It’s Derby weekend. The first race I ever remember watching. The first time I can recall crying. Aged seven, with the curtains drawn in the sitting room. Don’t know where the parents were. Social services would be on the case nowadays. The invincible, certainly in my childish imagination, El Gran Senor was picked up on the line by Secreto. It was both a day the music died, and a seminal moment in me deciding the exquisite torture of loading my hopes onto a horse, was the way forward.
What to make of this year’s renewal? It’s a short price that Ballydoyle win their most cherished prize again. Last week, when I thought both Telecaster and Madhmoon would swerve the race, it looked a fait accompli. Sir Dragonet heads the betting at the moment. His price looks tight, and it would be no surprise to see him usurped in the market. His Chester win was impressive. It was achieved on easy ground though. His clawing action would make the quicker ground he faces on Saturday a concern. His inexperience is an obvious worry too.
Navigating the undulations, turns, and 14 opponents will test him fully. Broome, and Anthony Van Dyck (AVD) have plenty of experience. Both bring solid form at shorter trips, and the promise of improving for this stamina test, to the party. It’s hard to separate them, and at the current prices AVD would look the best value of Aidan’s eight. Madhmoon could go well too. His sire’s stock have an eye-catching strike rate at 12 furlongs and beyond. The Guineas run can be marked up too.
The best value in the race looks to be TELECASTER. I would make him favourite. His sire is a Derby winner, his dam was second in the Oaks. At Windsor, and particularly at York, he looked a horse who’s comfortable sustaining a gallop that few horses can endure. While Too Darn Hot didn’t win at the weekend, he still ran well. I suspect that Dante form will work out. The hullabaloo that is part and parcel of Derby day is my biggest worry. The progeny of New Approach are inclined to get a bit edgy in the preliminaries. Telecaster’s top class dam was also a bit temperamental. He looked to be on the cusp of boiling over at York, but actually got in a lovely rhythm during the race.
The only competition for the lead on Saturday looks to be Ballydoyle’s pacemaker. Probably Sovereign. Oisin Murphy should be able to take the position he feels is most advantageous. It’s hugely encouraging that Hughie Morrison lets him take his chance. His comments last week suggested he was erring on the side of caution. It’s reasonable to assume that the horse is flying at home. The extra yardage looks made for him. I think he’s the most talented horse in the race by some margin, and will gallop them into submission. The 9/2 about on Wednesday is more than fair.
The meeting kicks off on Friday. The Oaks, and Coronation Cup being the highlights. Current prices make it around 8/11 that either Pink Dogwood or Mehdaayih win the Oaks. I’d be a layer. Pink Dogwood would land an ante-post touch. She was decent last season, but that was all. They clearly saw something on the gallops in Spring though. She was already the Oaks ante post favourite by the time of her victorious seasonal comeback at Navan.
Her win wasn’t that impressive. Tarnawa’s subsequent win gave the form substance though. She’s an impressive specimen. Plenty of physical scope, and looks sure to improve for the extra couple of furlongs on Friday. There are so many that can step forward here though. I found it really difficult to rule anything out of the race.
In such circumstances, I prefer to take a chance on an outsider.
Stablemate DELPHINIA fits the bill. She looks limited but I expect a step forward. She’s a big filly, and is taking time to fill her frame. Also she looks to be a bit mentally slow. That greenness cost her in the latter stages at Naas last time. It was still a good effort, and I think she’ll relish this stamina test. With no obvious front runner about, the pacemaker role may fall to her. As we saw with Was, Seamie Heffernan can do that job without compromising his own fillies chance. At a very big price at 40/1 on Thursday she looks worth chancing.
I’m taking a big-priced swing in the Coronation Cup too. Kew Gardens was probably unsuited by the ground on his Chester comeback. It was still a disappointing effort. Lah Ti Dar made hard work of it at York. She will enjoy stepping back up in trip but looks short enough in the betting. Old Persian has looked the real deal on three of his last four starts, and is respected. MARMELO looks a massive price at 22/1.
The market seems to have decided that his Newbury win was a fluke. That’s possible. He’s a six-year-old, and has always looked like he wanted extreme trips. That Newbury run suggests he has found some pace from somewhere though. They didn’t go a particularly strong gallop that day. He was understandably caught out when they quickened up a couple of furlongs from home.
He looked like finishing fifth at that point, 300 yards later his jockey realised it was a hands and heels job. He was well on top at the line, and the form has had a couple of decent boosts since. If that form is to be believed, there’s no way he should be such a big price against the vulnerable market leaders. There looks to be plenty of pace on here, which will help bring Marmelo’s stamina into play. The near 50 day gap since that run is a positive too. He goes well fresh.
The supporting card on Friday looks strong. I thought Greenside (14.35) and What About Carlo (15.45) had plenty going for them. Unfortunately, both are hold-up horses in races where I struggled to find obvious early pace.
I’ve spent plenty of money with the bookies, and as much again in therapy, backing those type of horses.
I will just watch this time.
*Prices correct at time of publishing but are subject to change