Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Racing fans are familiar with trainers John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute, but not with the man who will saddle the favourite English King in Saturday’s Investec Derby at Epsom.

Ed Walker is a new name in the training ranks though he has had his own stable for 10 years after being assistant to Luca Cumani.

English King’s Lingfield Derby Trial win thrust the colt to the front of the Derby betting market and his price has shortened to 5-2 after the news that Frankie Dettori had been booked to ride.

Interviewed on his prospects for Saturday, Walker said: “Anyone who says they don’t think about winning the Derby is surely lying. I’ve been thinking about it since I discovered horse racing when I was 13 years old.

“There’s not a certain standout horse from Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden doesn’t have a runner so it’s probably a bit more open than normal.

“I’m very hopeful and confident that English King genuinely deserves his chance. Whether he’s good enough, we’ll find out, but I think he ticks a lot of boxes. That’s why he’s at the top of the market,” said Walker.

Dettori rode English King in a workout on Wednesday last week and said: “That was very positive.”

The 49-year-old Italian-born rider is bidding for his third Derby success after wins on Authorized (2007) and Golden Horn (2015).

At this stage, there are 17 entries for the race which is off at 5.55pm SA time. Owners will be delighted that the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) have announced the stake will be raised to £500,000.

Another big bonus for owners is that — after meetings between the BHA, Racing Association and Racehorse Owners Association — it has been decided that two owners (or representatives) will be allowed on tracks in England from Saturday.

It will be a phased process with interim safety and infection control measures in place to minimise risk.

This development will hopefully result in the NHA in SA relaxing the strict rules on racecourse entry for owners. The majority would be more than happy to be allowed two people per horse to attend.

Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has won the Derby seven times and saddled seven in the 2019 race, has three strong contenders in Royal Ascot winner Russian Emperor, Irish 2000 Guineas runner-up Vatican and Mogul. Punters will be keen to know which horse is the choice of top jockey Ryan Moore.

After his victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, trainer Andrew Balding’s runner Kameko, the 7-2 second favourite, has many supporters. However, there is the question whether the colt will stay the 2,400m trip, which he is trying for the first time.

Trainer Paul Cole, who won with Generous in 1991, is represented by Highland Chief who came from well off the pace to win a handicap at Royal Ascot. Whether that is good enough form for a Derby triumph remains to be seen.

Jockey Tom Marquand won the Lingfield Derby Trial on English King, but has lost the mount to Dettori. Nevertheless, he says he is “extremely happy” to have secured the ride on Kameko’s stablemate Khalifa Sat. He believes the colt’s Goodwood win will be valuable experience for the undulating Epsom track.

Bet 365 betting

5-2 English King
7-2 Kameko
7-1 Vatican City, Mogul
17-2 Russian Emperor
12-1 Highland Chief
14-1 Pyledriver
16-1 Khalifa Sat
20-1 Others