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The Derby 2013, Epsom

A classic race deserves one of the world's better/older/wiser judges. Ever since I saw him win a fortune on High Rise in 1998, Jon Thompson has qualified for that mantle. He's a blog regular for major race meetings, and you can follow him on @jaytee6666

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Derby preview 2013

A field of just 12 line up for the Epsom Derby on Saturday with the racing world waiting to crown a new superstar at just after 4pm local time. It’s the second smallest field this decade although an improvement on the eight rivals that Camelot faced 12 months ago and we have to go back to the success of The Sir Michael Stoute-trained/Kieren Fallon-ridden Kris Kin in 2003 for the last full field of 20 runners.

Here’s a look at each of the 12 runners in race card order for the 2013 renewal:

Battle Of Marengo. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Joseph O’Brien.
The most fancied of Ballydoyle’s five runners since the omission of Magician at the 48 hour declaration stage this colt by Galileo made a huge move in the ante post market before his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown in April and he has not let his supporters down since. Victory that day over Sugar Boy was franked when that rival went on to take the Classic Trial at Sandown 12 days later and Battle Of Marengo then boosted his own reputation once again with a win in the Derrinstown again back at Leopardstown. Although doing nothing wrong in his last run however he did gain some doubters by the style of his success over just 3 rivals with the Jim Bolger trained Loch Garmen back in 2nd place that day. The choice of trainer’s son Joseph O’Brien Epsom has always been on the agenda for this colt but comments have been made that he would prefer faster ground and any further rain at Epsom should be considered a negative. Battle Of Marengo looks slightly under priced on what he achieved so far and due to the jockey’s preference.

Chopin. Trainer: Andreas Wohler. Jockey: Jamie Spencer.
Every Derby requires a bit of intrigue and with Chopin becoming the first German trained runner in the Epsom Derby he has certainly delivered on that front! The fact that Qatar Racing stepped in and acquired the colt by Santiago following his Group 3 success at Krefeld in late April suggests that dismissing this horse without closer inspection could prove costly. The excitement surrounding Chopin’s potential is based on his 8 length destruction of a horse called Global Bang who then went on to finish 2nd in the German 2000 Guineas. Now we would consider that race to be a Group 3 at best by UK/IRE standards but if you read that Chopin could possibly have won that race by approximately 6 lengths based on Global Bang then you will see why his form is worth considering. There is also the added form guide that the Godolphin trained Tawhid finished third in the German Guineas and he runs to a mark in the very high 90s. Chopin has been well supported each way and as mentioned adds some charm and intrigue to the race but is another that is now under priced.

Dawn Approach. Trainer: Jim Bolger. Jockey: Kevin Manning
It would be easy to write pages on the composure and ability of this son of 2008 Derby winner New Approach and that is why 51% of him was purchased by Godolphin last year with (thankfully) the proviso that he remained with trainer Jim Bolger. He has positioned himself and the head of market affairs since his domination of an English 2000 Guineas field that contained the highly touted Toronado but he and others were simply left trailing in the wake of Dawn Approach. A string of 6 victories in a 100% record to date will be tested by the undulations of Epsom and his first attempt at beyond a mile but the recent softening of the ground should be seen as a positive as it was when the downpour arrived at Newmarket on Guineas day barely an hour before the race. Where as many rivals will be boiling over with the build-up at Epsom this colt has looked as cool and composed as you would like especially as he will likely be held up in the race itself until well after Tattenham Corner. He is a thoroughly deserved market leader and with Bookmakers likely to be playing the ‘price war’ game yet again on Saturday he could be as big as 6/4 on the day albeit for minimum stakes. Dawn Approach is the only Group 1 winner in the field.

Festive Cheer. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Seamus Heffernan.
The second runner from Ballydoyle but probably further down the pecking order than that suggests although outsiders from this yard have run very well in recent Derby’s at huge prices. A maiden winner at Dundalk in August last year it wasn’t until May 12th that this Montjeu colt reappeared at Longchamp finishing third under Ryan Moore. Expected to be at the front of affairs at some stage of the race it would be hard to see him figuring in the closing stages.

Flying The Flag. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Colm O’Donoghue.
The third runner from Ballydoyle and the clear outsider of their quintet he finished last of seven behind Dawn Approach in the National Stakes last year before two uninspiring runs so far in 2013. Another that will likely lead them along at some stage he is another that cannot be considered.

Galileo Rock. Trainer: David Wachman. Jockey: Wayne Lordan.
Almost certainly one of the key unknown contenders amongst the outsiders in the field. This colt by Galileo has raced just three times to date but his shrewd trainer is not one to waste people’s time and the fact that he is entered at Epsom speaks volumes for he must have been showing ability at home. Following a facile maiden success at Leopardstown in August last year he was only seen out once more when finishing 5th in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket behind another Jim Bolger trained winner Trading Leather. It was his reappearance this year that caught the eye with a fast finishing 3rd in the Classic Trial at Sandown with another of today’s rivals Libertarian 8 lengths back in fourth. He is a contender that will appreciate faster ground but is an attractive colt that has been given plenty of time. In an expected fast run race he can have huge place opportunities and at decent odds.

Libertarian. Trainer: Elaine Burke. Jockey: William Buick.
Another relatively inexperienced colt who didn’t make his racecourse debut until April of this year when winning a maiden at Pontefract named after the 1998 Derby winner High-Rise. The 2nd offspring from New Approach in the race he was then comprehensively beaten in the Classic Trial at Sandown with the above mentioned Galileo Rock finishing a place and eighth lengths in front of him that day. Libertarian’s next outing appeared to hold lofty ambitions in what originally looked a decent Dante Stakes at York but the form of that race is clearly questionable and although he represents the hopes of the north he is likely to be outpaced once they turn for home and a place is the best he can hope for.

Mars. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Richard Hughes.
With owners Coolmore waiting 10 years before using the name Camelot for last year’s Derby winner it is no surprise that this colt figured at the head of the Derby betting before he had set foot on a racecourse. That event arrived at Dundalk in July 2012 where 10 rivals were dispensed with in the fashion that the speculators demanded and his place at the initial head of the 2013 Derby market was confirmed. That position has subsequently been lost to several pretenders and eventually Dawn Approach who defeated Mars by just under nine lengths in the English 2000 Guineas. Although that was the seasonal debut for both the winner and Mars there can be no doubt that Mars has had his training setbacks and he can be expected to strip a lot fitter at Epsom come Saturday. An unusual jockey booking in Richard Hughes makes complete sense for a horse that wants holding up and is almost certain to get the trip from his breeding perspective. Mars can be a huge contender coming down the hill especially if Dawn Approach experiences traffic problems.

Mirsaale. Trainer: James Tate. Jockey: Neil Callan.
Sired by 2006 Derby winner Sir Percy this colt got off the mark for this year on his reappearance at Epsom and confirmed his maiden victory at Brighton last year. A first Derby runner for trainer James Tate this colt would need to find a dramatically improved performance to figure on the top stage on Saturday but he is clearly bred to stay being by a Derby winner out of a Sadlers Wells mare and any type of a decent show here could see him being trained for the St Leger at Doncaster later in the year.

Ocean Applause. Trainer: John Ryan. Jockey: Darragh O’Donohoe.
The outsider of the party at odds of around 500/1 and it is hard to see this colt figuring in the shake-up however the fact that connections have deemed that he warrants his place in the line-up requires respect as trainer John Ryan has been known to punch above his weight with his horses before and come out winning! This won’t be the case on this occasion but Ocean Applause has the potential to become a nice horse this year that will almost certainly be winning high profile races.

Ocovango. Trainer: Andre Fabre. Jockey: Pierre-Charles Boudot.
The second part of the European challenge is Ocovango a colt by Monsun that remains unbeaten after three starts. His most recent victory when winning the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud was down the same route taken by trainer Andre Fabre with 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi and Ocovango has again followed in similar footsteps by appearing at Epsom for a canter at ‘Breakfast with the stars.’ It was without doubt a very gentle workout at Epsom last week that was possibly for the benefit of his inexperienced jockey more than anything and it has to be said that the noises that were being made about Pour Moi have not been repeated about Ocovango. It is likely that any amount of rain would not inconvenience him although he may lack the turn of foot required down the hill to land the spoils.

Ruler Of The World. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Jockey: Ryan Moore.
The final Ballydoyle runner and a fifth Derby entry for the amazing sire Galileo this is another unraced three year-old that reappeared at the Curragh in April before going on to take the Chester Vase just over a month later. Dropping to as low at 6/1 in the Derby market after his win at Chester he has drifted continuously since then touching 14/1 before it became apparent that stable mate Magician would not line up at Epsom. The jockey booking of Ryan Moore would suggest that he is the stable second string to Battle Of Marengo but simply trying to interpret riding plans from Ballydoyle can be a quick way to the poor house! Ruler Of The World is another colt that looks like he can have the potential to stay the St Leger distance and a positive run from him here can see him be a major player at Doncaster later in the year. He will clearly benefit from a fast run race providing that he doesn’t get too detached in the jostling for position at the top of the hill.

1. Dawn Approach
2. Mars
3. Galileo Rock

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