A quick summer outing for the blog with Classics weekend at Epsom looming. The Oaks (for fillies) kicks comes first on Friday but the 238th running of the Epsom Derby (for both sexes – though it’s usually only colts) is the centrepiece on Saturday.
Northern stables can hardly claim to much success in the big race with Dante being the last horse to bring back the Blue Riband to Yorkshire in 1945.
He was trained in Middleham – just like Mark Johnston’s Permian this year – and I really think this one has very strong claims to end the Northern drought in this race.
He certainly wouldn’t be a stats pick on where he is trained – neither on the fact that he has graduated from a handicap win earlier in his career. What is in his favour is that he is highly progressive and comes here after winning one of the most notable trials – the Dante Stakes in decisive fashion at York last time. That win saw him come through a battle and ultimately win going away at the finish. He looked like a horse who would be even better stepping up to Saturday’s mile and a half trip
In both that and previous races he has looked a horse with good tactical pace – something that often is vital around the Epsom track. With a potentially large looking field, being able to secure a handy spot just behind the pace could be even more invaluable this year.
He has already proved himself around the tricky Epsom track with a close second to Cracksman (reopposing again) here earlier in the season. The form of that race has looked extremely solid – in years past it was a notable trial and for once, it would seem to be doing so again this year.
Permian has probably improved since then but on the bare form it may look like he may struggle to reverse placings with the winner. Cracksman’s big problem for me comes with his breeding. He’s by Frankel out a mare by Champion sprinter Pivotal. That really doesn’t scream a 12 furlong horse and I have a feeling that he may have been winning over his optimum trip on 10 furlongs that day
Another horse in the race, Best Solution, would also seem an unlikely winner on breeding which suggests him to be more of a miler. He confounded that by winning the Lingfield Derby trial impressively. What is notable here though is that he is owned by Godolphin – as are Dubai Thunder and Benbati. William Buick would most likely have the choice of ride of any of these yet has picked Permian (owned by another member of Dubai’s ruling family) who was especially supplemented to the race on Monday at a cost of £85,000.
As usual there is a big representation from Ireland from the Aidan O’Brien stable. While they have strength in number, the lack of choice of a mount yet from Ryan Moore tends to indicate there is no stand out performer amongst them. The market favours Cliffs of Moher most out of the raiding party. This one won the Dee Stakes last time (beating Bay of Poets – 3rd beind Cracksman and Permian at Epsom). He did look to be tapped for toe that day when Max Zorin quickened the tempo up front – that does worry me when it comes to the tactical pace aspect in this race
Eminent, another son of Frankel, is also high up in the betting. He’s the one bringing Group One 2,000 Guineas form into this but was a bit of a disappointing 6th that day. Again stamina here wouldn’t be assured on his pedigree.
For me this is a weak looking Derby. Whilst it is a Group 1 race, I’m not so sure there is a genuine Group 1 mile and a half furlong performer in the race this year. Cracksman may well prove up to that level but I suspect at 2 furlongs less. If such a type were to emerge, then Permian might well find one too good. But in the belief that he definitely won’t find three that good I make him a solid each way proposition
There are two interesting ones at much higher odds that I’ll be backing my main selection up with.
Sylvester Kirk’s Salouen ran creditably at Group level last season. He’s only run once this year when just touched off by the reopposing Khalidi – the latter had race fitness on his side. It’s fairly likely that lack of a run beat him that day yet he is available now at more than twice the odds of his rival.
He wouldn’t like the soft ground that Epsom had earlier in the week but that is drying all of time and 66/1 seems far too big. It’s just the fact that his trainer is less known that is making the odds here
John Gosden’s main hope may be Cracksman but it’s also interesting that Crowned Eagle is still a likely runner here despite his best piece of form being a Windsor handicap win. That day he did look like a Group performer in waiting – and that’s no surprise given he is a sibling of 3 Group race winners at this trip. The main worry again was that he really had to be scrubbed along early in that race to get a good position early – the tactical pace angle may be a problem. He is the one horse in the field who I can most envisage being a Group 1 performer over this distance in time – it may just be too early for him.
The 48 hour declarations for this race will be released tomorrow morning. From then on, Rule 4 deductions could be imposed to prices. Betting now would normally be Ante Post rules and non runners would be deemed losers. There are plenty of firms who do offer Non Runner No Bet and so that could be wise to use in some cases
(odds available here: https://www.oddschecker.com/horse-racing/ante-post-racing/flat/the-derby/winner )
2.5 pts ew Permian 11/1 (Boylesports paying ¼ odds 123)
0.5 pts ew Salouen 66/1 (32 red/888/Unibet – all paying NRNB ¼ odds 123)
0.5 pts win Crowned Eagle – taking 33/1 NRNB here where available – 40/1 is available with Hills but not 100% convinced he will run yet and would prefer comfort of stakes being returned.
Whilst, I am not sure there is a proven Group 1 performer in the Derby, there most definitely is in Friday’s Oaks in the shape of Aidan O’Brien’s 1,000 Guineas runner-up Rhododendron. That form was emphatically boosted by the winner, Winter, last weekend. While her stamina has yet to be proved, she is by Galileo and that has to be a positive. Her ability to act on a track like this is also something we don’t know and would be the main thing that would dissuade me from taking odds of around Evens for her to win. It’s not really that original to pick 2nd fav Enable as her main danger. Stamina looks assured and her impressive win at the tight Chester circuit gives every confidence that this track should hold no fears. The O’Brien stable will no exactly how they stand on that form having had the second Alluringly (reopposes again). The strength of money on the day for the favourite should tell us all we need to know here – the signs so far have all been positive though. 48 hour declarations have already been done for this race earlier today and 10 runners will go to post
No recommendations at current odds though I think the favourite will be hard to beat
Good luck to all with whatever you back this weekend
Thanks for reading