Epsom Derby Preview

  • English King

English King is the hot favourite for this year’s renewal of the Epsom Derby. He exploded into the reckoning for classic glory when comfortably winning the Lingfield Derby Trial, despite missing the break. As a result, Tom Marquand was forced to sit towards the rear of the field and hope the gaps appeared. Sound Of Cannons and Berkshire Rocco ensured a good tempo to the race. It was hard not to be impressed by how smoothly English King travelled through the race. He loomed up menacingly at the 2f pole and glided past the tiring Berkshire Rocco. The winning distance was 2 and ¾ lengths, but English King would have won by 5 lengths when a flick of the whip. I would have doubts about how much the form is worth. Obviously Berkshire Rocco was second to Irish Derby winner Santiago in the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot. I think it was easy for English King to look flashy at Lingfield. Berkshire Rocco is as slow as a wet week and 1m 3f at Lingfield was not going to show him to best effect.  Furthermore English King has been dealt a killer blow by being drawn in 1. The last Derby winner from stall 1 was Oath way back in 1999. Although the masterful Frankie Dettori takes the ride I’m definitely going to oppose English King. As I write this piece English King is drifting and is now widely quoted as a 4/1 chance. Earlier in the week he was as short was 5/2 and many people were keen to take him on solely based on his price alone. The diabolical draw has only increased the negative vibes and it will be interesting to see if he can hold onto favouritism. English King could be special and prove the critics wrong, but I’m going to be looking elsewhere.

  • Ballydoyle Battalion

Aidan O’Brien may make history on Saturday by becoming the first trainer to win the Derby eight times. Mogul would appear to be the yard’s number one based on jockey bookings. The vibes radiating from Ballydoyle are also very positive with regards to Mogul. He has been the talking horse through the winter, but failed to justify strong market support in the King Edward Stakes at Royal Ascot. He could only manage to finish 4th behind Pyledriver, who repossess here. Mogul looked the most likely winner when they turned for home, but couldn’t quicken and appeared as though he badly needed the run. Despite this hiccup Mogul is very popular in the market and has been backed into 5/1. The value is definitely gone at this stage. Apparently Mogul has improved hugely from Royal Ascot. Furthermore his full brother Japan ran a huge race in last year’s Derby to finish third after disappointing in the Dante. The case for Mogul is quite obvious, but I’m more inclined to side with Russian Emperor. He only ran once as a two year old in a Curragh maiden over 7 furlongs. He ran a typical race for a Ballydoyle newcomer by staying on nicely to finish third after showing signs of greenness. Aidan managed to get him out on the first day of the Irish flat season at Naas. I’d encourage everyone to watch back that maiden as it was remarkable how much ground Russian Emperor managed to make up in the last furlong. He must have traded at huge prices in-running on that occasion. Once Seamus managed to pull him to the outside and show him some daylight he picked up beautifully to win a shade cosily at the line. I’m willing the put a line through his run in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown behind Cormorant. Padraig Beggy managed to steal that race from the front and the form can’t be taken literally. Russian Emperor came on nicely for that run to beat First Receiver in the Hampton Court just over a week later. He was doing his best work at the finish and hit the line strongly. Russian Emperor appears to be laden with stamina and if he handles Epsom I can see him going very close indeed. 6/1 looks to a fair price and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go off a shade shorter. Seamus Heffernan is reunited with the Galileo colt and of course Seamus won last year on Anthony Van Dyck. Vatican City is a full brother to the dual 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles, so there is a question mark about whether he will get the trip. Vatican City was a fantastic second to Siskin in the Irish 2000 Guineas, so he obviously has the talent but you really need to be a strong stayer to win a Derby and he doesn’t instil great confidence in me. Amhran Na Bhfiann and Mythical both need to find significant improvement to feature, but Wings Of Eagles did so in 2017.

  • Kameko

Despite winning a good renewal of the 2000 Guineas convincingly, Kameko has somewhat been overlooked in previews I’ve read or watched. Similar to Vatican City there are fears that Kameko will be outstayed in the Derby. It’s a big step-up and I can see him running well, but just finding a couple too good. It would have been nice to see him run in the Hampton Court or King Edward at Royal Ascot just to see how he fare over further, but it was probably wise to give him time. He’s by Kittens Joy, the same sire as the ill-fated Roaring Lion, and so that’s where the stamina questions primarily arise. Kameko probably has a better chance than Roaring Lion of getting the trip and Oisin Murphy will have learned plenty from riding Roaring Lion in the 2018 Derby. However, there is likely to be a good gallop in the race and there will be no hiding places. Kameko didn’t appear to be stopping in the Guineas or Vertem Futurity at Newcastle, but I think he could be collared in the final stages by a Galileo colt such as Russian Emperor.

  • Best of the rest

Anybody who listens to the Rein It In Racing Podcast will know I tipped Gold Maze in the Gallinule Stakes and the Irish Derby. He ran a lovely race in the Gallinule to just be denied by Crossfirehurricane. Shane Crosse got the tactics right that day on Crossfirehurricane and benefited by settling off the strong pace. In contrast Gold Maze was prominent throughout and paid the price. I was hopeful that different tactics would be deployed in the Irish Derby, but the same occurred again. He was far too keen and gave himself no chance of winning. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd all came from off the pace. I was surprised that Jessica Harrington decided to declare him here. Amusingly he’s probably the only horse ever to run in the Irish Derby before going to the Epsom Derby. The racing and sporting calendar has been turned upside down. Gold Maze will be young David Egan’s first ride in the Epsom Derby. Gold Maze will stay based on his pedigree. Golden Horn, the 2015 Derby winner, sired Gold Maze and the 2001 winner Galileo is the dam’s sire. Not a bad pedigree for a 200/1 shot. If David Egan can settle him Gold Maze might be able outrun those huge odds. Tom Marquand has picked up the ride on Khalifa Sat, after unfortunately being replaced by Frankie Dettori on English King. It’s unfortunate for Tom, but he’s young and I’m sure he will have plenty more opportunities. Khalifa Sat is a likeable horse and showed a good attitude to hold off Emissary at Goodwood. He will have to improve again, but stays well and has a decent draw in 14. I wouldn’t rule him out.

  • Conclusion

Russian Emperor is my idea of the winner. He is progressing nicely and looks sure to stay the mile and a half. Seamus Heffernan knows the horse well and also has plenty experience of riding around Epsom. 6/1 with 4 places looks a solid bet in my opinion. Khalifa Sat and Gold Maze could be better than their price suggests.

 By Killian

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