John F Kennedy heads Derby entry list; plus Saturday racing preview

John F Kennedy: 6-1 ante-post favourite for the Derby. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

John F Kennedy: 6-1 ante-post favourite for the Derby. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Ante-post favourite John F Kennedy heads the 102 entries left in this year’s Investec Derby following the latest forfeit stage.

The son of Galileo, who is a general 6-1 market leader, is one of 21 horses in the £1,325 million contest on June 6 for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

The master of Ballydoyle, responsible for the last three winners of the mile-and-a-half Classic, can also call on Group Two winners Highland Reel and Ol’ Man River.

Godolphin have 11 contenders, including the unbeaten Charlie Appleby trained Festive Fare, as does Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose entries feature Royal Lodge Stakes runner-up Nafaqa and the highly regarded Algaith, both trained by Barry Hills.

Five-time Derby-winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute has eight contenders going forward, headed by winning debutants Consort and Peterhof along with Sandown maiden winner Dartmouth, who is owned by the Queen.

Newmarket handler Hugo Palmer has Kempton maiden winner Spanish Squeeze entered.

Palmer said: “I am very happy with Spanish Squeeze at this stage - he has filled out and wintered really well.

“On official ratings, Spanish Squeeze has got a long way to go before Epsom but I do hold him in the highest possible regard and hopefully he will confirm that.”

There are eight French-trained entries, topped by the Aga Khan-owned and Alan de Royer-Dupre-trained pair of Zarkar and Zourkhan.

Andre Fabre, who sent out Pour Moi to win the 2011 renewal, has Harlem, Heredity and Hipparchus for owner Khalid Abdullah.

The unraced Andreas Wohler-trained Rogue Runner is one of two German entries, and six owned by Qatar Racing, who also share an entry in Indian Monsoon with Al Shaqab Racing, who have four separate possibles still remaining.

A second entry stage, where Racing Post Trophy winner Elm Park and Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes winner Gleneagles are likely to enter the fray, will take place on April 7.

* Arzal appeared unlucky not to be in the real thick of things at Newbury but he can gain full compensation in the William Hill Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.

Lining up in the Betfair Hurdle, the Harry Whittington-trained Arzal was not unfancied despite his novice status and after struggling to take up his customary role near the head of affairs, he suffered some ill fortune as he was badly hampered by a faller and had to take serious evasive action.

That he stayed on again towards the finish is certainly to his credit, especially as such a relatively inexperienced horse could well have had the wind truly taken out of his sails by such a mishap.

He kept on to claim sixth and while it would be hard to say he could have won, he can certainly be counted as better than the bare form suggests.

Arzal had won one of his previous three hurdles outings, with his third place behind Supreme hope Jollyallan reading particularly well, and his current mark of 139 certainly looks workable.

Whittington again has Paul O’Brien in the plate to take off a valuable 7lb and the duo can triumph to line up a possible £100,000 bonus should he go on to win in one of his Festival engagements next week.

Nicky Henderson along with owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede face an important few days at Cheltenham and Aigle De La See can ensure they go there in high spirits by landing the European Breeders’ Fund William Hill “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.

This French recruit boasts a 100 per cent record for Henderson, winning each of his two starts this term after failing to score in 10 attempts in his native country.

He impressed when seeing off previous dual winner Monbeg Theatre at this track in January before following up in commanding style in a qualifier for this event at Ffos Las last month.

* Selections -

Ayr: 1.40 Warriors Tale, 2.10 Ultra Du Chatelet, 2.45 Brave Spartacus, 3.20 Bobs Lady Tamure, 3.55 Purcell’s Bridge, 4.30 Nexius, 5.05 Mahler And Me.

Chepstow: 1.50 Gunna Be A Devil, 2.25 Drumlee Lad, 3.00 Blown Cover, 3.35 Come On Annie, 4.10 Molo, 4.45 Mister Grez, 5.20 Bulfin Island.

Sandown: 1.25 Ultimate Act, 2.00 Aigle De La See, 2.35 Kings Apollo, 3.10 ARZAL (NAP), 3.45 Robins Reef, 4.20 Ubaltique, 4.55 Saints And Sinners.

Wolverhampton: 2.15 Quatorze, 2.50 Mindurownbusiness, 3.25 Yair Hill, 4.00 Mappin Time, 4.35 Sharp Sword, 5.10 Forest Maiden, 5.45 War Girl.

Double: Arzal and Mindurownbusiness.