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The Derby preview

The annual stallion maker race on the goat track takes place tomorrow, in front of the 'peasants' on Poundland Hill and the toffs in top hats in the Queen's Stand. And that level of class divide seems to appear in the field for the blue riband event, with 14 of the 19 runners coming from just three stables, Rekindling owned by Australian squillionaire Lloyd Williams, Eminent owned by Kiwi breeding tycoon Sir Peter Vela, Permian owned by Sheikh Hamdan, and apologies to H.Balasuriya who owns Salouen, I've no idea whether he's a billionaire or just a bloke with a couple of decent horses with Sylvester Kirk! That of course leaves the publicity-seeking nutjob that owns Diore Lia, or more correctly, the nutjob married to the owner of the rank outsider (**apparently it's his sister as this cretin was banned from racing in Ireland for 15 years for not paying his training fees! And now the donkey has been scratched anywa.) As for raising funds for charity, it's failing dismally at the moment.

Perhaps the £8k entry fee could have been better spent. Glad to see Michelle Payne saw through it and chose not to ride this pantomime horse. The BHA made the right decision in the end but made a right meal of how they did it. Expect loose entry clauses to be tightened up in big races everywhere very soon...

Enough of the ranting, this preview of the big race has been provided by PRO HORSE, @prohorse_tips


Investec Derby
Group 1, £1,625,000, 1m4f6yds
Epsom, 1630 local, 0130 AEST

Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: Oisin Murphy
Best Odds: 25-1

One of the most unexposed in the field - having made his racecourse debut just two months ago - and therefore gives the distinct impression there is a great deal more to come.

After sluicing up on that belated first start at Doncaster, the son of Dubawi was understandably stepped up class for his second outing, running in the Craven Stakes (G3) at Newmarket just 18 days later, where he finished placed behind the Martyn Meade trained Eminent and William Haggas’ Racing Post Trophy winner, Rivet.

After refusing to settle and racing keenly for the first quarter mile, he was produced with what appeared a race-winning move by Silvestre De Sousa approaching the furlong pole. However, those earlier exertions ultimately took their toll and he was beaten 2l in third place – a commendable run all things considered.

It was another fine effort on his third start, when runner-up to Permian in the Dante, doing well to finish so close after, once again, doing a bit too much on the bridle in the early stages.

A wide draw (16) for a keen pulling type is not ideal but if Oisin Murphy can get him to settle, I can see Benbatl running a big race. By far the most interesting of those priced at bigger odds.

Saeed bin Suroor
Pat Cosgrave

Didn’t look an obvious Derby contender at two (campaigned over 6f for his first three career starts) or when disappointing at Meydan (over 7f & 1m) in early 2017, but bounced back to form in the Lingfield Derby Trial where he relished the step up in trip and ran out an impressive winner.

Hard to know what he achieved at Lingfield and his inconsistent profile makes him tricky to assess. However, is unexposed over middle distances and the course and distance pose no threat so no surprise to see him go well, but a place is probably as much as his supporters can hope for.

Aiden O’Brien
Seamie Heffernan

Given he looked a definite Derby prospect at two, the level of form show in two runs this term has been slightly disappointing – an opinion shared by the market who had him priced him in October than he is now. Those who took the 25-1 a week or so ago are arguably justified, but, with the concern regarding his progression, his current odds are far too short to be of interest.

Aiden O’Brien
Ryan Moore

A trial winner that should handle the Epsom track, cope with the step up in trip, and hails from the all-conquering yard of Aiden O’Brien – so where else is Cliffs Of Moher to be other than at the head of the market?

Despite his solid profile, the Chester form has taken a slight knock, and he doesn’t appear to have the touch of class we have come to expect from Coolmore’s main Derby hopes.

Personally, I’m looking for a horse that could improve into a real star of their generation, and I don’t believe Cliffs Of Moher is that horse. Granted he is the likeliest to pick up the pieces if all the unexposed bubbles burst around him, however, as a selection, he borders on being an obvious and uninspiring.

John Gosden
Frankie Dettori

Has caused more arguments on Twitter than Jeremy Corbyn with his Epsom Derby Trial performance splitting opinion. Many were quick to knock the form shown here in late April but with the runner-up, Permian, bolting up in a Listed event and then going on to win the Group 2 Dante Stakes the form is clearly stronger than initially perceived by some.

Not only has the form worked out well, the manner of Cracksman’s victory suggested he was value for more than the official winning distance (short of room at pivotal stage) and that he was far from the finished article.

With further improvement almost a given, if he sees out the Derby trip he will take all the beating. If there is a genuine star lurking in this year’s crop, it’s likely to be John Gosden’s son of Frankel.

John Gosden
Andrea Atzeni

Visually impressive in a Windsor handicap off a mark of 85 last time but hard to know what he achieved given it was a messy affair (2nd badly impeded and 5th stumbled badly when travelling well).

Related to The Lark, Wings Of Desire and Eagle Top – who all improved rapidly to make their presence felt in Group 1 company - it wouldn’t be the biggest surprised to see Crowned Eagle adjust well to the step up to class over the summer.

Were it not for the application of first-time cheek-pieces, which is puzzling considering he has won impressively on his two last starts, I may have been tempted by his place-only odds.

Aiden O’Brien
Colm O’Donoghue

Improved for the step up to 10f this season and has twice finished ahead of short-priced stable-mate Capri. Fairly priced on that evidence but the widest draw (19) is a concern for a prominent racer. His chance will depend on how much energy is used in the first quarter mile. Possible in-running candidate if early exertions are minimal.

Saeed bin Suroor
Adam Kirby

It probably says a lot about this year’s renewal that a horse that made his debut just a fortnight ago is as short as 12-1 for Derby success. However, one could not fail to be impressed with how he spread-eagled the field on his first career start and he clearly has untapped potential.

Inexperience a worry but Hala Bek went close in 2006 after making his debut just a few weeks before the Derby and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dubai Thunder is capable of a similar effort.

Martyn Meade
Jim Crowley

Despite having only three starts to date, I don’t believe there is much more to come from Martyn Meade’s Frankel colt. Unlike Rivet (2nd) & Benbatl (3rd) he looked fully wound up when winning the Craven and I’m not sure how much was left in the tank for further glory. It was no surprise that he was unable to build on that success in the 2000 Guineas and with the ability to stay 1m4f having to be taken on trust, he appears way underpriced.

John Gosden
James Doyle

Improved on his seasonal reappearance (when well beaten in a handicap off 86) to chase home Best Solution in the Lingfield Derby trial. The handicapper put him up a stone for that effort but he would need to improve at least that much again in order to run well.

John Gosden
Pat Smullen

Two Listed wins either side of his 6l defeat by Permian – for which he was 11-10 favourite – and if that defeat wasn’t his true running (eased once beaten), then an argument could be made for his chances. Makes slightly more appeal than one or two others priced similarly, but not enough to be considered part of the betting plan.

John Gosden
Silvestre De Sousa

At first look it appears that John Gosden’s 85-rated colt is way outclassed and his 200-1 odds justified. However, his maiden form suggests the handicapper has been lenient with his assessment and, if the tongue-tie continues to assist, he could be capable of performing to a higher level than his current mark suggests.

Although it’s unlikely he will possess the sufficient improvement (or speed) needed to figure, he may outrun his huge odds and, at 200-1, I’d much rather be a backer than a layer.

Mark Johnston
William Buick

Obviously the Derby was never the long term plan for Mark Johnston’s Teofilo colt but, after emphatic improvement this term, has been supplemented and deserves to take his chance.

Promises to stay (narrowly beaten over trip just shy of 1m4f at Bath in April) and showed he can handle the course when collared by Cracksman in the dying strides of the trial here later that month.

Don’t see any reason to suggest he will reverse that form with Cracksman, however, seeing as his victor looked value for more than official winning distance and is expected to improve and may also struggle to confirm placings with Dante runner-up, Benbatl, who, if settling, could improve past Johnston’s charge.

Joseph O’Brien
Wayne Lordan

A shock winner of the aforementioned Ballysax (Donald Macarthur and Capri in behind) on his first start for Joseph O’Brian (formerly with David Wachman) but held by Permian and Benbatl on Dante form. It’s likely he ran below his best at York – sweating beforehand – but ultimately not enough evidence to suggest he can reverse the form.

Sylvester Kirk
Franny Berry

Took five attempts to get his head in front but improved thereafter, finishing a busy two-year-old campaign with a commendable 3rd in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. Ran well enough on his sole start this term (runner-up to Khalidi in the Fielden) but falls way short of what is required and appears a doubtful stayer.

Aiden O’Brien
Ana O’Brien

No reason to suggest he will reverse the form with any of the five rivals that have beaten him previously. 50-1 looks short.

Aiden O’Brien
Donnacha O’Brien

Improving steadily but form is short of what would usually be required to win a Derby. This son of Galilieo looks a stayer in the making and it would need to be a real substandard renewal for him to go close.

Aiden O’Brien
Padraig Beggy

Should improve on his seasonal reappearance, when runner-up to Venice Beach in the Chester Vase, but another that has to reverse the form with too many rivals (Venice Beach, Best Solution, Capri, Douglas Macarthur, Permian) to be seriously considered.

John Jenkins
Paddy Pilley

This vanity entry has taken up far too much of everyone’s time already and I’m not willing to waste much of mine discussing her merits. One would hope she is better than shown but still should not be running.

That said, I’m sure we’ll see her on Derby day the selling hurdle at Hexham.

Given they are the three in the field that could be capable of vast improvement, Cracksman, Dubai Thunder and Benbatl are, without question, the most interesting in the field. At 4-1, 14-1 & 25-1 and with firms going 4 and 5 places EW, a suitable betting plan can be devised.

Cracksman 1pt EW 4-1 (Skybet 5 places)
Benbatl 0.5pt EW 25-1 (Skybet 5 places)
Dubai Thunder 0.5pt EW 14-1 (Skybet 5 places)


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