The Epsom Derby looks a tough nut to crack this year with 19 runners and no stand-out favourite.
That said, this is the type of betting heat that makes me love the flat, as you could make a case for more than most.
Luck will be a factor with so many runners, so short prices are all likely to lack value, but I can’t get away from the claims of the favourite CLIFFS OF MOHER for the all-conquering yard of Aidan O’Brien.
It’s a very competitive Derby field so bookies are laying all sorts and the favourites are farily easy in the market at the time of writing, with WIlliam Hill currently a stand-out 6/1.
That has to be taken, as the son of Galileo is quite clearly the stable’s number one choice for the race, and has been hyped for quite some time.
Cliffs Of Moher will improve plenty for his seasonal reappearance win at Chester, and the collateral form with Bay Of Poets in second actually reads exceptionally well in the context of this market, as that foe was close to second-favourite Cracksman in the Epsom Derby Trial, and his form favourably ties in will most of the market principles too.
Cracksman looks way too short for me, and I can’t help but think he is where he is in the market because he runs in the colours of 2015 Derby hero Golden Horn, and is by the most famous of British horses, Frankel.
Like their sire, Frankel’s progeny are unproven over the Derby trip and you’d therefore be mad to not doubt their staying power.
Rain has fallen at Epsom on Friday and it won’t be quick ground, so the need for stamina might be emphasised.
Cracksman’s half-brother Eminent is the Frankel colt I’m most keen on, despite him coming up short in the 2000 Guineas.
His trainer has always said these longer trips are what he wants, and his win in the Craven Stakes reads very well with Benbatl’s Dante Stakes second and Rivet’s third in the French Guineas.
He looked outpaced in the 2000 Guineas as the race turned into a sprint off the slow pace – and while that shouldn’t be seen as too much of a negative, I am concerned he was dropping back in the final furlong at Newmarket, rather than staying on strongly in the style of a horse crying out for a step up in trip.
You still need speed to win a Derby, and Eminent doesn’t tick enough boxes to be value as a 15/2 shot.
Our ante-post selection for this race was BENBATL, who is now a bit shorter at 25/1 than the 33/1 we advised at, but I was disappointed he couldn’t win his last race and he needs to step up.
The longer trip, extra experience and the little cut in the ground all offer reasons for him to do so, so I’d say if you took our lead we’re in better shape than the odds suggest and he’s not far away from Cracksman on collateral form.
If we still like him we have to like Permian, who beat him in the Dante, and was narrowly denied by Cracksman in the Derby Trial at prior to that at Epsom.
He’s 11/1 despite the Dante being recognised as one of the best trials, and I expect him to be bang there at the finish.
With several firms offering four places, 11/1 is each-way value, no doubt, but I am concerned he’s already peaked this season as this, remarkably, is his fifth start.
Godolphin run two more, with Lingfield Trial winner Best Solution shortest in the betting at 14/1, with easy maiden winner Dubai Thunder 16s.
Pat Cosgrave seems to have the pick of Saeed bin Suroor’s horses at the moment and he’s chosen Best Solution over Benbatl and Dubai Thunder, and that’s likely to be significant.
I can’t rule any of them out, yet it’s hard to make a strong case for them either, given more solid claims elsewhere.
I’ve not mentioned Aidan O’Brien’s five other runners yet, but they default to having realistic chances by virtue of their trainer’s reputation.
Ryan Moore generally gets it right and jockey bookings suggest WINGS OF EAGLES is fourth or fifth in the pecking order, yet he’s by 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi and is fairly unexposed coming into the race, with this his second start as a three-year-old.
Outclassed on several occasions at two, he was held up on his first start this season and fairly flew home after a troubled passage to take second in the Chester Vase.
Stamina is therefore proven for this trip and I think 33/1 underestimates his chance, given he could easily have beaten his stablemate Venice Beach on another day, and he’s half the price.
With 19 runners the pace is guaranteed to be blistering and it’s certain to be a real test, so proven stamina is a big plus and I fancy him to be passing horses into the places in the closing stages.
He’s a lively each-way bet at 33/1, in a wide-open Derby.
2pts win Cliffs Of Moher @6/1, 16:30 Epsom, Saturday (WillHill)
0.5pt each-way Wings Of Eagles @33/1, 16:30 Epsom, Saturday (1,2,3,4,5, 1/5, SkyBet)
1pt win Benbatl @33/1, 16:30 Epsom, Saturday (advised ante-post)