For many of us growing up, the Epsom Derby was run on a Wednesday. That was until the first Saturday ‘Derby’ in 1995 when it was, and has been ever since, run on the first Saturday in June.
This time around, it happens a month later and it will be a Derby which will have no Dante, no Chester Vase or no Ballysax Stakes to use as a guide. But its still ‘The Derby’ and it will still take some winning. Here are the contenders.
English King is the ante-post favourite for Flat racing’s most coveted Classic since the news broke of Frankie Dettori’s booking two weeks ago. A winner in two of his three career starts, the son of Camelot sprung to prominence in the Derby picture with a stylish victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial, a race won by both High Rise and Anthony Van Dyke before triumphing at Epsom.
Stamina won’t be an issue for Ed Walker’s stable star either and his form reads well on a line through Berkshire Rocco, who followed home Santiago at Royal Ascot. In summarising his chances, he ticks all the boxes.
The QIPCO 2,000 Guineas winner and he’s bidding to become just the fourth horse this century, and the first since Camelot in 2012, to complete one of the most famous doubles in Flat racing. His win in the Vertem Futurity Trophy was quite eye-catching and he appeared to be only finding his groove late on when winning at Newmarket.
However, the fact that Kameko was beaten twice as a juvenile makes one wonder if he can scale the heights of winning a Derby and his dam never won beyond a mile. Saying that, he is still the clear pick on ratings in this Classic line-up.
The talking horse from Ballydoyle throughout the winter despite the fact that he was beaten fair and square by Kameko in the Vertem Futurity Trophy last November. Mogul’s reappearance in the King Edward VII Stakes left a lot to be desired even if he did appear in need of the outing.
On the other hand, he is trained by Aidan O’Brien and his trainer has been waxing lyrically about him all week. With Ryan Moore on board, he appears the best of the Ballydoyle brigade on jockey bookings but no horses has ever won the Derby from stall 2. His trainer will have had to have worked wonders to get Mogul to win this year’s Derby.
An eye-catcher on his debut last July, Russian Emperor showed that stamina was his forte when winning over 1m at Naas in March. Things didn’t go to plan when he was a fast-finishing second in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial but he bounced back when staying on strongly to win the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.
It says a lot that Seamie Heffernan hinders his chances of being Irish champion jockey by taking the ride on the son of Galileo. That says that they must fancy this stout stayer more than the betting suggests.
Arguably the best bred runner in Saturday’s race, being a full brother to Gleneagles, Happily and Marvellous, Vatican City didn’t look a Derby contender when he faced a race against time to make the Tattersalls Ireland 2,000 Guineas just 22 days ago. However, he did make the line-up that day and only for a blocked passage 2f out, he might have given Siskin plenty to think about in finishing a gallant runner-up, beaten less than two lengths.
Having ridden him at the Curragh, Padraig Beggy’s booking isn’t necessarily a negative. If the Derby was run over 10f, then Vatican City would have an outstanding chance of glory. But over 1m4f, one wonders will he have the staying capacity to see out the distance.
BEST OF THE REST…
Its 29 years since Generous gave Paul Cole his first British Classic win and he teams up with his son Oliver with Highland Chief, which takes a huge step up here from handicap company.
It’s extremely hard to fancy him on that basis but a better case can be made for Pyledriver, who beat Mohican Heights and Mogul at Royal Ascot 18 days ago. He was also slightly unlucky not to win at Kempton on his seasonal reappearance.
Backers of Khalifa Sat are likely to get plenty of mentions as he’s one of the confirmed front-runners in the line-up but his Goodwood success suggests that he’s likely to give way come the business end.
Another likely pacesetter is Serpentine, which comes here after a runaway Curragh maiden win but of Ballydoyle’s outsiders.
Mythical is far more interesting. Strongly fancied when finishing lame in the Gallinule Stakes, the son of Camelot has placed Group 1 form as a juvenile and with James Doyle booked, he could just be the joker in the pack.
As we’ve seen with Aidan O’Brien’s seven Epsom Derby winners, jockey bookings aren’t always what they appear. In just two of those renewals has the Ballydoyle number one jockey proved victorious.
English King has got plenty going for him but the booking of Seamie Heffernan on board RUSSIAN EMPEROR speaks huge dividends. He’s had the perfect preparation and no horse has better staying power than him.
At a big price, Mythical looks like a horse which hasn’t yet delivered and could easily get into the mix.
Essentials For Epsom
- Timeform’s Epsom Oaks Best Bets For Saturday’s Fillies Classic
- Timeform’s Epsom Derby Best Bets For Saturday’s Showpiece
- Horse Racing Tips: Paddy Power’s Best-Backed Runners In Saturday’s Epsom Derby And Oaks