|Thursday 1st June 2023
The Derby: Betting Preview, Value Picks and More
The Derby. The ultimate test. Of horse. Of jockey. Of trainer. On the first Saturday in June, the sporting world is stopped in its tracks by those breathless few minutes of pure drama at Epsom racecourse.
Here, our team of experts takes a deep dive into the action by assessing the chances of the main contenders for the premier Classic on the Downs:
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Looked the real deal as a juvenile with two no-nonsense victories at Newmarket. Took his game to the next level upon his return to action at Newbury before walloping into submission a top field in the Derby Trial at Lingfield.
Will get the Epsom trip doing proverbial handstands, while he should be suited by the ground if the heavens open. How the Frankel colt will handle a brisk surface is perhaps the only imponderable at this stage of his development.
He is a worthy favourite for a top team and will be partnered by William Buick, who is riding out of his skin this season. When it comes to having a bet on horse racing you could do a lot worse than siding with Military Order.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Was expected to be the next wonder horse following a stellar two-year-old campaign, in which he won the Champion Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown and the Group One Vertem Futurity at Doncaster.
The long-term Derby favourite was understandably sent off at prohibitive odds upon his return in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. But having suffered early interference, he was simply never a factor and trailed home 12th of 14 behind Chaldean. That sent the UK horse racing betting markets into a frenzy as bookmakers stretched his odds to reflect that dire effort.
Depending upon your perspective, that run was either too bad to be true or he has not trained on as a three-year-old. Judged by connections’ ebullience about his Derby claims, he should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Trainer: John Gosden
Another son of Frankel, the Clarehaven inmate bounded into the Derby picture in the Chester Vase. Frankie Dettori’s companion could have been called the winner a long way from home in the Group Three before putting to the sword a decent field by upwards of six and a half lengths.
That was some performance and unquestionably backs up the favourable impression he made on his last start as a two-year-old, when beaten just a head in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
He is clearly a smart animal, but connections have warned that he needs juice in the ground to be at his best. That must surely be a concern if Epsom remains dry over the next weeks.
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute
Owners: Nicarchos family
What a fascinating contender. Unraced at two, not a great deal was expected of the striking son of Ulysses on his debut in the Wood Ditton at Newmarket in April. But he travelled like a dream from the outset before stretching clear inside the final furlong to score by three lengths.
Next up was the renowned Derby trial, the Dante at York, for which he was sent off the 9-2 favourite. Sadly for connections, everything that could have gone went wrong as Richard Kingscote endured a frightful passage towards the line – seemingly encountering trouble in running within every stride.
He flew home at the line, though, to suggest he is a serious animal with a serious engine. The Wood Ditton form has not worked out well, but he is trained by an absolute genius and has massive claims.
Trainer: Andrew Balding
Owners: King Power Racing
Trainer Andrew Balding has always adored this Churchill colt, and it is easy to see why. He enjoyed a terrific juvenile campaign, with a facile defeat of Dubai Mile in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket the highlight.
He clearly needed the run in the Craven back at Headquarters, when second to Indestructible, but responded in the best possible way with a fine success in the Dante at York. That race, however, brought with it far more questions than answers.
Was it possible he had the run of the race that day? Quite possibly. It is impossible to rule him out, but others are preferred.
Trainer: Jessica Harrington
Owner: Mohamed Khalid Mohamed Abdulrahim
Would be by far the most romantic winner of Derby given trainer Jessica Harrington’s recent struggles. The Churchill colt would be far from a fanciful selection, either, such was domination in the oft-informative Derby Trial at Leopardstown.
The form from that race, however, looks dubious at face value and there are no certainties he has the stamina to get the mile-and-a-half trip – especially at a specialists’ track like Epsom.
Trainer: Charlie Johnston
Owner: Ahmad Al Shaikh
As always with a Mark and Charlie Johnston inmate, he has slipped beneath the radar. He was a Group One winner as a juvenile when defeating Arrest, who is far shorter in the betting. He also gave The Foxes a hell of a scrap in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket.
Dubai Mile also ran a blinder in the 2000 Guineas, which should set him up a treat for this. The problem, though, is that his sire, Roaring Lion, patently did not stay in the Derby five years ago.
Trainer: John Murphy
Owner: Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez
An intriguing horse from unheralded connections. Looked the part in his two-year-old campaign when he emerged a runaway winner of a decent race at Dundalk. He then took his game to the next level upon his return to the fray with a super victory in the Ballysax at Leopardstown.
White Birch arguably improved on that in the Dante, when beaten just a neck by The Foxes. He was not stopping at the line, which bodes very well indeed for the Derby. He perhaps lacks the class of others, but has the raw potential to run into a place.
In a wide-open renewal, the tentative call is to go with the best horse in the race. AUGUSTIN RODIN was dreadful in the 2000 Guineas, but one bad run does not make a bad horse. He should be given a chance of redemption – especially as he is trained by the greatest judge of thoroughbreds on the planet.
PASSENGER was unlucky in the Dante and can chase him home, while Irish raider SPREWELL can also trouble the judge.
*Odds subject to change and were correct at the time of publication
( 31.05.2023 )
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