English King, trained in Lambourn by Ed Walker, shortened to 3-1 favourite for the Investec Derby on the back of the news that Frankie Dettori had been booked to ride him in the Classic which, for one year only, is run on the first weekend in July.
Dettori, who was top jockey at Royal Ascot for a seventh time and equalled Pat Eddery’s total of 73 ‘Royal’ winners last week, has already won the race on Authorized and Golden Horn and will hope to equal Eddery’s tally of three Derby winners when he lines up on the son of the 2012 winner Camelot.
English King, who ran twice as a two-year-old winning his maiden at Newcastle, shot to prominence when he ran out a very smooth winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial, beating Berkshire Rocco by two and three-quarter lengths.
The pair were clear of the rest but the standout point was how balanced the colt was round Lingfield, a course topographically closer to Epsom than any other course. Berkshire Rocco did the form no harm when second in the Queen’s Vase beaten the same margin by Santiago.
Like Stradivarius, who he bred, English King carries the silks of Bjorn Nielsen, although he bought him for €210,000 as a yearling. Normally New York-based, he also owns Walker’s yard, Kingsdown Stables.
It is tough on Tom Marquand, one of the rising stars of the riding ranks, who is unbeaten on the horse. In a normal year, John Gosden would have a colt for the race but he has been saying for some time this year that he does not have a horse that fits the bill this time.
But it is a case of swings and roundabouts and this year for Marquand, having ridden for Aidan O’Brien at Ascot, he could easily pick up a Ballydoyle second or third string in the race which, we all know, rarely adhere to their supposed pecking order.
Walker, whose first Derby runner it is, said: “Tom is a huge talent and very promising young jockey who, I’ve no doubt, will be competing at the highest level for a long time. But at this stage he is not quite at the level Frankie is, especially when it comes to the big day.
“I told Tom after Lingfield: ‘Frankie is your only threat.’ It’s a real tough one for Tom but he’s taken it like I expected for a young man with his intelligence. He understands and will continue to ride for us a lot in the future, and maybe on this horse again in the future.”