Super Goldoni’s trial triumph
Epsom's Investec Derby Trial does not have a rich history of producing authentic candidates for the blue riband in June and there will be no change this year as Andrew Balding's Goldoni is a gelding.
Horses to have undergone the delicate operation are not eligible for the Derby itself and the sponsors' decision to dangle the significant carrot of a guaranteed place in the Classic can be rolled over for another 12 months.
Before racing it was revealed that Investec will continue to back the Derby fixture until 2021 after agreeing a 10-year extension worth £30m to their deal with Epsom.
The extension will see the Investec Derby reinstated as the richest race in the UK offering a prize fund of £1,325,000 in 2012.
Increased prize-money for the 10-furlong conditions race, and a chance of a practice over the uniquely undulating course, saw Aidan O'Brien and Roger Varian saddle promising colts but their respective runners Thomasgainsborough (fourth) and Cameron Highland (third) appeared to dislike the unusually soft ground.
This resulted in a duel between Goldoni (15-2) and Mister Music in the home straight, with David Probert managing to pull a length and three-quarters clear in the final furlong.
“I do think it's a good initiative and hopefully we'll still have a horse good enough to run in the Derby,” said Balding.
“He was a pretty useful horse anyway but he has improved a lot for being gelded and should have a good season.
“He'll probably run in the Lingfield Derby Trial now and then the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot.”
Varian said of Cameron Highland, who was some way adrift as the 9-4 favourite: “He travelled well but it was just the ground.
“We'll need to see how he is, but there's not much time left to go for another Derby trial and we might end up going down the handicap route.”
John Gosden was impressed with Aiken's ability to win the Investec Great Metropolitan Handicap in style, despite the wretched conditions high in the Surrey Hills.
Successful on his final three starts last year at Chester, Sandown and Ascot, Aiken (100-30 favourite) had been put away in order to save him for better options as a four-year-old.
It took him a little while to get accustomed to the cambers but he got into his stride in the home straight and just survived a dramatic late challenge from First Avenue.
“The problem we had as a three-year-old was that once you reach a handicap mark of 90-plus you can't find a race for half the season,” said Gosden.
“He has trained well this spring and it was a good effort on that ground. The Great Met is a good prize in its own right.”