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The Derby preview

Known simply as the Derby, the time-honoured English classic has been run at Epsom since before Australia was settled. Tomorrow, Australia is the clear favourite to win the race.

In case you haven't heard the story of how the race got its name, and then spread around the world for 3yo staying classics, according to Wikipedia:

The Derby originated at a celebration following the first running of the Oaks Stakes in 1779. A new race was planned, and it was decided that it should be named after either the host of the party, the 12th Earl of Derby, or one of his guests, Sir Charles Bunbury. According to legend the decision was made by the toss of a coin, but it is probable that Bunbury, the Steward of the Jockey Club, deferred to his host.

Will it rain tomorrow at Epsom? It might - weathermen are talking about a short, sharp storm earlier in the day, but living only a few miles from the course, I can tell you that could just as easily blow right over. Bookies will fight to outdo each other with offers tomorrow - William Hill will offer 5/2 Australia at 8.30am for limited stakes, someone will no doubt offer money back etc. 5/2 seems an amazing price considering he was odds-on just a matter of days ago (my opinion rather than that of the previewer...)

Charged with the preview, and yes, it's comprehensive, is Adam Webb, @adamwebb121.

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The Derby

1. AROD - Peter Chapple-Hyam - Jamie Spencer

Peter Chapple-Hyam is no stranger to Derby success having trained Authorized back in 2007 and saddles this son of Teofilo. He went off favourite on debut back in November at Kempton over a mile on his only two year old start and had a nice enough experience without being forcibly ridden for maximum effort when third behind Elite Army. He then returned at Windsor where he romped away from Sea The Bloom to win easily by five lengths. The early stages were a cause of concern as he threw his head around before Jamie Spencer allowed him to go to the front.

For his most recent run in the Dante, connections changed the tactics with him being held up. He travelled well through the race however when asked for his effort, he showed signs of greenness before staying on nicely to finish second behind The Grey Gatsby who has since come out and won the Prix du Jockey Club in impressive style.

I don’t think the track will be an issue or the distance but the main concern would be his greenness which he showed at both Windsor and York. He will definitely win a big race somewhere this year when he has matured more but he has place claims here.
Rating – 6/10

2. AUSTRALIA - Aidan O’Brien - Joseph O’Brien

Almost without fail every season, Aidan O’Brien repeats the immortal words of “This is the best horse I’ve ever trained.” and it is getting pretty tiresome to hear. However, when you look at the pedigree of Australia, by a Derby winner and champion sire in Galileo out of an exceptional mare in Quija Board who herself won an Oaks, on paper this looks a match made in heaven for the undulations of Epsom.

With his tall reputation, his career began with a blip when missing the break by several lengths at the Curragh over seven furlongs before flying home just to be denied by Renaissance Art. He made no mistakes over course and distance in July when winning a shade cosily before stepping up to a mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes in which he easily dismissed Free Eagle and stablemate Kingfisher who re-opposes here to emerge as a lively candidate for this race. As good as the performance looked visually, Free Eagle was looked after by Pat Smullen when he realised he was beat.

Instead of going for a Derby Trial, connections decided that the first port of call of Australia’s season this year would be the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and opinions were divided. Some thought he would lack the tactical speed to lay up in a Guineas whilst others were convinced he was the real deal. His run definitely won over some of his critics when finishing a brilliant third behind Night Of Thunder and Kingman in what was the best Guineas of my lifetime. He won his race of the nearside group and showed a really taking attitude with him running straight the whole way, especially compared to Night Of Thunder who was all over the track in the last hundred yards. The form of the race so far is working out extremely well with Kingman winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas with Shifting Power chasing him home and The Grey Gatsby winning both the Dante and the Prix du Jockey Club.

Even though he is a short priced favourite, I certainly wouldn’t want to be taking 5/4 on a horse that will have question marks and doubts hanging over him. How will he handle softer ground? Will he come out of the stalls ok with this being an issue during his two year old career? Whilst there is plenty of stamina in the pedigree, he has shown plenty of speed in his races which surprised a lot of people in the Guineas and could also suggest that he may be better over shorter than the Derby distance. With all these doubts slowly stacking up against him, I’m looking elsewhere for the winner although my rating shows how much respect he deserves.
Rating – 8/10

3. EBANORAN - John Oxx - Declan McDonough

To see this horse lining up in the Epsom Derby underlines how highly trainer John Oxx rates him and with his record of two wins and a third from only three runners, Ebanoran deserves plenty of respect.

He won on debut on his only start as a two year at the Curragh showing good battling qualities to see off Table Rock. He returned in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in which he was held up last and made up plenty of ground late on and shaped like a step up in trip would suit perfectly. This was the case in the Derrinstown Derby Trial however he was disqualified and placed second behind Fascinating Rock. It was understandable why he was thrown out with the interference he caused but it was a likeable performance with him again showing his toughness and he used his fitness to his advantage.

For Epsom, he looks a well-balanced horse so the track shouldn’t be an issue, his trainer’s record in the race is top notch and the extra two furlongs will help with the amount of stamina on his dam’s side. Big chance of becoming John Oxx’s third Derby winner after Sea The Stars in 2009 and Sinndar in 2000.
Rating – 10/10

4. FASCINATING ROCK Dermot Weld Pat Smullen

With all the big races that Dermot Weld has won around the world from the Melbourne Cup to the Hong Kong Mile to the Irish Derby and the Ascot Gold Cup, one race missing from a highly impressive CV is the Epsom Derby. After a maiden at Leopardstown in August, he looked to have an ideal candidate in Free Eagle who was then beaten by Australia and has since met with a setback which is a shame as he was my original fancy for this race. His stable companion Fascinating Rock is a more than capable substitute for him.

His only run as a two year old was slightly disappointing when fifth in a Leopardstown maiden behind Adelaide. However, the improvement shown on his first start at a mile and quarter when he won a shade cosily from Adjusted before going to Navan and taking the Ballysax Stakes convincingly from Answered.

He was then awarded the Derrinstown Derby Trial in the stewards’ room after Ebanoran caused interference. He wasn’t given the best ride that day by Pat Smullen who had him quite far back off the pace and it took him some time to reach top gear. Behind the 2,000 Guineas, this is probably the second strongest piece of form leading towards the Derby and I fully expect Fascinating Rock to improve for twelve furlongs and be a key contender especially as he won’t mind ground conditions.
Rating – 9/10

5. GEOFFREY CHAUCER Aidan O’Brien Ryan Moore

As is most often the case in Classics, Aidan O’Brien brings a horse that could be considered good enough even if Australia wasn’t running in Geoffrey Chaucer who went unbeaten as a two year old when winning a three runner maiden on debut beating big Oaks fancy Tarfasha over a mile. He then went on to win the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on his final two year old start beating his very useful stablemate Oklahoma City quite comfortably.

His return in the Derrinstown Derby Trial wasn’t exactly Joseph O’Brien’s finest hour as he went for a gap only to be hampered by Ebanoran before running into more bother inside the final furlong. Although he finished full of running that day and is definitely entitled to come on for the run, he doesn’t strike me as a horse that will stay a mile and a half.

Whilst his sire Montjeu was a multiple Group One winner over the trip, the dam Helsinki by Macchavellian gives me the concern about him staying, especially as through his races so far he has shown plenty of pace and with softer ground forecast, I’d be very worried even with the jockey booking of Ryan Moore.
Rating – 6/10

6. IMPULSIVE MOMENT Andrew Balding David Probert

One of the outsiders for Oaks winning trainer Andrew Balding and David Probert who is having his first ever ride in the Derby and whilst he is a big price, he wouldn’t be the worst 100/1 shot to line up in the race.

His first two runs wouldn’t exactly strike as a Derby contender when he was beat on debut at Newbury when fifth behind Strait Run before winning at Lingfield in December. For his return this season, he was stepped up in trip and class in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown and he certainly wasn’t disgraced when second to Western Hymn beaten less than two lengths with the extra distance playing to his strengths. He will definitely handle the ground but would need a few of the main contenders to run badly to get a place.
Rating – 5/10

7. KINGFISHER Aidan O’Brien Colm O’Donoghue

The likely pacemaker for Ballydoyle with him being fourth string behind Australia, Geoffrey Chaucer and Orchestra. He is one of the more experienced runners in the race having had six starts with two victories including last time out in the Dee Stakes at Chester and it would be highly surprising if he were to figure at the finish.
Rating 3/10


8. KINGSTON HILL Roger Varian Andrea Atzeni

The market support for Kingston Hill over the past few days hasn’t been surprising with the forecast rain due to hit Epsom on Derby day and with his performances seen last season on a softer surface. When Free Eagle was ruled out for the first half of the season, Roger Varian’s colt became my Derby fancy based on his impressive win in the Racing Post Trophy in which he beat Johann Strauss by four and a half lengths which makes him the only Group One winner in the field.

Whilst the form of that race is a bit sketchy, the manner of his success was very taking. His only start this season was in the 2,000 Guineas where some doubted whether he would have the pace on fast ground. Although he did get outpaced, he still ran a race full of promise only beaten five lengths in the end by Night Of Thunder. The step up in trip will help however the main concern would be the draw as stall two towards the inside of the track is not the place you want to be with the field coming in on you. If he can overcome that issue, he has an excellent place chance.
Rating – 9/10

9. ORCHESTRA Aidan O’Brien Seamie Heffernan

The third string of Ballydoyle definitely deserves his place in the field and has had solid each way support over the last few days. The race he ran in on debut at Leopardstown has already been mentioned above with stablemate Kingfisher however he fared better when finishing second to Free Eagle beaten five and a half lengths. He then stepped back to seven furlongs for his first win at Tipperary beating Lungarno Price by two lengths.

His return this season brought him to the Chester Vase over the Derby trip and whilst winning, he showed signs of greenness when only just beating the supplemented Romsdal. Whilst we know the distance isn’t an issue and that he will improve for the run, the feeling is that he needs more time to develop and could be a St Leger horse further down the line.
Rating – 6/10

10. OUR CHANNEL William Haggas Silvestre De Sousa

This horse was the winner of the Derby Trial at Epsom back in April but the form doesn’t look strong enough to win a Derby and he was all out that day to repel Marzocco. Although we know he handles the track, he will struggle to feature.
Rating – 2/10

11. PINZOLO Charlie Appleby James Doyle

Pinzolo is a first Derby ride for rising star of the weighing room James Doyle who was originally going to ride Snow Sky for Sir Michael Stoute before he knocked himself earlier in the week.

The son of Monsun showed plenty of promise on his first two starts when winning a good Newmarket maiden over a mile beating stablemate Sudden Wonder before taking a conditions race at Newbury where he just beat another of today’s rivals in Red Galileo. He then went to the Racing Post Trophy where he was one of several fancied runners to majorly disappoint behind Kingston Hill and although he has won on soft, the going that day was desperate and his performance can be forgiven.

He returned on 2,000 Guineas day in a Listed contest where he was third behind Barley Mow but looked to need the run that day which he proved when reappearing over course and distance two weeks later and getting the better of Master Carpenter who is very useful in his own right. Stamina was his strong suit that day and if ridden handy, he could outrun his odds with the ground no issue.
Rating – 7/10

12. RED GALILEO Ed Dunlop Oisin Murphy

The son of Dubawi is the first ride in the Derby for another up and coming star in Oisin Murphy who definitely deserves this opportunity. As a two year old, he suffered a case of seconditis for his first three starts at Newmarket, York and Newbury before finally getting off the mark at Kempton.

His two efforts this season have suggested that he isn’t good enough for the Derby when fourth behind Western Hymn at Sandown and sixth to Snow Sky in the Lingfield Derby Trial.
Rating - 3/10

13. ROMSDAL John Gosden Richard Hughes

Supplemented for a cost of £75,000 last weekend, Romsdal wasn’t seen as a two year old and has been given time by John Gosden to develop. His debut wasn’t spectacular when third behind Hymenaios at Doncaster over a mile and a quarter before winning very easily at Kempton by five lengths from Big Orange before taking the huge step up to run in the Chester Vase where he would have probably won with an extra fifty yards.

The concerns I have about the son of Halling is whether he has enough experience and comments after being supplemented haven’t been positive with him not working well last Friday. Richard Hughes takes the ride and will have his supporters on the day but he isn’t for me although Gosden is in excellent form having won the Oaks with Taghrooda.
Rating – 5/10

14. SUDDEN WONDER Charlie Appleby Kevin Manning

Charlie Appleby’s second representative who definitely needs to step up if he is to have a say in the finish however it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if he were to as he has looked a strong stayer in his previous races including when given a strange ride in the Lingfield Derby Trial when third to Snow Sky.

Before that, all of his runs had been at Newmarket including wins last season in a conditions event over a mile where he was impressive when winning by eight lengths and the Tattersalls Bobis race in April. It could be possible that he is the pacemaker for True Story and if this is the case, he could be difficult to peg back especially with how the Oaks was ran today.
Rating – 6/10

15. TRUE STORY Saeed Bin Suroor Kieran Fallon

Godolphin’s main chance in the betting and earmarked himself as a Derby contender when winning the Fielden Stakes over nine furlongs at Newmarket’s Craven meeting in April however he disappointed when favourite for the Dante when third to The Grey Gatsby, form that now looks better with Kevin Ryan’s grey winning the Prix du Jockey Club. But what was most concerning about the York run was his action which certainly wouldn’t suit the undulations of Epsom plus he is drawn in stall one which is a huge negative and even with the experience of Kieran Fallon in the saddle, I think he will struggle to feature. Any rain that falls would be a negative as well.

Rating – 5/10

16. WESTERN HYMN John Gosden William Buick

The final competitor in this year’s Derby is the only entrant that is currently unbeaten in Western Hymn who is trained by John Gosden who won today’s Oaks with Taghrooda so confidence from the stable will be high going into tomorrow’s race. William Buick has also chosen him over Romsdal in search of his first Derby win.

He won his maiden last December nicely enough at Kempton before making his proper mark on the Derby when impressively shrugging off Snow Sky in a conditions event at Newbury back in April when John Gosden’s horses were absolutely flying. His win in the Gordon Richards wasn’t as flashy but was still a professional enough performance. One negative for Western Hymn is that on his gallop at Lingfield in preparation for the Derby, he looked uneasy on the undulations and hung left. Even with a stable companion for another gallop for Breakfast with the Stars at Epsom, he still hung left although not as badly.

Another worry would be whether he would want twelve furlongs as he has shown plenty of pace in his races and he could be one who is an out and out ten furlong horse.
Rating – 6/10

Derby 1-2-3
1) EBANORAN
2) FASCINATING ROCK
3) KINGSTON HILL

Good luck if you are having a bet!

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