4.30 Epsom: The Derby
After the Oaks on Friday, we move onto the penultimate classic, the big one, the Epsom Derby. A field of 12 is the joint smallest field since 2012 with just 12 going to post. We haven’t seen a winning favourite since Golden Horn won for Dettori & Gosden in 2015, with the last 5 winning at odds of 13/2 twice, 16/1, 25/1 & 40/1. 3 of those 5 winners, including the 2 at the longest prices, were trained by Aiden O’Brien. What’s interesting is that an O’Brien second, third or even fourth string is typically more likely to win a Derby than his first string but this year he goes to war with just one runner.
What does that say for the current short priced favourite Bolshoi Ballet? I’d suggest that connections think he’s a really good thing and I wouldn’t disagree. He’s 2 from 2 this year, both at Leopardstown, and looks a genuine class act but odds of around Evens isn’t for me. Mohaafeth came into the Derby picture for William Haggas when winning in very impressive style in a Listed event on Guineas day but this is a big step up in class & he’s too short in the betting for me.
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John Leeper is another that won last time out in Listed company & he looks a proper stayer in the making but I feel he may not have the pace. He’s also a few points shorter in the market than he should be due to the Frankie factor. Mac Swiney won the Irish 2000 Guineas & should go well here for his top trainer but may be better on softer ground whilst Hurricane Lane is probably the best of the market leaders & will make a bold bid to follow up his Dante win. Third Realm won a weak Lingfield Derby trial & had Adayar in behind whilst, at massive odds, Youth Spirit & Gear Up cannot be totally written off and both have each way squeaks.
However, I’m going double handed with the Godolphin 2nd string One Ruler & the other O’Brien runner, one of Joseph’s, Southern Lights. One Ruler looked good at 2, winning the Group 3 Autumn Stakes with the likes of Van Gogh & Magellan in behind before finishing a quarter of a length 2nd in the Futurity behind Mac Swiney on unsuitably heavy ground. That put him firmly in the picture for the classics & he was winter favourite for the 2000 Guineas. However, he could only finish 6th but probably needed the run & he did race keenly. Despite what breeding suggests, he looked like he might need a bit further & had this race been over slightly shorter, he’d have been much shorter in the betting. He’s the 3rd highest rated in the field & whilst I don’t think he’ll beat the favourite, he’s one of the better alternatives.
Southern Lights is interesting for Joseph O’Brien. He was 2nd on his only start at 2 but then won his first start this year when landing a competitive 17 runner maiden over a mile and a quarter by almost 3 lengths. Visually, he was impressive that day & he was thought good enough to go to the Derrinstown. He was only 6th of 7, finishing behind Bolshoi Ballet who won well & Mac Swiney who was 4th but his run was better than that. He got outpaced around 3 furlongs out but was staying on best of all & would surely have finished 2nd when badly hampered around a furlong out. He would not have beaten the winner but would more than likely have finished in front of Mac Swiney who is trading much shorter here. Again, he may have to go some to beat the favourite but the longer trip & with that experience under his belt, he’s likely to be in the mix.
Back One Ruler (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 17.00 Skybet (⅕ odds 1-5)
Back One Ruler in the ‘without Bolshoi Ballet’ market for a 0.5/10 stake at 15.00 William Hill
Back Southern Lights (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 29.00 Skybet (⅕ odds 1-5)
Back Southern Lights in the ‘without Bolshoi Ballet’ market for a 0.5/10 stake at 19.00 William Hill
Back it here: