Close but no cigar in the Oaks, with Wild Illusion running a very credible race in the Oaks but having no answer to Forever Together, who relished the course and proper gallop to win impressively. Much scorn was cast over the form beforehand, but Forever Together won easily from a Guineas fourth and Marcel Boussac winner and looks a powerful stayer – it would be no surprise if she got even better and at some point it’s not hard to imagine her going into open company, where she would deserve respect.
It was yet another Classic for Aidan O’Brien, and he is once again at the centre of attention as Saxon Warrior bids to add the Derby to the 2,000 Guineas ahead of a potential bid at the Triple Crown. Aidan O’Brien’s charge towers over the field on form, having beaten Roaring Lion in the Racing Post Trophy when staying straight before impressively sealing the 2,000 Guineas with a sustained surge.
He had the reopposing Roaring Lion back in fifth, and that form was boosted when Roaring Lion trashed his field in the Dante at York to earn a spot reopposing here, so it is clear that he is the form horse, and probably the most talented in the race too, for a trainer and rider combination that have made this race their own at times.
There are issues, however. Firstly, Saxon Warrior has landed the dreaded stall one, a nightmare start around a course as idiosyncratic as Epsom. Stall 1 is now 0-105 in double-figure fields over 1m4f at Epsom since 2000 – with two defeats when stall 1 was a non-runner – although Wild Illusion was not beaten by the draw in the Oaks.
14/1, 14/1, 50/1, 16/1, 150/1, 25/1, 33/1, 25/1, 13/2, 50/1, 25/1, 8/1, 8/1, 20/1, 14/1, 9/1 https://t.co/F76IfpE5cb
— Zarkava (@Zarkava_) May 31, 2018
It’s also worth looking at those who have tried before. Thanks to eagle eyed users on Twitter, we can can find out that Since Oath took this in 1998, Storming Home, Tholjanah, Let Me Try Again, Meath, Kings Quay, Atlantic Waves, Alessandro Volta, Age Of Aquarius, Bullet Train, Pisco Sour, Cavaleiro, Ocovango, True Story, Epicuris, Moonlight Magic, and Dubai Thunder have all tried and failed. They went off 14/1, 14/1, 50/1, 16/1, 150/1, 25/1, 33/1, 25/1, 13/2, 50/1, 25/1, 8/1, 8/1, 20/1, 14/1, and 9/1 respectively – an average starting price of nearly 30/1.
Average SP of 29.2/1 I make it then which obviously suggests that it isn't a big surprise that none of them has won
— Darran Pearce (@DarranPearce) May 31, 2018
Saxon Warrior is obviously in a different league to those runners, but if anything, a bigger worry is the ground at Epsom, which was listed and described as good to soft but in realty looked far more tackier and testing than described. Saxon Warrior is bred to stay, being by Deep Impact out of Maybe, but a slog would not see him to best effect and at 10/11 he makes no appeal on the day.
There’s no reason to be unhappy with Young Rascal as our ante post selection. Quicker ground would have been preferable for such a good mover, but he’s bred to be OK on soft ground (Intello was third in an Arc on soft ground after winning the Niel on same surface and Rock My Soul won a Listed contest in Germany on soft) and he gave away his race at the start on his Nottingham debut.
The turn of foot that he showed to win the Chester Vase was extremely impressive despite not getting much of a run before late and Epsom promises to suit more with a climb to the finish here. De Ex Be ought to enjoy Epsom more than Chester too and is well drawn to attack, but Young Rascal looked the best of the two when winning in a smart time and can get seriously involved.
The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, where Hazapour got the better of Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon in a tight finish, looks to be one of the more solid trials and those two make up the rest of the portfolio.
This much slower surface today is a worry for Hazapour, who moved so well when he made his winning challenge at Leopardstown, but he beat Ballydoyle’s Hunting Horn, who has twice run well at group level, in a soft ground Galway maiden and he also won the Derrinstown on his seasonal return. Closely related to Harzand, the 2016 winner, he promises to thrive for going up in trip and if he isn’t stuck in the ground then he has to be given a big chance.
Delano Roosevelt finished on terms with The Pentagon, but handled the heavy ground in the Ballysax much better than The Pentagon (who has two blowouts on a soft surface now) and that’s no surprise given that he’s by Again, the winner of a Moyglare Stud Stakes and Irish 1,000 Guineas on soft and heavy ground respectively. He took second place on the line there but has longed for a longer trip at a well-run pace and ought to get that today, making him the most attractive of the Ballydoyle battalion at the prices.
This ground is too soft for The Pentagon, who could have other days, and Zabriskie ought to enjoy 1m4f although he must improve still and didn’t look to love Epsom when here in the trial. Kew Gardens is another stayer in the making, but he was beaten fair and square behind Knight To Behold in the Lingfield Trial. Indeed, Knight To Behold was very taking there and on a faster surface, would have made real appeal for all that he’s got more to give on that evidence.
On his Guineas form, Masar is big in relation to Saxon Warrior and there’s hope for 12 furlongs in the pedigree but he would be better suited by less of a slog here. Savannah Star, a grinding winner of the Bet365 Sandown Trial, should love the ground although perhaps it might not be testing enough and he did look like a horse who would be seen to best effect away from Epsom.
The Dash (3.45) is the other race that appeals today in betting terms. Dark Shots has a great chance if getting away on terms from stall 1 but the market has found him and plenty can be given a shout on their best form. Duke Of Firenze is a previous winner of this in 2013 who has been placed in the last two years, and this ought to suit him more than two starts this season. He couldn’t get into the MansionBet Sprint Stakes properly, but Epsom will give him more of a chance and his fourth at Chester behind Kachy on return looks better now.
Tarboosh never got a run in a course and distance trial for this but he ended last season on the way up, travelling best and then being caught late on in a heavy ground Haydock sprint. He’d won twice before that in good style and evidently hasn’t stopped progressing, so if he can get a decent posse from the gate, he should be able to get involved.
4.30 Epsom – 1 pt each/way Delano Roosevelt (14/1 general)
4.30 Epsom – 1 pt each/way Hazapour (11/1 Coral, Bet365, Ladbrokes)
3.45 Epsom – 1 pt each/way Tarboosh (11/1 Bet365, Corals, Ladbrokes, Power)
3.45 Epsom – 1 pt each/way Duke Of Firenze (14/1 Bet Victor, Sky Bet)
2018 Derby – 1 pt each/way Young Rascal (12/1 Betfair, Paddy Power), 17th May