Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the late owner of Leicester City, also dreamed of success on the racetrack and on Saturday tears could flow if he wins English racing’s blue-riband event of the turf, the Epsom Derby, with the Silvestre de Sousa-ridden Bangkok.
A helicopter crash last October outside Leicester’s stadium killed Vichai and provoked an outpouring of grief in the city, where he invested about £30 million (HK$297 million) in 60 horses in recent years.
Vichai enjoyed some success – he had two winners on the day of the tragedy – but Bangkok is the first that has a serious chance of landing a prize in equine terms that would rival the prestige of Leicester’s fairy-tale Premier League title in 2016.
Fortunately for Bangkok’s trainer Andrew Balding – who has most Vichai’s horses, which run under the name of King Power Racing – Vichai’s younger son Khun Aiyawatt, known as Top, took up the reins.
King Power’s colours have been regular visitors to the winner’s enclosure this season and not just in England – Fox Champion won the German 2000 Guineas.
Bangkok, bought for £500,000 at the sales two years ago, has impressed in both his victories this season and will face 12 other rivals for the prize, which is worth more than £900,000.
He has already beaten one of the main contenders in Telecaster, who went on to win the key Derby trial, the Dante Stakes, and as a result persuaded trainer Hughie Morrison to pay £85,000 to supplement him for the race.
De Sousa, who rode 44 winners in Hong Kong during a five-month stint this season, is King Power’s retained jockey and rides Bangkok from barrier 12.
Balding – whose father Ian trained the great Mill Reef to win the 1971 Derby – is confident Bangkok can confirm his form around Telecaster and is the ideal sort of horse for the undulating Epsom course.
“He’s a lovely horse to watch,” said Balding. “He’s very well-balanced and looks just the type for the race.”
However, there will be mixed emotions should he prevail on Saturday for the King Power team.
“It’s just so sad [Vichai] is not around to see the fruits of his investment,” said Alastair Donald, King Power’s racing manager. “[He] gave Bangkok a strong name because he stood out on pedigree.”
Bangkok will have to contend with an astonishing seven runners from record-breaking Irish handler Aidan O’Brien’s stables.
The 13 declared for the Derby are:— Betfred (@Betfred) May 30, 2019
Anthony van Dyck
Line Of Duty#EpsomDerby #TheSupremeTest pic.twitter.com/sQugS47zwr
The 49-year-old will have his main hopes on Sir Dragonet to deliver him a record-equalling seventh Derby.
Sir Dragonet, to be ridden by first-choice stable jockey Ryan Moore, was also supplemented for the race after an impressive eight-length victory in the Chester Vase this month.
“We will not know if he was flattered in his trial at Chester, they went fast on soft ground,” Moore told The Daily Telegraph. “He had to come around them all and was very impressive. Bookies favourite says a lot.”