Sky Sports Racing pundit Kevin Blake says Dee Stakes winner Star Of India will be a “magic ride around Epsom” for whichever jockey gets the ride on Cazoo Derby day.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained three-year-old was one of a string of Ballydoyle Classic hopefuls who enhanced their claims over the last week, staying on powerful to land the Listed Dee Stakes at Chester’s May meeting.
While Blake was not absolutely sold on the form of the race, he did say the horse could be made for the unique test that comes with the Epsom Derby track and trip.
“He’s a real Derby type, very relaxed,” Blake told the Racing Debate on Sunday. “The second and the third pulled like Mustangs and look like promising horses but didn’t race very efficiently.
“Whilst Star Of India can only do what he did, as a piece of form I don’t know if I’d be jumping up and down about it but that’s not to say he can’t go on again and be competitive in the Derby.
“It’s difficult to put a ceiling on him but when you’re not dealing with Group One form it’s tricky.
“I love Star Of India and think he’ll be a magic ride around Epsom for whoever is on him.”
Sky Sports Racing’s Matt Chapman was not as enthused about the horse, currently a general 10/1 shot for the Epsom showpiece.
“When they all shot past the line I thought: ‘that’s a nothing race’,” Chapman said. “Having said that, Charlie Hills picked out Sonny Liston [third in the Dee Stakes] as one of his big hopes for the season so maybe it’s not as bad as it looked.
“Then again, Star Of India was made to look like a pensioner by Native Trail so is this really the Derby winner? I’d be stunned.”
Blake and Chapman also discussed the rest of the Classic contenders who have been well-backed or drifted out in the Derby betting after their respective trials this week.
Chester Vase – Changingoftheguard & New London
“They threw New London into the mix around a track like Chester to see if he was physically and mentally ready to be a Derby horse and he probably failed.
“Changingoftheguard had that bit more experience, especially going around bends and Ryan Moore gave him a very aggressive ride to capitalise on any chinks in New London’s armour and as we saw there were plenty.
“Changingoftheguard is bred to be a Derby horse and is clearly sharp enough for the test but will he have enough class to compete? That comes down to opinion and he’s fully entitled to take his chance.”
“Charlie Appleby thought New London was a really good horse. He probably didn’t act on the track at all and looked slow but I wouldn’t give up on him.
“Sean Woods, who had Savvy Victory in the Chester Vase [finished third], said he was a good horse so if you take that at face value maybe this is quite good form.
“There’s something about Changingoftheguard that doesn’t get you jumping up and down quite yet but he’s a player.”
Lingfield Derby Trial – United Nations & Walk Of Stars
“Of all the Trials so far, I’d have this one at the bottom of the list. I’ve always liked United Nations but I thought that race was set-up for him to go and put in a performance.
“You look at the finish and you wouldn’t believe that United Nations had the same number of runs as the second because Walk Of Stars looked so raw.
“Either the second is an absolute rocket that did extremely well considering how much he did wrong or the form just isn’t that special.”
“Walk Of Stars had two victories to his name but the form before this was terrible.
“I’m worried that it’s not just greenness and he might have a bit of a kink. At Newbury he hung left and at Lingfield he swerved right.
“For me, the Dante is going to be the key trial because we bring a couple of new trainers into the mix, particularly Sir Michael Stoute [Desert Crown]. He’s gone from 20/1 to 6s purely because no one else is doing much.
“I also think Westover is too big at 20/1. I think we’ve got recency bias and forgotten about that Sandown Classic Trial, which you could argue was the best one so far.”