The favourite and the one that they all have to beat this year is trainer Jim Bolger’s 11/10 shot Dawn Approach. He has already gone one better than his Derby winning sire, New Approach, by bolting up in the 2,000 Guineas. It was his first outing as a three year old and his first attempt at a mile.
At the end of his unbeaten season as a two year old Bolger said on camera that he lacked New Approach’s stamina and might not get further than a mile. Bolger is not the only trainer based in Ireland who seems to enjoy having a bit of fun with the media.
The manner of Dawn Approach’s 2,000 Guineas win suggested that he relished the extra distance and could easily get further. He didn’t ‘cling on’ for victory. He powered away from his closest pursuers in the final furlong. The handicapper was not overly impressed, only raising him a single pound for beating the 150/1 outsider, Kevin Ryan’s Glory Awaits by five lengths.
The connections of his rivals in the Derby are the ones clinging on – to the hope that he may not get the extra half mile. Yes, he is unproven beyond a mile but, unlike his sire, he seems to have a temperament that will not compromise his physical abilities.
Aidan O’Brien sends out five runners having pocketed the top prize in most of the Derby trials. He saddles the second favourite in the Epsom Derby betting, Battle Of Marengo (11/2). This son of Galileo landed the Group 2 Derby Trial at Leopardstown. His win was a comfortable rather than spectacular one. He succeeded by just under two lengths having started the 2/13 favourite.
Battle Of Marengo has been unbeaten in his last five runs and is the member of the O’Brien mob to be partnered by his son, Joseph. Battle of Marengo has stayed on well over 10 furlong trips on yielding ground so stamina should not be an issue. He is reportedly better suited to a sounder surface than he has encountered in the majority of his races. This is his first trip to England and he may find the better ground to his advantage, though there has been recent rain at Epsom.
Ruler Of The World, another O’Brien trained son of Galileo, looks to provide reasonable value at around 9/1 and should not be ignored. He only emerged on to a racecourse as a three-year-old and is unbeaten in his two starts. O’Brien usually sends out top quality ammunition to contest the Chester Vase and sent him to do so. Ruler Of The World won easily by six lengths.
He will have Ryan Moore on board, who is seeking a second Epsom Derby victory after Workforce’s romp in 2010. He is drawn in stall ten, the starting point of seven winners since 1986. Both this colt’s runs have been on good ground. If more rain provides a slower surface it may not help his cause. Despite that niggling doubt, this one has hinted at the most untapped potential of any horse in the field.
Another relatively unexposed Ballydoyle runner is Mars (14/1) who will be partnered by Richard Hughes. Also by Galileo, Mars came sixth in the 2,000 Guineas and appeared to be running on well at the business end of the race. He would not be the first Ballydoyle horse to come on for a run in the 2,000 Guineas.
Festive Cheer (50/1) and Flying The Flag (100/1) complete the O’Brien quintet. The betting market suggests that they are no hopers but it would not be a surprise to see Festive Cheer run into a place under Seamie Heffernan. He came a creditable third in a Group 2 contest over 1 mile 3 furlongs at Longchamp in a blanket finish on 12 May, finishing strongly.
Ireland have a particularly strong hand this year but Andre Fabre sends out Ocovango (15/2) to thwart their chances. He comes into the race unbeaten, most recently succeeding in the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Saint-Cloud in France. That’s the same race that Fabre’s Pour Moi won prior to his 2011 Derby victory. This son of Monsun is unbeaten in his three starts (all at Saint-Cloud) and seems to have stamina in abundance. This will be his first trip to England. He is proven on testing ground.
For the first time ever, there is a German trained horse, Chopin (10/1), lining up for the Derby this year. Could Andreas Wohler emulate his countryman, Peter Schiergen, trainer of Danedream who won the Arc and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2012?
Wohler has form when it comes to staging raids on the global racing scene. He has admitted that the decision to run in the Epsom Derby was taken by Chopin’s new owner, Sheikh Fahad Al Thani. Sheikh Fahad got involved in the horse after his convincing win in a Group Three at Krefeld.
The second placed horse at Krefeld, Global Bang, then came second in the German 2,000 Guineas, a race that brought together some decent overseas opposition. It was won by Henri Pantall’s Peace At Last, a 29/1 outsider. The form line is dubious as the race was run at a furious pace, favouring horses that were held up.
If Sheikh Fahad made his decision to buy Chopin as a result of Global Bang’s subsequent performance and the apparent complement it pays to Chopin, then he may have more money than sense. The substantial pile of cash required to supplement at the last minute would be small change to him. There is no doubt Chopin is improving and even though the form lines are hard to pinpoint in the context of this race, this might be a big ask for the son of little-known sire Santiago.
English hopes rest with the surprise winner of the Dante, Libertarian (16/1). This sizeable son of New Approach fetched just 40,000 guineas at auction as a two year old and is definitely not fashionably connected. He is trained in Yorkshire by Karl Burke although his wife Elaine officially holds the licence. What matters is that this yard know what they are doing. They certainly would not have encouraged the owner, Hubert Strecker, to stump up the cash to enter Libertarian in the Derby to provide him with a day trip.
Libertarian was ignored in the Dante betting market, starting at 33/1. He looked to be tapped for toe at times but stayed on best to win by over a length from Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather. Libertarian has won two of his three starts. If he were trained by John Gosden or Sir Michael Stoute he would probably be offered at about half his current price. He will be partnered by the excellent William Buick once again.
No one can be sure which of the twelve runners will handle the unique undulations of Epsom best. Dawn Approach has the most obvious credentials and may well win but he is too short a price to appeal.
Derby Preview Conclusion & Tips
A patriotic punt may provide the best value as Libertarian is sure to be staying on at the end. However I expect Aidan O’Brien to thwart them all with his apparent second-string RULER OF THE WORLD, who makes an appealing each-way bet with ace jockey Ryan Moore in the saddle at current best odds of 9/1 with Bet365.