Sariska, trained by Michael Bell, survived a stewards' inquiry yesterday to win the first Classic at Epsom with a strong showing in the Oaks. Henry Cecil was denied a ninth Oaks win when his runner, Midday, was beaten into second by a head. "She is a lovely filly and she has always shown potential," said Bell. "Ever since she arrived in the yard we've known she was a star." Sea the Stars, with Mick Kinane in the saddle, is favourite to achieve a historic double in today's Investec Epsom Derby.
If the 2,000 Guineas winner can cross the line first he will join the ranks of legendary horses, Nijinsky and Nashwan who both pulled off the feat. Kinane, who is 50 on June 22, is no stranger to Derby success. He won this race in 1993 on Commander in Chief and in 2001 on Galileo. Kinane also bred 2007 Derby winner, Authorized, sired by Galileo's half brother, Montjeu, out of his mare, Funsie. That year Kinane finished last on Archipenko; if he trails by so much today it will be an upset.
Sea the Stars, prepared by John Oxx, won over a mile at Newmarket last month, but some question the colt's ability to stay the Epsom mile-and-a-half. Yet Sea the Stars' pedigree suggests he is supremely bred for this distance and his Irish trainer is not the type to enter a horse in a Classic if he has doubts as to his staying power. The Irish threat does not stop there. Aidan O'Brien saddles six, including second-favourite, Fame and Glory.
Though he won both the Derrinstown Stud and the Ballysax Stakes, Fame and Glory was spurned by Johnny Murtagh for fourth-placed Guineas finisher, Rip van Winkle. Seamus Heffernan will partner Fame and Glory. Champion jockey Ryan Moore, the winner of the Coronation Cup yesterday, goes on Black Bear Island, while Ballydoyle also sends Lingfield Derby Trial winner Age of Aquarius and Chester Vase first and second Golden Sword and Masterofthehorse into the fray.
The English-trained Debussy, prepared by John Gosden, should not be discounted while John Meehan's Crowded House and Godolphin's Kite Wood can be expected to improve their Dante Stakes form. Gan Amhras, who is owned by Princess Haya, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will attempt a repeat of last year's winning formula with trainer Jim Bolger. South Easter has been scratched from the field.