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It has been the story for the ages. One of the world’s biggest races around a track that has been used for literally hundreds of years, to be watched in-front of close to a billion people worldwide. A late jocking on…and then off in the space of only a couple of days, and the involvement of none other than her Majesty The Queen. Anyway, that’s enough on Diore Lia, because Poundland Hill’s biggest event of the year, the Derby, is still going ahead. Yes, really, the famous race will take place on Saturday at 4.30pm and with a big field of 19 runners that has plenty of intrigue.
The market is headed by the two dominant trainers in the British isles over the past two years, in the shape of Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden, victorious in four of the past five renewals, both with lightly raced contenders in the shape of Cliffs Of Moher and Cracksman. Both of them won their trials whilst promising considerably more, with Cliffs Of Moher resolute in victory when taking the Dee Stakes at Chester. It is a victory for which he can be marked up considerably further given that it was a late reappearance with O’Brien clearly at pains to give him the essential run that he would need, and the comments of Ryan Moore (unsurprisingly on board) would confirm that. Following on from his deeply impressive maiden win at two, it would have confirmed some improvement and he ought to improve and thrive for the step up in trip (although that is entirely necessary). His handling of the tight nature of Chester is a bonus, as he ought to be fine over the course, but as with a number of Ballydoyle contenders for Epsom in recent years, improvement is factored into his price already in a race where the majority of the field will have more to give.
Epsom’s course and distance trial has struggled to have an impact on the race in recent years but this year’s edition ought to play a vital role. Cracksman was backed into odds on in light of significant market support (having been well liked through the winter after his maiden win) and he caught Permian with a fine late charge to make it two wins from two starts. John Gosden’s colt didn’t look all at ease coming down the hill, ceding Permian the advantage, but once he found his feet he made an impressive fist of catching a very experienced horse and he would likely have been far more comfortable with an extra two furlongs and the full width of the track to boot. That was also a slowly run race, which is less likely here, and the form that race has been boosted since. Permian was a deeply impressive winner of the Newmarket Stakes and then the Dante Stakes, fighting off Benbatl gamely with a gap back to Rekindling. Whilst Permian may have improved since, Cracksman would have far more improvement to come and he holds very strong form claims on that basis (Tartini, third there, third in another trial and the fourth a winner since). Permian himself has a fair shout, having clearly thrived this season. How easy the pace is on the front end could be key if he’s ridden aggressively although others will likely find more improvement.
The 2,000 Guineas has often served as a strong trial for the Derby and whilst Eminent wouldn’t have pleased all of his supporters there, today’s test ought to suit him far more than the Guineas did and he still makes appeal. A taking winner of his maiden at the backend of last season, he was stepped up significantly in class but was strikingly impressive in winning the Craven Stakes, finishing by far the most strongly to get the better of Rivet and Benbatl. Rivet has underlined the form by finishing a close third, clear of the rest, in the French Guineas, whilst Benbatl was beaten two lengths but ended up beating beaten less than half that in the Dante behind Permian. His sixth in the Guineas came in a slowly run race and this test ought to suit far more once again. He will need a good early start, but if getting away well, can make a bold bid to give his sire his most famous winner so far.
Lingfield’s Derby trial has also had some difficulties with relevance recently, but as a preparation for Epsom it sometimes could not be more apt and Best Solution was as taking a trial winner as any when scooting home in this year’s renewal. He handled every slope comfortably before putting his field in their place and whilst it was not the strongest of trials (Glencadam Glory, who is in second, is rated 100) he could do no more than win as he did and the rest of his form stands up well to scrutiny too. Last October, he was second to Waldegeist in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud when Capri, Douglas Macarthur and Wings of Eagles were behind him – form that puts him ahead of each Irish trial – and there are very few questions he has to answer if any.
That Rekindling was so well held in the Dante suggests that he, Douglas Macarthur and Capri could struggle here although if there is any test that will suit Capri it should be this one and the track is hit significantly by rain on Friday then it will aid his cause greatly. Dubai Thunder’s debut was hugely impressive – so dominant was he at Newbury that connections can feel entitled to taking their chance here. However this is a completely different test in terms of not only the track and ground, but also of course the class, and bigger days could be there for him down the line.
Readers who follow my tips will already be on Venice Beach, who fought hard to take the Chester Vase in what became a stable benefit, having tracked the pace early and coped well with what became a messy sprint in the end. The more racing he’s had the better he’s been and there’s no doubt that he is a cast iron stayer who will want a strong pace, so there’s every reason to be hopeful in a race as open as this. Wings of Eagles will definitely thrive for the hill and a good gallop – and he looks a stayer for the future, having made strong progress late at Chester where he didn’t look at ease and was making his seasonal debut. The Anvil was a fair third there having been upfront there although he does look exposed now and might be forced to go too fast too soon.
Khalidi deserves respect, having been so impressive in the Cocked Hat, although he had the advantage of a run over Salouen when the two clashed in the Feilden and then he was well behind Permian in the Newmarket Stakes. His stablemate Crowned Eagle needs to find a huge amount for this step up in trip after winning a Windsor maiden and Pealer is in the same boat after his canter at Southwell.
Advice on the Derby
2 pts each/way Eminent (7/1 Bet365* and 15/2 in places)
1 pt each/way Best Solution (16/1 Stan James and 14/1 generally)
1 pt each/way Venice Beach, Derby, May 10th (33/1)