Matt Chapman is back and sets the scene as we prepare for a mouthwatering weekend of top-class racing

THE Queen won't be there, but the King will be!

Yes people, it's Derby day, and more than ever before it can be the people's Flat race with sports fans around the nation glued to ITV at 4.55pm.

And this weekend it's not just about the Investec Derby.

On the same Epsom card is the Oaks, the fillies' equivalent, and tomorrow all eyes are on Sandown and a Coral-Eclipse featuring the return of the dual Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine Enable.

It will be a Derby like none other, with the public forced to stay away due to Covid-19 and only a restricted number of owners allowed on track plus racing professionals.

But the Derby will still be the Derby, the most prestigious Flat race on planet earth which takes place at an Epsom course famously testing, with its uphill start, a long downhill stretch and tough turn at Tattenham Corner before a searching climb to the finish.

You need guts, determination, agility and ability to win a Derby.

I'm confident ENGLISH KING will take all the beating, and if successful will give trainer Ed Walker a first Classic success and big-race partner Frankie Dettori his third Derby in the wake of Authorized in 2007 and Golden Horn eight years later.

English King will be hoping lightning strikes twice, having landed the Lingfield Derby Trial on his latest outing. That race was taken by Anthony Van Dyck last season before his success for Aidan O'Brien in the Blue Riband.

I thought the son of Camelot – himself a Derby victor in 2012 – was hugely impressive in the way he cruised up to his rivals and kicked clear of the subsequent Queen's Vase runner-up Berkshire Rocco.

English King stays strong and will take all the stopping for owner Bjorn Nielsen, who of course is also the force behind three-time Gold Cup winner Stradivarius.

One big talking point will be the draw, and English King is in what some feel is the dreaded one box. The last Derby winner from the inside stall was Oath in 1999 and only three winners have come from that berth since 1967.

But I am not worried at all. The statistics may be damning, but they don't take into account opposition. The field does tend to move towards the outside of the course after a furlong to take a right turn, but then almost immediately goes back to the inside rail.

There is plenty of time for a horse from any draw to secure a decent position. Quite simply if English King is fast enough he will win. And I not only think he is fast enough but believe he will destroy them!

In a 16-runner line-up, English King faces Kameko, who brilliantly landed the Qipco 2000 Guineas last time out for champion jockey Oisin Murphy, and Mogul, who did not run well at Royal Ascot but has always been considered a Derby contender by O'Brien.

The Hampton Court winner Russian Emperor, also for O'Brien, lines up as well as Vatican City, another Ballydoyle raider who stayed on well in the Irish 2000 Guineas.

King Edward VII Stakes shock Pyledriver would provide William Muir and Martin Dwyer with a fairytale success, as would Golden Gates Handicap stormer Highland Chief, running for the new combination of Paul and Oliver Cole. The former of course had the awesome 1991 Derby winner Generous.

The Investec Oaks is run on Derby day for the very first time, and 1000 Guineas victor Love will be favourite and, providing her stamina holds out, should take some stopping for O'Brien and Ryan Moore.

But stopped I think she will be by Frankly Darling, also ridden by the showman Dettori but trained by the super talented John Gosden.

Frankly Darling is still a work in progress, but she lapped her rivals in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot where she proved she stays strongly for owner Anthony Oppenheimer, the man who had stars Golden Horn and Cracksman.

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And what about the Eclipse, run behind closed doors at Sandown tomorrow?

For many, the mile and a quarter Group 1 event will be the weekend's highlight. Enable, the defending champion who rarely races over this distance, will be sent off at short odds again for Dettori and Gosden.

But this is no one horse race, with Ghaiyyath sure to be hard to pass after a romp at Newmarket last time in the Coronation Cup where he smashed the track record.

What a weekend. Sit back and enjoy.


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