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New kids on the block seek to be hit in the Derby

23 May 2016

Can horses who did not run as two-year-olds dominate the Investec Derby on Saturday week?

Wings Of Desire showed he was learning quickly with his defeat of Deauville in the Dante Stakes at York. Picture courtesy of

Horses who did not run as two-year-olds dominate the betting for the Investec Derby on June 4 – the seventh race in the QIPCO British Champions Series.

The prospect of US Army Ranger and Wings Of Desire battling out the finish is remarkable, not least because since 1974 only two colts who never run as juveniles – Commander In Chief (1992) and Ruler Of The World (2013) – have won the showpiece.

The Gurkha, another who did not run as a juvenile, also remains entered in the Derby, although Aidan O’Brien said yesterday he is more likely to stay over a mile and head to Royal Ascot. Here’s how the quintet compare and contrast.


Trainer: Sir Henry Cecil

Debut to Derby: 50 days

Races won/run: 3-3

Rivals raced against: 19

The son of Dancing Brave made his debut in a mile and a quarter maiden at Newmarket on April 13 in 1992 and justified even-money favouritism with a six-length romp. On May 1 he won a conditions event at the same course over a mile and a half, and then on May 13 he made all in the Glasgow Stakes at York, hanging on by a neck from Needle Gun. In the Derby, on June 2, Pat Eddery, who had ridden him in each of his three races, believed he was not mature enough for the Derby and rejected him in favour of his stablemate, Tenby, who was in the same ownership. Commander In Chief proved Eddery wrong – winning by three and a half lengths under Mick Kinane. Tenby trailed in tenth.


Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Debut to Derby: 55 days

Races won/run: 2-2

Rivals raced against: 13

The Galileo colt, a half-brother to Duke Of Marmalade among others, was strong at the finish when winning a 1m2f maiden at the Curragh on his April 7 debut in 2013 at 2-1. Some bookmakers introduced him at 25-1 for the Derby. Those odds had dwindled before he followed up in the Group 3 Chester Vase on May 9 by six lengths, when equipped with cheekpieces. At Epsom, on June 1, he took the spoils by a length and a half under Ryan Moore at 7-1.


Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Debut to Derby: 62 days

Races won/run: 2-2

Rivals raced against: 14

The similarities with Ruler Of The World are there for all to see. For a start, he is another son of Galileo trained by O’Brien. He also won the same maiden that Ruler Of The World contested on his debut at Curragh on April 3 of this year, and then like him followed up in the Chester Vase on May 5. However, they won in contrasting styles: US Army Ranger being all out to score by a short head against a rival who was conceding 4lb.


Trainer: John Gosden

Debut to Derby: 52 days

Races won/run: 2-3

Rivals raced against: 26

Made his debut in a 1m2f maiden at Newmarket on April 13 when odds of 14-1 seemed to reflect what was expected. Wings Of Desire finished an encouraging third and then, ten days later, landed a 1m4f maiden at Wolverhampton at 8-15. Stepped up massively on those efforts when landing the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York on May 12.


Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Debut to Derby: 59 days

Races won/run: 2-3

Rivals raced against: 37

Too green to do himself justice on his debut at Leopardstown on April 6 but showed the benefit of that outing when romping home in the mud in a maiden at Navan on April 17. The Galileo colt was then elevated to Group 1 company in the French 2000 Guineas on May 15 and justified the decision in dazzling style, winning by five and a half lengths. Likely to skip the Derby and head to Royal Ascot.