Even though Gear Up was a disappointing fifth in last month’s Dante Stakes, named after Crump’s champion, at York to Hurricane Lane who is now a leading fancy at Epsom, the colt’s form last season was impressive.
After all, Gear Up was a two-time winner at York before rounding off his juvenile campaign by landing the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud in France in which Aidan O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet – the clear Derby favourite – was back in fourth.
The ground in France was heavy and there’s every likelihood that today’s Derby will be a greater test of stamina after Epsom was hit by unexpected rain after course officials had spent the build-up to the meeting watering the track.
Though Gear Up has yet to race over the Derby trip of a mile and a half, Johnston believes that this will not be an issue for the Teme Valley-owned horse and mount of Ben Curtis who is already a leading candidate for this year’s St Leger at Doncaster.
“Stepping up another two furlongs at Epsom could make a big difference to the horse,” said Johnston who is Britain’s most successful trainer ever.
meanwhile victory for Hurricane Lane would see William Buick’s mount become the 11th horse to complete the York-Epsom big race double.