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The Derby preview 2024

Here’s my preview, apologies for the formatting, posting this off my mobile at an airport!
Competitive race but with the gloss off City of Troy, it doesn’t appear to be the strongest running. Of course, that might be firmly dismissed by 4.40 tomorrow!

BETFRED DERBY
Group 1, for 3yo colts, 1m4f

Ambiente Friendly James Fanshawe	Robert Havlin	6
Simply pissed in to win the Lingfield Derby Trial, beating the Ballydoyle ninth-string Illinois by four and a half-lengths, against no rivals who have continued onto the big dance. That race is never the strongest lead-in to the Derby but he did it in a fast time and needs to be respected. That RPR is 5lbs higher than Anthony Van Dyck recorded, the only Trial winner of past decade to go onto winning the Derby, and second only (by 1lb) to Military Order as the best winning performance. He relished the distance, making a big step up in rating from his fourth in the Feilden on seasonal debut. Has been in the press over the past fortnight for dumping Callum Shepherd for Rab Havlin which makes little sense to me. but hey, I don't pay the bills. James Fanshawe isn't exactly a headline act in terms of trainers but the stable is ticking over nicely. He'd be close to favourite if trained by O'Brien or Gosden.

Ancient Wisdom Charlie Appleby William Buick	11

Has won four out of six starts and started favourite every time. Had his colours lowered last time by Economics, the star colt who isn't in the Derby, in the Dante by a convincing six lengths. Should the Derby winner come off a formline of a no-excuses beating like that? He's only lost twice - to Irish 2000 Guineas winner Rosallion and the who-knows-how-good-he-might-be Economics. Won the G1 Futurity (heavy ground) in late October, ahead of God's Window, Deira Mile, Dancing Gemini and Diego Velazquez. Still waiting for a son of Dubawi to win this race, but his dam brings the staying blood, winning a pair of French Pattern races over a mile and a half in her 3yo career, plus a close second in another. He was held up briefly in the Dante but not to the extent of the margin. Could bounce back but are you confidently backing him at that price?

Bellum Justum Andrew Balding	Oisin Murphy		12
Won the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom in late April, a race without much of a formline into the Derby, although Cracksman in 2017 blossomed after his third in the Derby to win a quarter of Group 1s by the end of his 4yo career. Not sure there was much behind him at Epsom last time but he is bred to relish this trip, has a top jockey on board and might be good enough to contest the finish.

City Of Troy Aidan O'Brien	Ryan Moore	1

The deposed 2yo champion of the world. After looking like the latest incarnation of Secretariat last year, he simply flopped in the 2000 Guineas and now we have to work our whether to keep the faith in those early figures or drop him like a hot potato. Notably drifted in the betting on Tuesday, in favour of stablemate Los Angeles. He certainly can win, but could just as easily have not trained on and turned into a pack animal, desperate to run 14th along with his mountain-based mates. Has drawn the dreaded inside gate. Watch the betting, he'll either drift like a barge or get hammered with the money from 'The Lads'.

Dallas Star Adrian Murray	David Egan	7
The best-performed of a fairly low-key sire, Cloth Of Stars, who I reckon might turn into a very good National Hunt sire given a few years. The twice Arc-placed son of Sea The Stars provides plenty of star for Dallas Star who arrives with interesting formlines. On debut, he ran third behind Ancient Wisdom, later in his juvenile campaign he finished third behind Arabian Crown who was favourite for this race a fe weeks ago before going amiss, then resuming this year for a new trainer, he won the G3 Ballysax Stakes at 50/1. That race has produced some good horses in recent years, Derby winner Harzand in 2016, Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling in 2017, multiple G1 winner Broome in 2019, the Derby favourite of 2021 Bolshoi Ballet (flopped badly) and in 2023, last year's Derby third, White Birch, who won the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland last weekend defeating last year's Derby winner Auguste Rodin. That said, his (Dallas Star's) winning performance was the weakest RPR of the past decade, those behind him just might not be much chop. He might seem like a no-hoper but Amo Racing have run second in this race twice in the past three years, each time with a massive outsider. And peculiarly, with a different trainer each time!


Dancing Gemini Roger Teal		Dylan Browne McMonagle	15
Yet to run beyond a mile but by a Derby winner out of a dam sired by a Derby winner, it shouldn't be an issue. Won the Flying Scotsman (Listed) at Doncaster in September before finishing midfield in the G1 Futurity a month later on a heavy track. Returned this campaign with a narrow defeat at big odds in the Poule D'Essai de Poulains (French 2000 Guineas).  I love to support an underdog, Roger Teal is a tiny trainer in comparison to the behemoths of Coolmore and Godolphin, and to see this race go to a small trainer would be magnificent in my eyes. Worth a look, and the new star jockey from Ireland, DBM, he will have plenty of support. Gate 15 doesn't help his cause.


Deira Mile Owen Burrows	Jim Crowley	14
One of two runners for Ahmad Al Shaikh/Green Team Racing. Broke his duck by convincingly winning a Windsor Novice recently (started 4/9), but previously his best performance was running fourth behind Ancient Wisdom in the Futurity (G1, one mile, heavy ground) in October. This owner has also had a couple of longshots in the placings in recent years, with Hoo Ya Mal and Khalifa Sat in the Derby frame. Must have a sneaky chance on that logic, although I'd prefer his other runner. 


Euphoric Aidan O'Brien	Declan McDonough	9
A 1.9m guineas yearling, he set the pace for Los Angeles in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown (G3, 1m2f, good ground) a couple of weeks ago and was only beaten a length. Based on that logic, he shouldn't be a massive price with that winner now pushing for favouritism. Can he stay the trip? He hasn't had the hype of stablemates, I'm concerned he'll be sacrificed for them although backing third/fourth/fifth strings from Coolmore hasn't been a bad idea in recent years - Serpentine, Anthony Van Dyck, Wings of Eagles etc..

God's Window John and Thady Gosden	Kieran Shoemark	10
Last in the Dee Stakes at Chester when he started awkwardly and lost six lengths (same as final margin - but none of those rivals are here), then beaten 10L in the Dante (although only 4L behind Ancient Wisdom). Has flatlined on RPRs this season, all three runs within three pounds. Can't see him being involved at the business end.

Kamboo Richard Hughes	Richard Kingscote	3
The most interesting information about this colt is his half-brother, the extremely promising hurdler Sir Erec, who unfortunately went amiss in the Triumph Hurdle of 2019 when 11/10 favourite. And before he switched codes, ran third to Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot. He was by Camelot, none of his other siblings have been any good at all. In two starts to date, Kamboo has raced in 2yo novices over a mile at Kempton, running sixth behind some handy ones (the winner Matsuri will give the Irish Derby a shake), and then led all the way in December against some decent, but as yet unproven, opposition. It's a huge step up to the Derby in terms of class and distance, he's yet to run on turf, and hasn't raced for six months. Jockey Richard Kingscote though, has won a Derby, on Desert Crown two years ago. Not for me. 

Los Angeles Aidan O'Brien	Wayne Lordan	4
Undefeated in three starts, including the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October and more recently, the Derby Trail at Leopardstown three weeks ago. He laboured a bit in that, chasing down Euphoric but first-up after nearly seven months, he's entitled to come on for that run. There has been strong support for him during the week, undoubtedly from connections. It's a curious one re jockey bookings - with City of Troy having such a high profile being labelled perhaps the best 3yo they'd ever had during the winter, Ryan Moore probably feels obligated to ride that one, whereas now after his Guinas failure, one has to wonder if he's even the best of this year's crop. Big chance, I can see him going off favourite.


Macduff Ralph Beckett	Rossa Ryan	8
Juddmonte-owned son of Sea The Stars who has been building up nicely without overdoing the winning part. After winning on debut at headquarters, he has been close up behind Al Musmak, Ghostwriter and Arabian Crown, all of whom are serious colts, but for some reason haven't made it to the Derby. Being beaten 3.25L by the one-time Derby fav (Arabian Crown) in the Classic Trial at Sandown in late April is solid form. He showed enough improvement on last year's figures to suggest he has trained on, with further scope for improvement having only run four times and yet to step out over a mile and a half. A bit of cut in the ground should suit him perfectly. Drawn smack in the middle, jockey Rossa Ryan is having a great run and Ralph Beckett could be very buoyant after the Oaks on Friday.


Mr Hampstead Dominic Ffrench Davies	Sean Levey	5	
Making his first start for this trainer after Roger Varian was sacked for allowing King of Steel to get injured in training (or some piddly excuse from a spoilt owner). Hasn't won a race yet despite being short in the betting all three times, was beaten by debutant Voyage at Newbury and then failed in a five-runner maiden at Chester. More likely to be a nuisance in traffic than a winning hope.


Sayedaty Sadaty Andrew Balding	Tom Marquand	2
Runner-up in both starts this season, in the Burradon (Listed) at Newcastle on Good Friday, and the Newmarket Stakes during the Guineas meeting. The form is reasonable but not exactly 'back me!' sort of stuff. Trainer and jockey are very shrewd, they'll have him spot on for the day. See Deira Mile for his owner's record in the race, don't leave him out of your exotics. Inside draw not ideal, but he likes to push forward so you know where he'll need to be.


Tabletalk Tom Clover	James Doyle	13
Third in a novice race at Kempton on debut, then won a modest Chelmsford maiden three weeks ago. He could have won that race by a few more lengths, but he's miles off these. Would be 100/1 if this field was any good.


Voyage Richard Hannon	Pat Dobbs	16
All sorts of negative trends to bust here - the outside gate, just one start to his name and only began his racing career in April this year. He won on debut at Newbury, with an SP of 28/1, beating Mr Hampstead and a few reasonable fancied rivals from Balding, Godolphin and Hannon stables. Obviously has some talent but the lack of race smarts against supposedly the best of his generation is a big hurdle to overcome. There will be very few, if any, Derby winners at their second start, having not raced as 2yos. There's been steady money for him though, so he must be doing plenty at home!


SUMMARY
A decent field and not many you can rule out entirely. Don't be afraid to back a roughie, over the past decade, we've seen winners at 40/1, 25/1 and 16/1 (twice), and only three favourites.

Juddmonte Stud haven't owned a Derby winner since Workforce in 2010, they'll be desperate for another. They had the favourite Arrest last year but he could do no better than midfield. Macduff looks the right candidate for this race, a progressive profile stepping out to the right trip. Ambiente Friendly recorded strong figures at Lingfield and can be right in the finish, while Los Angeles and my roughie, Dallas Star, can compete for the minors.
 

MACDUFF, Ambiente Friendly, Los Angeles, Dallas Star 

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