The Investec Derby Festival: Derby & Oaks Preview
The greatest test of a thoroughbred racehorse takes this place this weekend with the Fillies & Colts Classics taking centre stage at Epsom. The uniqueness of Epsom is what makes it such a test for these horses with such an undulating first half a mile followed by coming downhill for the long finish on the camber which can be stamina sapping on a young horse.
The Oaks on Friday looks an open betting heat, the favourite Pink Dogwood heralds from a stable who have dominated all the trials either side of the Irish Sea in the opening weeks of the flat season. Whilst O’Brien’s filly looks sure to get the trip she will have to overcome a very wide draw to get a prominent position in the race early on which could prove troublesome. Every time she has ran she seems to have produced her best form on a soft surface which it does not seem she will get tomorrow. At the end of her two year old campaign she finished sixth in the Prix Marcel Boussac in a blanket finish where she did not get the clearest run but probably would not have won anyway. None of the horses that finished in front have since gone on to win so it is easy to pick holes in the form.
Masqad has looked visually impressive on both starts this year first of all winning a Newmarket maiden beating Twist ‘N’ Shake by a short head with the third a further nine lengths back. Twist ‘N’ Shake then won a race at Nottingham as she pleased whilst Masqad followed up with a win over 1 mile 2 furlongs in listed company at Newmarket. Being by Siyouni I would have doubts about whether she will get the extra two furlongs at Epsom and she was soundly beat by Mehdaayih at Yarmouth on her last start as a two year old. Mehdaayih on the other hand looks to be a massive improver and is coming into this off the back of a romp in the Chesire Oaks. Gosden sent Enable to that race before she scored at Epsom to win her first Classic and if Mehdaayih can reproduce that last run she will go close here providing she can handle the track and the ground as she did seem suited by the bottomless ground at Chester.
However, if Dettori had the choice of who he could ride from the John Gosden horses in the race then it would be a telling sign that he picked Anapurna. This daughter of Frankel won an Oaks trial at Lingfield despite being off the bridle during the early stages but quickly put the race to bed and won with what seemed a huge amount in hand. She has a good draw in stall three so her jockey can decide whether he wants to be prominent throughout the race; which is a big help at Epsom – or hold her up for a late run. She is also out a Montjeu mare so could not be better bred and we already know she stays the trip. I think an each way bet at 13/2 with 4 places on Betfair easily represents the best value when you consider the potential improvement factored in with the aforementioned positives.
The Derby this will have thirteen runners, seven of them trained by Aidan O’Brien. Trying to weigh up their respective credentials is made all the more tricky when you see how frequently his second or third choice in the betting wins a major race.
I will be taking on Sir Dragonet as the draw is against him, he will do well to get a good position from stall thirteen. This is also only his third start and he will never have experienced an atmosphere like Epsom pre-race which may well get to him. He has won both his starts so impressively but they have both come on rain softened ground, something he will not encounter here. I think if he runs with credit here without winning look to back him Antepost for some soft ground end of season races.
Broome has won twice at Leopardstown this season and has looked impressive for the step up to a mile and a quarter. Personally I think he will get the mile and a half, has the draw in his favour and will have no issue with the ground. I would be disappointed to see a horse win The Derby only beating Blenheim Palace two and a half lengths last time out. As a two year old Broome had some good form to his name including a Group 1 second in France. He was firmly put in his place by Madhmoon who re-opposes here and also looks like he will get the trip no problem on breeding but you would have concerns about whether he would improve enough to be in contention here.
Telecaster looked to me as if he beat champion two-year-old Too Darn Hot with ease last time and the step up in trip seems like it may uncover further improvement. Draw statistics play a massive part in this race though and no horse has ever won The Derby from stall two.
The horse I’m going to side with actually finished behind Telecaster at York last time but was not given a hard time when the jockey knew he couldn’t win the race, and that is Japan. Japan looks like everything you want in a Derby horse, he has had a nice prep run and will definitely stay. His draw in eleven is not the best but he has not been racing prominently throughout his career and O’Brien has been saying all season he will come on for the run. If that is to be believed then at around 10/1 is as good an each way bet to have in what seems to be a very open Derby year.