After a thrilling finish in today's Oaks, it's onto the Derby and hopefully better luck after a day that could be best described as being afflicted by 'seconditis'!
There's more than a spot of rain on the way in the morning so it's worth holding steady until we see what effect it has on the racing surface. That said, there are few with black marks against them for poor runs in the wet, so it's much of an unknown for most of them. So long as we don't end up with the slippery track debacle we had at several venues last weekend!
This year's race will run in memory of the greatest jockey of all time, Lester Piggott, who run the Derby a record nine times.
CAZOO DERBY (in memory of Lester Piggott)
3yo colts and fillies, Group 1, 1m4f6yds
Epsom Downs, Saturday 1630 local, 0130 Sunday AEST
Expected going: Good
My prices assessed to 100%
1. Changingoftheguard - A maiden in three starts as a 2yo, he has won his last two starts by six lengths, although a Dundalk maiden and a four-runner Chester Vase don't reek of rock solid form. However, Ruler Of The World (2013) and Wings Of Eagles (2017) both came through Chester to win the Derby, while Serpentine (2020) came out of an Irish maiden just a week before, and none of them had figures superior to this son of Galileo. Drawn 16 which makes the task a little harder, imagine he'll just have to go to the front again. Wears cheekpieces for the first time. One of only two runners who have already won at this distance. In the mix but stall 16 worries me. My price - 12/1
2. Desert Crown - the boom horse of the field, he convincingly won a late-season 2yo maiden on debut, followed by a cosy win in the Dante when there looked to be plenty left in the tank. By Nathaniel, a son of the great Galileo and sire of the champion Enable, he's perfectly bred for this contest with winning connections behind him - trainer Sir Michael Stoute (five times), and owner Saeed Suhail (once). I'd love to see jockey Richard Kingscote win a big race here, he rode the mighty Trending to a couple of wins, he's a class act who rarely gets the opportunity to dine at the top table. Must go very close. My price - 11/4
3. El Habeeb - million to one, supplemented entry because some rich Arab wanted a runner despite only running fifth at 125/1 in his only start. My price - 2000/1
4. Glory Daze - Cotai Gold colt whose name is an unfortunate bastardisation of the best Bruce Springsteen song. Can't see on breeding how he doesn't wave the white flag before the turn, but it's not always as simple as that. After a nondescript 2yo campaign, he has returned two fine efforts this season, comfortably winning a Curragh maiden over a couple of fancied Ballydoyle runners, then running 5.5L second to Stone Age in the former Derrinstown Derby Trial. A dream for the trainer to have a runner but can't see him being competitive. My price - 250/1
5. Grand Alliance - runner-up to a defiant Nahanni in the trial at Epsom. Seemed to keep on well that day but being by Churchill (champion miler) raises stamina concerns. His last three starts have been at 1m2f, as ready as he will ever be to taken on the Classic distance. Drawn the extreme outside. Expect an honest run without being able to finish off. My price - 200/1
6. Hoo Ya Mal - given a 7L drubbing by Nations Pride in the Newmarket Stakes five weeks ago. Good, honest horse who is yet to run a bad race, but at the same time, hasn't done anything remarkable either. Place hope at best. My price - 140/1
7. Masekela - roughie by El Kabeir (a son of Scat Daddy) who was withdrawn at the gates in the Dante after playing up. If he didn't like the crowd that day, he'll find this day very difficult. Ignoring that, he was favourite in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket but got windburn when Eydon went straight past him. After finishing a short head second to Native Trail in the Superlative Stks last July, his figures have plateaued. That's not a good sign going up in trip into the Derby. Pass. My price - 140/1
8. Nahanni - impressed in his win in the Blue Riband Trial here in April, when he refused to be beaten after facing multiple challengers from the 2f mark. Bolted in carrying a penalty at Leicester the start before, with all of the beaten brigade who have since run winning soon after. Ticks the boxes for 'won at the track' and 'won at the distance', one of just two runners in each category. Beaten just once in four starts so far, not out of it despite being stable third string. Jockey Adam Kirby won last year on another son of Frankel who was the Appleby third string. My price - 25/1
9. Nations Pride - supplemented for the race at significant expense which is often a tip in itself. After starting his career with a second in a Yarmouth maiden last September, he has won four on the trot, including a conditions race at Meydan and a Listed race at Newmarket by 7L over Hoo Ya Mal. It wasn't much of a field that day, but he really ripped them apart, recording the figures of a very good horse. Charlie Appleby has talked this one up as his leading chance, despite not originally being entered. The stable have won this race twice in the last four runnings and William Buick rode Masar to victory in 2018. Big chance. My price - 6/1
10. Piz Badile - named after a mountain on the Swiss-Italian border. Unlucky not to be undefeated in his three starts, only late interference at his second start spoiled the perfect record. Won the G3 Ballysax at Leopardstown last time, refusing to be passed. An interesting formline out of that is the Ballydoyle colt Bluegrass finished 5.5L behind him while next time out he was 5.75L behind Desert Crown in the Dante. It's always difficult to line those up perfectly but that at least puts him in contention. Regular rider Gavin Ryan has been bumped off in favour of Frankie Dettori. In with a shot. My price - 9/1
11. Royal Patronage - won the G3 Acomb at York at 25/1, won the G2 Royal Lodge ahead of Guineas winner Coroebus, and ran second to Desert Crown (as equal favourite) in the Dante last month. Has thrown in a couple of failures in G1s amongst those, in the Vertem Futurity and the 2000 Guineas. A sign of class limitations, or at the wrong stage of his campaigns? Inclined to think he's a solid G2 horse but this is a step too far for him. Not a fan of Jason Hart as a big race rider. My price - 35/1
12. Sonny Liston - third (2.5L) in the Dee Stakes (as outsider of six) behind Star of India at Chester, beaten nearly 6L by Eydon in the Feilden. Those results should place him out of contention but he has been progressive so far and he's related to some rather handy stayers. Has upside and has Marquand aboard. Can see him outrunning his price. My price - 80/1
13. Star Of India - comfortably won the Dee Stakes at Chester in a rather weak field, and riding the wave of Ryan Moore in flying form at that meeting. Seems to be the weakest of those from Ballydoyle, but the stable which has won 41 of the roughly 120 Classics since 1998 when Aidan O'Brien claimed his first one (credit to Graham Cunningham for that one) rarely runs a horse with no hope. My price - 33/1
14. Stone Age - the best of the Ballydoyle entrants but in colours not that familiar with the once-a-year punters, those of Peter Brant, who was the original owner, before the usual Coolmore crew of Magnier, Tabor and Smith bought in, along with Westerberg, the racing operation of Georg von Opel (whose colours adorn the jockey of Changingoftheguard). Like the stablemate wearing the 1 saddlecloth, he was a maiden coming into this season but has won his two starts this year very comfortably. He jumped to the front and romped away in a Navan maiden and a G3 at Leopardstown, with Oaks winning jockey Ryan Moore aboard each time - he's had his eye on this one for a while. My price - 11/2
15. Walk Of Stars - Dubawi colt with plenty of staying blood on the dam side. Won his maiden at Nottingham on the same card as Desert Crown, recording a time over two seconds slower. Hard to get a gauge on his ability from his two starts this season, winning a three-runner conditions race at Newbury, followed by a 3/4L defeat behind United Nations (Ballydoyle colt who they decided wasn't good enough for this race) in the four-runner Lingfield Derby Trial, but he did blow the start by about 4L. Genuine pace in a big field can make a considerable difference, so don't be surprised if he improves sharply in a high-pressure race. Worth noting though, he has missed the start three times out of four and that will prove costly in the rush for early positions in the switchback of the first couple of furlongs. Take on trust. My price - 16/1
16. Westover - Frankel colt with just one run under his belt this season, a narrow win in the Sandown Classic Trial in late April. Hard to give that form much credence as none of those rivals made this field nor have any of them run since. Foolish to rule out a Juddmonte runner or one trained by Ralph Beckett, but he doesn't make the top half of my list. My price - 50/1
17. West Wind Blows - dam won the Prix Diane (French Oaks) back in 2007 and ran third in the Irish equivalent. Very green on debut winning at Newcastle then did it all from the front carrying a 7lb penalty at Nottingham, both in novice class. Was scheduled to face Walk Of Stars in a conditions race in between but was withdrawn after being unruly on the way to the start. Worth noting he was 16/1 that day, vs 4/5 for his rival. Inexperienced but not out of this, he has shown plenty of ability in his two starts to date and for all we know there could be quite a bit more left in the tank. Young jockey is flying this season, winning strike rate of 23% before this meeting. My price - 25/1
The pace map will be interesting here - several of these like to go forward (no need for a pacemaker from Aidan O'Brien's team) and several others like to camp on the pace. That could lead to a break-neck pace setting it up for those in behind, although that factor is often overplayed and historically it has paid off to be near the lead.
I don't see a great deal of value in the current prices, the market seems pretty close to my opinion at the moment, at least where it matters.
I like two who will sit near the pace ridden by star jockeys - I'm banking on their ability to go with the flow if the race doesn't go according to the script.
Nations Pride has the turn of foot I like to see combined with the faith shown in him by a multiple Derby-winning stable. Piz Badile really fights well under pressure and Frankie aboard is a big tick. Desert Crown must have a shot but I think there's a lot more depth in this field which puts me off taking 9/4. For the best roughie, maybe West Wind Blows.
Nations Pride - back at around 7/1
Piz Badile - back at around 9/1
West Wind Blows