Epsom Derby Preview with The Snout

The Big One. The Epsom Derby is the original Derby. There may be the equivalents ran across the world, including the Kentucky Derby in the US, but this is the one where it all started in 1780 and is now Britain’s richest horse race, and the most prestigious one of the lot. For the 2016 Derby taking place on Saturday, I cannot remember it being so open. In recent history, there has been 1 talking horse that has captured the public’s imagination in the build up to the race, or you at least knew who the main protagonists were. Authorized (2007), Sea The Stars (2009) and Camelot (2012) were hugely popular winners of this race and last year Frankie Dettori gave Golden Horn an ultra-cool ride as he simply he knew he was on the best horse. Yet this year, there is no stand out. In these types of high profile races, you can be forgiven for having to fight your way through a huge amount of noise in terms of media reports and comments from trainers about their big hopes for that year. But, when it comes down to it, 95% of Derby’s have been won by the classiest horse in the race and with limited form on the table it is up to us to decipher exactly who that horse is.

WINGS OF DESIRE (9/2) currently heads the market, and you can make a case for him to deserve to be there. Last years winning connections threw this son of Pivotal in at the deep end when jumping from a Maiden win to the Dante and he didn’t disappoint as he ran down Deauville in the York trial. He didn’t look the easiest of rides that day but he is obviously talented. I have written in the past about the Dante being, in my opinion, the 2nd best trial for the Derby so John Gosden’s colt is a fair favourite. That being said, the 9/2 price at this stage cannot be taken with such a big field and many open to improvement just as this one has shown.

A lot has been made of US ARMY RANGER’s (5/1) run in the Chester Vase and I won’t get into that drama that unfolded that day and I would rather take the form on face value. He showed a good attitude to win that day and himself and PORT DOUGLAS (18/1) had pulled a long way clear of the 3rd and he looks open to a huge amount of improvement. Not running at 2 would be a negative, however he has a similar profile to Ruler Of The World who also did not run at 2 and landed the same race US ARMY RANGER did at Chester. He went on to win the Derby under Ryan Moore and there is no reason as to why US ARMY RANGER could not do the same. He has won on heavy ground so the ease would be of no concern but the price must surely be putting people off as you are taking a huge amount on trust.

CLOTH OF STARS (7-1) is an extremely interesting runner. Andre Fabre is a brilliant trainer. Bookmakers know this, as he has a 22% strike rate with his horses in the UK in the past 5 years, yet delivers a £2.88 loss to £1 level stakes. But the horse himself looks to be of real quality. A triple group winner already, he has shown himself to be a real battler and when he gets in full stride, which he has done late on over 1m2f in his last two races, he really grinds other horses in front of him down and if anything he should improve for the extra 2 furlongs. I think he is one of the few in the race that looks guaranteed to love every yard of this race and he looks a fine mover too, so the undulations of Epsom don’t concern me. He has to be a leading candidate and to be honest I think he could end up going off much closer to the market principles.

ULYSSES (7/1) has been the talking horse of the last few weeks there is no doubting that. He is the one that has generally been a “sea of blue” as punters latch on to the rumours doing the rounds. On form, I can’t have this at 7/1. He is only a maiden winner, and of course a very impressive one at that but he did not beat much at all. Prior to that he was beaten narrowly by the French-Derby bound Imperial Aviator who bolted up at Newbury so the form is there, but the fact he is a maiden winner just puts me off, and at the 7/1 price tag, rightly so. Andrea Atzeni takes the ride who is profitable to follow in Group races but he has a poor record for the stable and I will be looking elsewhere.

DEAUVILLE (10/1) has come in for support recently (did people really think Ryan Moore would be riding him over the Coolmore owned US ARMY RANGER?!) and he would be more of a likeable horse to the others. He ran a great race in the Dante only to be denied by Wings of Desire but I can’t really see the form being reversed. Wings of Desire needed every yard to chase DEAUVILLE down so the extra distance should in theory play into Jphn Gosden’s hands. He would perhaps have an each way shout on form though and 10/1 is probably fair.

MOONLIGHT MAGIC (12/1) is a very interesting runner for Jim Bolger. A talented 2 year old, he hated the heavy ground at Leopardstown in April before putting in a very professional display in the Derrinstown in May beating Shogun by over a length. In my own view, that was a better performance and a stronger race than the Dante, and the handicapper isn’t far off agreeing with me. He looked to love slightly better ground and quickened well to take the race from some highly thought of AOB colts. Jim Bolger has made no secret of how highly he rates the horse and the vibes coming from the Godolphin operation through John Ferguson have been bullish. His breeding is exceptional for the Derby (out of Cape Cross who sired Golden Horn and Sea The Stars, and nothing but stamina on the dam’s side) and the price looks on the big side.

There is a legitimate case for MASSAAT (16/1) to be thrown into the ring as his piece of form – 2nd in the 2000 Guineas – could be classed as the best piece of form in the field. Indeed, he is top rated at 116. Placed horses in the Guineas have brilliant strike rate when it comes to reappearing in the Derby. But I struggle to see him staying. There is no real stamina on his dam’s side so the only case you can make for him staying is visually, and he does seem to be staying on in the Guineas but it is a big difference from a straight mile at Newmarket to a half mile further on the undulations of Epsom. I find it hard to believe he will get it but he is certainly a talented horse.

HARZAND (16/1) will love the ease in the ground but I am not sure if he really is up to the quality of some of the others in here, but he is a Group 3 winner and being out of Sea The Stars should well stay the trip. The two supplemented horses, HUMPHREY BOGART (25/1) and RED VERDON (20/1) will more than likely be outclassed here with quite a bit to find but they are progressing at a rate of knots and it would be unwise to write them off in such an open year. The AOB battalion includes PORT DOUGLAS (18/1), IDAHO (20/1), SHOGUN (40/1), BEACON ROCK (66/1) and BRAVERY (66/1). I would be surprised if these made the winners enclosure but SHOGUN was only beaten a length by Moonlight Magic before not having the pace for the Irish 2000 Guineas so if one was to spring a surprise he would be a likely candidate.

Just from the above you can tell how open this race is. My advice would be – take the top 2 in the market on. They have question marks over them, just as the rest do, but the prices look too skinny. There are plenty at bigger prices that could run massive races so do your best to take in the information available and take a play on one with a good price. This looks the year that we may see a big priced winner of the Epsom Derby.

The Snout.

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