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Investec Derby preview

A rant yesterday seemed to bring the luck with a winning tip in the Oaks so I'd better throw in another one.

Racing has a big problem in the UK. It's becoming irrelevant to the general population, being seen as a sport for the elite, especially a race like this. There are no battlers' syndicates here, no local champions the public can get behind. The John Ryan-trained Hiroshima, who cost 28,000 gns for owner G Smith-Bernal, is as close as it gets. If a horse outside the big stables suddenly developed into a Derby contender but hadn't been entered (or paid up through every entry stage), the cost of a late supplementary entry is £85k, more than winning prizemoney from any of the lead-up trials apart from the Dante (£93k).

How does that enamour itself with the general public and make it a race of the people? We need to see a few automatic qualifier races (Win & You're In) to provide a chance for the golden ticket to the big race. It would boost numbers in those trials - of all the trials, only the Lingfield race had more than eight runners - and generate some excitement about those races.

Right now, it's only the stinking rich who can afford the hefty late entry fee. Sure other owners can enter their colt early and pay up all through the process, but if you're not a millionaire, unnecessary/unlikely costs are the first expenses you drop. It's barely a drop in the ocean for Coolmore, Godolphin or the big breeding organisations.

If racing needs anything, it's to capture the public spirit again. Most traditions are pointless and dated. History books are littered with relics who couldn't adapt to changes in society. Move with the times or fade away.


The Investec Derby
3yo, Group 1, 1m4f
1630 BST 0030 AEST

1. Anthony Van Dyck - the boom colt for most of the 2yo season, then tapered off with the emergence of Quorto and Too Darn Hot. Started fav in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Mile but drew the car park on a course as tight as Chester and had no hope. On RPRs last season, he ran 111, 118, 115 late in the season, while first-up when bolting in at Lingfield on Trials Day at his first attempt beyond a mile, he ran 109 on a soft track. That suggests there's more to come from him and despite appearing to be third-or fourth-string, he's in the mix.

2. Bangkok - matured nicely over the winter and has won both his starts as a 3yo. First up at Doncaster, he beat Telecaster who has since progressed to be second favourite. But that was Bangkok's fourth start whereas the Morrison colt was on debut, so one would expect Telecaster to see greater improvement afterwards - which happened very quickly with a 9L maiden win at Windsor followed by success in the Dante. To suggest that Bangkok is still one length better than Telecaster is a bit rich. On BHA ratings, there's now 11lb between them. The Fox Racing colt did win the Sandown Classic trial but that is traditionally quite weak in comparison to other lead-in races. Bred to stay the distance without any problem but think he's more of a G2/G3 horse than a Classic winner. Big unders in my book although Pricewise has tipped him up this morning which surprises me.

3. Broome - impressive winner of the Derrinstown Derby Trial three weeks ago after first-up success in the Ballysax. Closed out 2018 with a second in the G1 Prix Lagardere to Royal Marine to enter the winter as a leading Derby chance, only to be usurped by two colts who didn't run as 2yos. One of the many chances from Aidan O'Brien, perhaps the second-ranked with Donnacha aboard, big chance.

4. Circus Maximus - winner of the Dee Stakes at Chester on a rain-affected track, some query over the strength of that form and where it ranks amongst all the trials, although there is one theory that Aidan O'Brien loves sending his good ones there as it helps educate them on unusual track formations. His form last year should stack up, finishing just a length behind Magna Grecia and Phoenix of Spain in the G1 Vertem Futurity (ex-Racing Post Trophy) last October. A rare booking of Frankie Dettori for an AO'B runner, worth noting that there are other owners in the horse besides the usual Coolmore magnates. Liked his win at Chester, might be the best-priced of the sextet although the addition of cheekpieces to help him concentrate is a minor concern. Has been steadily shortening in the market all week.

5. Hiroshima - not a hope in hell. Good luck to the connections, I'd be doing the same thing if I had a horse capable of running in such a prestigious race.

6. Humanitarian - winner of two of his three starts but in vastly weaker company. I can't see it but he is trained by the master, John Gosden. Although jockey Robert Havlin has a bit of work to do to restore punter faith in him after a pretty ordinary ride on Mehdaayih yesterday.

7. Japan - next one on the Coolmore production line. Drifted markedly in the Dante from second out to fifth favourite. Was it on account of the good-to-firm ground or just that he wasn't 100% first-up. It's enough to be concerned about and while he's obviously got talent, I fear he hasn't come on as much as the stable would have liked. Pass.

8. Line of Duty - Godolphin colt who finished his 2yo campaign in style winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf Mile, ending the year with three wins and two seconds from five starts. Blotted that copybook coming in at the back of the field in the Dante, with no obvious reason for the failure. Beautifully bred for it but needs a big leap of faith to trust him after that last run.

9. Madhmoon - the talking horse coming into the 2000 Guineas but put in two runs which suggested the Derby would be more his go. Fourth in the Guineas is nothing to sneeze at but stepping directly from the mile to the mile and a half of the Derby has to be a big negative. In no hurry to back him here.

10. Norway - created a big impression as a 2yo but was left 8L behind Sir Dragonet in the Chester Vase in the mud. Was held up briefly when the field started making their runs but the margin may only have been a length or two smaller. His wins last season were on good and good-to-firm tracks, a return to that here might see some improvement, and naturally he should be fitter for his first run after six months off. Not top of my list, but some claims for a blowout chance.

11. Sir Dragonet - not even given a Derby entry by the stable who enters dozens in the race over a year in advance, he made his debut on April 25 in the wet at Tipperary and won clearly. Backed up a fortnight later at Chester, winning the Vase on a rain-affected track by eight lengths. Looked super impressive on both occasions and deserves favouritism but he's gone from 14/1 in a maiden to 11/4 favourite in the biggest Group One of all for his age. Tougher test, firmer surface, unusual track configuration and three runs in five weeks - it's a big step up today and he's the shortest price of his career. Connections were also undecided whether to run him here or in the French equivalent at Chantilly, based on his inexperience. Could be anything, even the next Shergar, but have to oppose him purely on value as there are valid questions he has to answer.

12. Sovereign - has been sacrificed as the pace option in both runs this campaign so no prizes for guessing his role here. Ridden by Padraig Beggy who was aboard shock winner Wings of Eagles at 40/1 two years ago, might be able to hang on for a place if things go his way.

13. Telecaster - the main rival to the O'Brien sextet. Began his career on opening day of the Flat season, running second to the more-seasoned Bangkok at Doncaster. Then went to Windsor for a maiden and smashed his rivals by nine lengths. The Dante was next where he tracked the runaway leader and then fought off the then-Derby favourite Too Darn Hot. Everything went his way that day but did respond well when challenged. Connections pondered whether to pay £85k to put him back into the field after dropping out at the previous stage of acceptances, or to go to the French equivalent. As breeders themselves, I think they had to come here despite what has been said publicly. The potential upside is enormous for them and worth taking the risk that the colt might not quite be ready for it.


It is suggested when Coolmore don't know which is the best of their colts, they enter several of them. One could extend that logic to say if they don't which is the best of them, then perhaps it's not the greatest crop of 3yos in their stable.

The O'Brien stable dominate the race and logic suggests we need go with them after winning all of the Trials bar the Dante. Anthony Van Dyck has drifted out to a decent price after being quite short over the winter. He won the Lingfield trial in a faster time than Anapurna and will improve from the run. Circus Maximus won nicely at Chester, is seasoned enough and is still a much more attractive price than Sir Dragonet or Broome. He could give Frankie the big weekend double. Telecaster has impressed at every start, handles the firm track and should sit close to the pace and primed to pounce.

Anthony van Dyck
Circus Maximus


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