Jim Crowley: ‘Al Aasy is ready for a Group One test in the Coral Coronation Cup.’
Coral ambassador Jim Crowley previews his rides on Derby Festival Oaks Day
Our man Jim Crowley looks ahead to his four rides at Epsom on Friday and explains why Al Aasy may be his best chance of a winner in the Coral Coronation Cup.
A massive two days at Epsom for me begins on Muraad in the mile handicap. He won well at Glorious Goodwood last summer, but has disappointed in two runs since.
He’s in good form at home though, and while he needs to bounce back, he might also need some respite from the handicapper to do so.
The first of the meeting’s three Group Ones is the Coral Coronation Cup, and on paper at least, it’s my best chance of a winner this weekend, as I ride the odds-on favourite Al Aasy.
He was a nice horse last season, but he has surprised me with the way he’s won his two starts, both at Newbury, this season. You can pick holes in the form of both of those wins, but the reality is he’s been in a different class both times, and he certainly gives me the feel of being ready for a first Group One test.
He’s a big, strong brute of a horse, and his best form has come when there’s been a bit of cut in the ground. The ground was on the quick side when he disappointed at Goodwood last summer, I rode him to beat English King that day and we got a bit too far back and never got into the race, so I’ve put a line through that, and the ground shouldn’t be much faster than good here.
He’s a well balanced horse, and while he can be a bit of a hothead, the fact the crowd will be smaller than usual on this day will help him keep his cool, and the small field of just six is another plus. Japan and Mogul have won at the top level, my fellow has got to prove he can, but he travels so well, and you need that around Epsom, if you’re not travelling you’re in trouble from a long way out.
Like my other big rides this weekend, Al Aasy sports the Shadwell colours of the late Sheikh Hamdan. He was an incredible supporter of me, and of British racing, and it would be very special to ride a Group One winner in his memory. I’m certainly looking forward to this opportunity, he’s a very exciting horse for sure.
Zeyaadah is my ride in the day’s second Group One, and it looks to be a wide open Cazoo Oaks.
She was unbeaten in three starts as a two-year-old, and while it was of course disappointing to lose her unbeaten record at Chester first time up this year, the first thing to say is that was a trial, and from a poor draw, we just couldn’t make up the ground on the winner [Dubai Fountain] who got first run on us. The fact the bookies now make my filly a shorter price for the Oaks than the Chester winner tells you they think she will reverse placings with that one, and I’d be confident we can too.
She’s come out of that race really well, and I’ve hoped, and thought, she could be my Oaks filly since she won at Newmarket last season. She’s tough, she’s resolute, she’s well balanced, and she’s versatile in terms of the ground. The negative appears to be the draw, from stall one, but if she travels well, and we get the luck you always need at Epsom, she can overcome that.
I’ll go through the race and imagine how I think some of her rivals might race, hopefully my filly will break well and get a good early position, but as always, when the stalls open, plans A, B and C can go out of the window, and Plan D is called for! The one thing you don’t want to be doing is making up ground coming around Tattenham Corner, as I say you need to travel strongly around there to have a chance.
I do think it’s an open race, Aidan O’Brien has a typically strong hand, I think Saffron Beach will improve for the step up trip, and Zeyaadah’s trainer [Roger Varian] has another nice filly in Teona, but my filly hasn’t been properly tested yet, and it’s exciting to think how much improvement she might yet have to come.
It would be massive for a Shadwell homebred to win this race so soon after Sheikh Hamdan’s passing, it would add to the immense legacy he has left behind for the sport, and I do think she’s capable of running a huge race.
I end the day on Count Otto, a horse who’s already won for me once this season. He’s versatile in terms of trip, we’re drawn well here, and I’d be hopeful of him running another decent race.