The 2017 Epsom Derby is an unusually open looking race with Cracksman and Cliffs Of Moher heading the market at 4/1 (4.30pm Saturday live on ITV).
Trained by John Gosden, Cracksman carries the same colours as his 2015 Derby winner Golden Horn but is yet to prove the level of his talent even though he is unbeaten in his two starts. This son of Frankel won his maiden on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket in October, but was not strongly fancied to do so. The 9/4 favourite finished third but Cracksman’s stablemate Stradivarius was sent off as the second favourite and was the choice of Gosden’s main stable jockey, Frankie Dettori. Cracksman was partnered by Rab Havlin and beat his stablemate six lengths.
This season Cracksman started as the 4/6 favourite in the Derby Trial at Epsom at the end of April and delivered the goods, albeit rather unconvincingly, beating Mark Johnston’s Permian a short head. Cracksman was due to run in the Dante but Gosden pulled him out, concerned about the softish ground. Cracksman was last seen stretching his legs around this track in ‘Breakfast with the Stars’ under a surprisingly active Dettori, his comments afterwards were fairly positive but did little to inspire great confidence. If Cracksman is equally relaxed on Saturday Dettori’s legs rather than his arms will be getting a thorough work out.
While Cracksman has been carefully minded, Johnston’s Permian (10/1 with Bet365) has run four times this season and had six outings as a juvenile. Last year he won three of his first four starts in minor races before his form tailed off. This son of Teofilo first ran in mid April this time and was only beaten a neck in a handicap at Bath before narrowly losing out to Cracksman. In early May Permian won a listed race at Newmarket over a mile and a quarter before taking the Dante 12 days later. He had a dream run round the inside and beat the favourite, Godolphin’s Benbatl (25/1), by just under a length in the style of a colt who really wants to win.
Permian is one of the most exposed runners in the line-up and his Dante victory seemed to increase punters’ confidence in Cracksman rather than his own chances. His wealthy connections decided to invest £85K to supplement him after that win. Johnston says that Cracksman will need to have improved to beat him, the handicapper agrees, rating Permian 113, 4lb higher than Cracksman.
Godolphin’s Best Solution (12/1) is also rated 113 and has been out more than many of his rivals, this will be his fourth start of the season. His first two were on dirt at Meydan but, as a son of Kodiac, it is no surprise that it did not suit him. When he was returned to the turf Best Solution proved himself by taking the Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield in mid May, beating his closest pursuer impressively by over three lengths under Pat Cosgrave. He started at 7/1 and his task was made easier by the very disappointing run of Sir John Lavery, Aidan O’Brien’s 11/8 favourite, but Cosgrave was impressed by him, especially as he was carrying a penalty and is not very big.
Trained by Saeed Bin Suroor, this colt was the surprise winner of the Group 3 Autumn Stakes as a juvenile. He was a 12/1 shot and beat the favourite, O’Brien’s The Anvil (50/1) four lengths. At the end of October Best Solution was only beaten a length into second in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud, beating another O’Brien favourite, Capri (11/1), by over a length on the soft ground. Kieren Fallon thinks Best Solution has a great temperament and will definitely get the trip. Any give in the ground will aid his cause and make him an attractive each-way prospect.
Bin Suroor also saddles Dubai Thunder (14/1) who has only run once, in a maiden over a mile and a quarter at Newbury in mid May. This son of Dubawi won impressively by 10 lengths under Adam Kirby and comes into the ‘could be anything’ category making it difficult to follow him or to discount him with any conviction.
His stablemate Benbatl (25/1), the Dante runner-up, is another Dubawi colt who won his maiden impressively on his debut over seven furlongs at Doncaster in early April. Benbatl was beaten two lengths by Eminent in the Craven but seemed to benefit from the step up in trip in the Dante. If Benbatl has the stamina for this distance he could perform much better than his price suggests.
Ratings mean very little with unexposed three-year-olds but Eminent (7/1 best odds with Bet365) has the second highest mark, rated 112 and benefits from a decent draw, starting from stall three. Trained by Martyn Meade and ridden by champion jockey Jim Crowley, this sizeable son of Frankel was ultra impressive when taking the Craven in a record-breaking time but failed to follow up that performance when it mattered in the 2,000 Guineas. Whilst the runaway Rivet set a blistering pace in the Craven things happened more slowly in the Guineas. Eminent was beaten three and a half lengths by Churchill, looking outpaced in the final stages.
All three of Eminent’s runs have been on the Rowley Mile but Epsom is a very different proposition to Newmarket. Meade says that he handles a sharp bend well at home but brought his star colt for a spin round the track last week. One commentator on Breakfast with the Stars singled Eminent out as the most promising looking colt if relatively steady work can be any indicator. Eminent was untroubled by the dip at Newmarket and the extra half mile may well play to his strengths. Meade was very bullish before the Guineas but has been cautious about describing his hopes here, saying that he has a ‘live chance’, he could well be right.
Aidan O’Brien seems to be an unstoppable force in the classics this season and saddles six for this Epsom Derby. Cliffs Of Moher (4/1 with Bet365) is ridden by Ryan Moore suggesting that Ballydoyle think he has the strongest claims of their bunch. This son of Galileo was not spectacular in running when winning the Dee Stakes at Chester. Moore had to push him along to maintain his position but he did run on well when it mattered, beating Bay Of Poets a length and a half. It was only his third start and his first this season. Cliffs Of Moher looked as if he would come on for the run and will have benefited from the experience of the hubbub of Chester.
As a juvenile Cliffs Of Moher won his maiden at the second time of asking at Leopardstown, beating his more strongly fancied stablemate Orderofthegarter over five lengths in a time that made people take notice. If he has come on physically and mentally from Chester then he has to be taken very seriously as O’Brien’s number one shot, especially as the rest of O’Brien’s runners will likely do their utmost to help him succeed.
Moore rode Venice Beach (14/1) to victory in the Chester Vase but he had to be driven out to beat his stablemate Wings Of Eagles (33/1) by just over a length with The Anvil a nose behind. That was his third run of the season and it seems unlikely that Venice Beach will sprout wings at Epsom, having already acquired a tongue tie and cheekpieces, Donnacha O’Brien will partner him.
An interesting each-way prospect of O’Brien’s at a generous price is Douglas Macarthur (25/1). He was ridden like a pacemaker in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown in early May but held on to beat his more fancied stablemate Yucatan a head. The trouble is that he is drawn wide of the entire field from stall 19 and will have to be some horse to win from that starting point.
Our Preview’s Epsom Derby Betting Tips’ Verdict
This is a fascinating Derby betting market with most of the horses mentioned having claims. O’Brien’s dominance in the big races this season suggests that Cliffs Of Moher (4/1) deserves to head the betting, especially as his stablemates will probably be acting as his supporting cast. They will need to do so effectively as he is drawn fairly wide from stall 13.
Permian (10/1) benefits from a more favourable starting point in stall three which should prove useful as he is usually ridden prominently. He seems very likely to grab place money at least but we have to favour a colt who is also drawn well and could be more progressive.
Martyn Meade’s Eminent has a superb engine that was proved by his record-breaking time in the Craven and he is open to significant improvement stepped up to this trip. Drawn low, he should get plenty of cover and be able to use his stride to maximum effect for jockey Jim Crowley. He is this preview’s Derby betting tip.
- Bet on EMINENT each-way at a best industry price of 7/1 with our top recommended bookie Bet365, who are currently the only firm going ¼ odds a place for the first four. You also get ‘best odds guaranteed’, meaning if his starting price in The Derby is longer than 7/1 then you get the bigger odds.
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Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.