2016 Epsom Derby Selections: Cloth Of Stars, Harzand, Across The Stars

It’s Derby day at Epsom, the second and most valuable of three British Classics for colts, and 16 three-year-olds are declared to seal their future stud values with victory.

It’s been a race kind to punters in recent years with favourites Golden Horn, Australia and Camelot all obliging at short odds – but this year is wide open and it’s 5/1 the field in a challenging but brilliant punting conundrum.

Epsom hosted The Oaks yesterday, the Derby equivalent for fillies, won by the brilliant Minding yet run in one of the slowest times in many years due to testing conditions.

I’m not optimistic it’ll have dried out enough to be anything like good ground so stamina looks paramount up and down the hill.

That’s why I’m backing Dermot Weld’s Irish raider HARZAND, who has been laughably labeled a soft-ground horse simply because he’s won on heavy ground the last twice.

The form of those two victories is really strong, with the first being a 16-length demolition job in his maiden and, in the second, he powerfully outstayed two of today’s opponents, Idaho and Moonlight Magic, to win a Leopardstown trial for this.

Harzand has only raced three times and remains totally unexposed on a better surface – it should go off good-to-soft today – and boasts the most nailed-on stamina of all the runners, so at 11/1 you can bet with confidence he’ll be involved at the finish.

He’s bred for the job too, being by 2009 Derby winner Sea The Stars, who sires three in today’s race and I like all of their chances.

We’ve already advised ACROSS THE STARS last week after race jockey Kieren Fallon gave a glowing bulletin on his ride, and at 33/1 he is a lively outsider.

But the third and final Stars son is the one I’m sweetest on, Andre Fabre’s French raider CLOTH OF STARS, who spent much of his two-year-old season chasing home a horse entered in tomorrow’s French Derby, Robin Of Navan.

In the video below, Robin Of Navan last year routs a Group One juvenile field which also contained Idaho, but it’s Cloth Of Stars who comes through to take an impressive second.

The winner looked top-class, but Fabre’s horse reversed the form this season at Saint-Cloud and arrives at Epsom as an improving horse in fine form who will go on the testing ground, so there’s loads to like and 9/1 looks a really nice price to get stuck into.

Should he win today I’d expect Robin Of Navan’s French Derby quote to come right in from 9/1 as the favourite for that race, John Gosden’s Foundation, was third in the Dante and victory for Cloth Of Stars would dent that particular form whilst boosting the juvenile exploits of Robin Of Navan.

A big-priced each-way double looks a smart play at around 90/1.

Of the rest of today’s runners it’s US Army Ranger that might be the biggest threat for the powerful Aiden O’Brien stable.

With the choice of all of O’Brien’s five runners, leading jockey Ryan Moore has kept the faith and the money has flowed for this horse all year suggesting he’s expected to go very well.

The favourite, Wings Of Desire, won the Dante from Deauville but I’m not enamoured by that form at all, while I wouldn’t touch Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses at 9/1 being totally unproven in this grade, despite being regally bred for Derby victory.

Massaat would be a frustrating winner given we advised him to win the 2000 Guineas, when he ran brilliantly for second, but I’d have my stamina doubts over this trip and there are more solid bets about.

We’ve mentioned Moonlight Magic already, but, despite glowing reports from trainer Jim Bolger, he has to reverse the form with Harzand and won’t get the good ground his connections think he wants.

A tough and open Derby. Good luck.

0.5pt win Cloth Of Stars @9/1, 16:30 Epsom, Saturday
1pt win Harzand @11/1, 16:30 Epsom, Saturday
1pt win Across The Stars @33/1, 16:30 Epsom, Saturday
0.5pt each-way double Cloth Of Stars (16:30 Epsom, Saturday), Robin Of Navan (Prix Du Jockey Club, Chantilly, Sunday) @89/1

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