Buick revved up for Permian ride
When William Buick rode Permian to victory in a nursery at Windsor last August, it is fair to say he would not have envisaged that the pair would be reunited in the Investec Derby on Saturday.
Ever since he was narrowly beaten by Derby favourite Cracksman in a trial at Epsom in April, the Mark Johnston-trained colt has improved out of all recognition.
Since then he has won a Listed race at Newmarket by four and a half lengths, which tempted connections to supplement him for the Dante Stakes at York, traditionally the strongest Derby trial.
The way he won that Group Two suggested there was no fluke at all and he heads back to Epsom as fourth favourite in a year with no stand-out contender.
Buick is reunited with Permian as he is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, a son of Sheikh Mohammed who retains the jockey's services through Godolphin.
"The Dante is usually one of the best trials," said Buick ahead of the premier Classic, which is part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
"He's a straightforward colt who travels well. He should stay and he should run well.
"He's always been a lovely colt to look at. He looks classy and has a nice pedigree, but when I rode him last year at Windsor it was impossible to say what he'd be doing this year.
"It's a wide-open Derby and any number of horses have a chance. The two favourites are the obvious ones.
"You'd think Cracksman could be anything and he's bound to improve from his win in the trial. He's very smart.
"But Cliffs Of Moher should also come forward from the Dee Stakes and then there's the three Godolphin runners (Benbatl, Best Solution and Dubai Thunder) who all deserve their place.
"Then you look at Eminent, who looked very good in the Craven. He looks likely to relish the trip, so there are a number with genuine chances.
"It looks wide open but the one thing you can guarantee, the winner will be good whoever it is. It's very rare the Derby winner isn't a class horse.
"My horse has improved with every race this season. I went up to Middleham last weekend to have a sit on him and reacquaint ourselves.
"We did nothing serious, just a swinging canter, so I didn't get a feel of him at full pelt. But he looked a million dollars and Mark and his team are very happy with where he is, which is the most important thing.
"I wouldn't know how much he's improved since the Dante, but he's bringing strong form."
While it is still early days in the race to be crowned Stobart Champion Jockey, Buick nevertheless finds himself at the top of the tree.
A month into the season, his 25 per cent strike rate saw him edge out Silvestre de Sousa, with the pair both on 19 winners ahead of racing on Thursday.
"I don't think many of us actually say 'I'm going to set out to be champion', but we always want to ride as many winners as possible," said Buick.
"It's still very early in the season as yet, but obviously I'd rather be winning than not.
"We're only a month into it, though, so I'm not going to think too much about it.
"We haven't even had Royal Ascot yet, we are only at the Derby. It's normally when you get to Goodwood you reassess where you are and then you just keep doing what you're doing.
"At this stage, Ascot in October is a long way from my thoughts.
"Whether having a retained job helps riders or is used as an excuse, I don't really know, as there are pluses and minuses to both.
"Riding for Godolphin, they are a huge operation with lots of horses.
"I might not be going to meetings with six or seven rides, but when I go racing more often than not I have chances, which is what you want."
Permian features in a field of 19 runners for the Derby, with Finn McCool the only withdrawal at the final declaration stage.
Cliffs Of Moher is the mount of Ryan Moore and is one of six runners for Aidan O'Brien as he bids to win the race for a sixth time.
Capri (Seamie Heffernan), Douglas Macarthur (Colm O'Donoghue), Venice Beach (Donnacha O'Brien), Wings Of Eagles (Padraig Beggy) and The Anvil (Ana O'Brien) complete the list of Ballydoyle jockey bookings.