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Although Richard Hannon has a good line to the selection through a couple of his two-year-olds, I am not quite sure if his Zoltan Star is crying out for six furlongs, upped in class.
He may not be a ‘value bet’ in price terms and of course he has to defy a 5lbs penalty, but Michael Bell’s charge strikes me as the perfect type for this contest.
He is a hard young horse to assess as he seems to just do enough in his races and the form of both his win in maiden at Ripon and running on second in a fair race at Newbury (third has won since) gives him leading claims here.
He also looks a beautifully balanced juvenile which is crucial coming down the hill here and has a perfect draw on the inside to get a good position early on.
This looks a really good renewal of this class two handicap with the two top weights rated in three figures. However, what that does in turn is give those below Sky Defender and Victory Chime, getting 10lbs and upwards, a cracking each-way play.
There is no doubting that Lawn Ranger has been disappointing in the past year, but in parallel with that his handicap mark has slipped from 95 to 88.
A mile and a half was clearly too far on his seasonal return, while give in the ground is simply not his want so his Chester run can be crossed off the form board as well.
As a prominent racer, the lay out of Epsom is perfect for him and stall two, granted a good start, is likely to see him to the forefront from the off.
A winner off this mark at Goodwood in good class three event last summer, the six-year-old should be effective here with the likely set-up and gets the each-way vote over Blue Cap and outsider and light weight Water’s Edge.
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I could be proven totally wrong, but I thought that Musidora winner Snowfall was flattered by her success at York, getting an uncontested lead up front under a superb ride from Ryan Moore. Dettori is always an upgrade on any jockey around here, but he surely won’t be allowed to repeat those tactics again.
Unlike most pundits I don’t think that Santa Barbara is a certainty to get home over this trip and if she got unbalanced on the Rowley Mile she will find the gradients around the Surrey track just as difficult to handle.
Teona will reverse that York form as long as the first time hood works as well on track as it has reportedly done in her home work. Having spoken to Varian before I know that he holds her in the highest esteem.
Roger Varian’s charge is the biggest danger to my value play Dubai Fountain. Every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sarah have been all over Zeyaadah to reverse Cheshire Oaks form with her, but whatever trouble the runner-up got into, the winner wasn’t stopping and indeed she is one of the few in the field set to relish the step up to a mile and a half. She is by Teofilo out of Dubawi mare Nafura whose line is chock full of stamina and I could readily see her making all and at the very least being hard to catch if Franny Norton gets the fractions right.
We know everything we need to know about the older horses, Century Dream, Oh This Is Us, Marie’s Diamond and Bell Rock. There is possibly more to come from the last named, but the sole three-year-old in the line-up looks the call.
A mile and a quarter behind the likes of Hurricane Lane and El Drama looked far enough for the son of Galileo, both very good runs in the context of this race, and he gets a chance to run over a mile on good ground or quicker for only the second time in his career here.
The first was when he rattled home by five lengths in a novice at Sandown Park and although this is quite obviously a different kettle of fish, the drop back to an extended mile looks the right call for the Sir Michael Stoute charge.
As always the Dash is one of the great highlights of Derby Day and some old friends return trying to win this valuable prize again namely the 12-year-old’s Caspian Sea, Duke of Firenze and the eight-year-old Ornate.
Blue De Vega will probably hit the frame late on, unlucky third to Ornate two years ago, but he just lacks a bit of early pace, but if they go too quick early on, he is a danger to my each-way play at a big price.
The Ian Williams’ charge has won over six furlongs here (off a mark of 79) and he too was involved in that 2019 Dash behind Ornate when only beaten a shade over three and a half lengths, closing rapidly at the finish.
Set to race off 82 here with the in form David Egan on board, I fancy that the six-year-old will go very close to winning if he can get a run through his rivals in the closing stages.
It is the right decision to run High Definition in the Irish Derby instead of here on two fronts. Firstly, he certainly takes his time to get going and could easily be outpaced on the long downhill run to Tattenham Corner and secondly, the extra few weeks to strengthen up and mature could prove pivotal for this lovely physical specimen. The galloping Curragh track is quite obviously going to be more his cup of tea.
So for a change Aidan O’Brien will only have one runner in the form of Bolshoi Ballet and that on its own tells me that he thinks he has a huge chance of another Derby winner on his hands. He has that vital asset of a high cruising speed which should enable him to take up a good early position allied to a top class turn of foot. You could argue that the extra two furlongs, in a true run race, is not cast iron to improve him, but he wasn’t stopping at the end of his two trial wins at Leopardstown over a mile and a quarter.
Still, the price has gone and you could also make out rock solid arguments for the likes of Dante winner Hurricane Lane, Lingfield Derby Trial hero Third Realm and Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney. But they could all become fodder to the pair of unexposed runners in the form of Mohaafeth and John Leeper.
They are some way behind the favourite on the official figures having won by comparison egg and spoon races, but another huge step forward from one or both of them is entirely possible.
The former has a lovely way of going about his business in his races and seems to glide over the prevailing fast ground. He readily put to bed Secret Protector and company in the Newmarket Stakes with a useful time figure and has any amount of physical scope as well.
Connections will be hoping that the forecast showers late on Friday afternoon merely freshen up the ground whereas Ed Dunlop will be praying for a wee bit more to take any sting out of the going and then some.
John Leeper has even more to find on the book, but did well to land the Fairway Stakes at Newmarket despite running very green off a stop start pace, but in the end readily putting the race to bed.
He seemed to handle the track beautifully on his gallop around Epsom two weeks ago and this extra quarter of a mile can only improve his chance having arguably the best balanced middle distance breeding of all the 12 declared runners.
Of course this race may well come a couple of months too early for the selection, but there is only one Epsom Derby and he has massive untapped potential.
Paul Jacobs’ value plays at Epsom:
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