as near-total no-hopers.
It is a fascinating race that deserves to be the centrepiece of the sporting afternoon, but the FA Cup final has muscled on to its territory – for one year only, thankfully – and it will instead go off at 1.30pm, which is probably the earliest start time in its long history. If Animal Rising get their way, however, it will not go off at all, and while that seems a fairly remote possibility, everyone at the track will be on high alert in the hours leading up to the Classic.
The Jockey Club has spent around £150,000 to beef up the normal security arrangements following the threats by Animal Rising, and another undisclosed but no doubt chunky amount to obtain an injunction at the high court last week to deter incursions on to the track.
If the race goes ahead without a hitch, it will be seen as money well spent. If not, the Jockey Club has a big legal stick with which it can pursue anyone who gets on the course for damages.
Other potential storylines this afternoon include the possibility that 76-year-old Jessica Harrington will become the first female trainer to saddle a Derby winner if Sprewell comes home in front, while Charlie Johnston, 32, could strike at the first attempt with Dubai Mile, having taken over the licence at his family’s Middleham yard over the winter from his father, Mark.
It promises to be a slightly strange Derby day, and perhaps over all too soon, but you can follow the action as it happens here on the Guardian’s live blog as a certain Mr Dettori attempts to bring his career in the Epsom Classics to a close on a remarkable high.
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