The 2015 Investec Derby at Epsom looks the most open renewal of this prestigious contest for years (4.30pm, Saturday). There is plenty of talent but not one proven Group 1 performer crying out for the Derby distance of a mile and a half.
The 6/4 favourite Golden Horn is unbeaten in his three starts and looked stunningly impressive when winning the Dante over a mile and a quarter at York. But he was not even entered here at the time. This talented son of Cape Cross is not ideally bred to get the extra two furlongs and was booked to contest the French Derby (run over a mile and a quarter) instead.
After the Dante his jockey William Buick said that ‘he had twice as much pace as anything else in the race’ and that it was just a case of ‘point and shoot.’ Golden Horn had settled beautifully behind his more exuberant rivals and won going away.
Buick thought that he would stay further but his trainer John Gosden had to persuade Anthony Oppenheimer, his owner/breeder, to supplement him. Oppenheimer believes that Golden Horn is the right type to handle Epsom, describing him as ‘the right height and right length’ but admits that the final furlong ‘is in the lap of the gods’. His horse’s ability to settle probably lessens the need for divine intervention. Frankie Dettori (pictured) will be on board at Epsom.
Dante form has never been reversed in the Derby but Dettori fears Golden Horn’s stablemate Jack Hobbs who started as the favourite but finished second, beaten nearly three lengths at York. Dettori’s opinion ought to be an informed one as he rode him.
Gosden pointed out afterwards that, whilst Buick had the perfect passage on the inside, Jack Hobbs had raced three wide throughout. This son of Halling was also a bit keen, still rather green and was not helped by getting bumped a furlong from home.
In his only other start this season Jack Hobbs romped home in a handicap at Sandown to win by 12 lengths under Dettori in April, never coming off the bridle.
Dettori said after the Dante that Jack Hobbs was still ‘a big baby’ and took a while to realise what was being asked of him as he came under pressure for the first time. That may well be the case but, when asked for an effort, his mount looked less than comfortable, holding his head at a strange angle.
When both Gosden’s runners had a trial spin round Epsom at ‘Breakfast with the Stars’ the feedback was positive but Jack Hobbs’ head carriage looked awkward once again. He is a big rangy type who does not appear to be ideally configured for the undulations of Epsom.
When Dettori was asked after the Dante if Jack Hobbs would handle the course there was a meaningful pause before he gave a distinctly unconvincing ‘Yes’. Godolphin must have believed him. They have bought into the colt. He will carry their blue colours and first jockey William Buick on Saturday.
Andrew Balding’s Elm Park, was beaten by six lengths into third in the Dante but is worth looking at here. It was his seasonal debut and, having raced keenly, he only succumbed in the last 150 yards. Balding admitted beforehand that his horse would come on for the run and was pleased with his performance.
Elm Park was beaten by a similar distance in his debut last season and went on to win his next four starts, including the Juddmonte and the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. Balding saddled his sire, Phoenix Reach, successfully in three Group 1s over a mile and a half overseas, including the Hong Kong Vase.
Unlike most of his rivals, Elm Park has a Group 1 and Group 2 victory to his name and can reasonably be expected to get the distance. The concerns are that he seems to perform best with give in the ground and that he is a big horse who is not naturally well balanced. He has a high head carriage and wears a sheepskin noseband.
He struggled with the dip at Newmarket and changed legs frequently on his recent canter round Epsom. He is rated only 1lb lower than the favourite and has more stamina in his pedigree but, with quick ground and undulations ahead, it is difficult to see him providing Balding with his first Derby winner.
The trainer with the best recent Derby form is Aidan O’Brien. He has saddled the last three winners and has a total of five victories to his name. This year he sends out a trio of horses. Could Hans Holbein (12/1) emulate his 2013 winner, Ruler Of The World?
Like Ruler Of The World, Hans Holbein won the Chester Vase, run over a mile and a half, sporting cheekpieces. He made all, beating William Haggas’ Storm The Stars by nearly two lengths on soft ground. Stamina is not in question for this son of Montjeu but does he have the speed to get the better of his rivals – especially on decent ground. The booking of Seamie Heffernan suggests he is the third choice of the O’Brien team.
A quick surface should not inconvenience his stablemate Kilimanjaro (20/1). Whilst Hans Holbein has repaid his 50K price as a yearling in prize money, this son of High Chaparral stood ‘the lads’ in for 275K guineas and has over £200K to win for them to break even.
He is largely overlooked here but is not without claims for a place at least. He failed to fire as a two-year-old but has won both his starts this season, including the Lingfield Derby Trial. Lingfield does not have the prestige of the Dante but it is still a useful indicator – especially as it is almost the same distance.
This colt has acquired a hood this season suggesting that he might be on the excitable side. If he copes with the hubbub of Derby day Joseph O’Brien is not without hope of gaining his third success.
Giovanni Canaletto (7/1) has attracted much more support in the Derby betting market. This son of Galileo is a full brother to Ruler Of The World who went into the Derby unbeaten. Giovanni Canaletto does not. He was sent off as the odds-on favourite in both his starts last season but finished third on his debut. He rewarded his followers second time out when scoring easily in a maiden over a mile.
In his only outing this season in late May he started as the evens favourite but missed out by a neck in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes over a mile and a quarter on good ground. He has gained a higher official rating than either of his stablemates but his high head carriage (he was wearing a sheepskin noseband) does not inspire confidence in his ability to handle Epsom. On the positive side, he will benefit from the assistance of Ryan Moore.
A horse from a very different stable is Success Days (16/1). His trainer Ken Condon has a comparatively tiny operation in Co Kildare with around 20 inmates. As a two-year-old Success Days was sent off at 25/1 when he won his maiden second time out. This son of Jeremy has become the stable star, winning all of his three starts this season. The last two were achieved in good style in Group 3 contests on testing ground over a mile and a quarter at Leopardstown.
It would be a great story if this striking grey could put one on the board for a small trainer. He looks like a Derby horse, being compact rather than rangy but tends to hang and ‘veer about’. He is also unproven in decent company on good ground. Rated 117, the handicapper has him just 2lb below Golden Horn making him a good value each-way prospect.
French raider Epicuris (20/1) is currently best known for having an aversion to the stalls, so that is the first hurdle supporters of this Criquette Head trained colt have to overcome. His latest run saw him defeated by Silverwave who was a subsequent ninth in the French Derby. On face value that is not enough to prevail here but it was Epicuris’ first race of the season and on heavy ground. He was an unbeaten two-year-old and a Group 1 winner. The trainer tends to know the merit of her inmates and she would not make the trip from France if she did not believe Epicuris could trouble the judge.
Moheet (50/1) met trouble in running in the 2000 Guineas but was beaten less than eight lengths when 7th to Gleneagles. His odds may prove to be a shade on the long side.
Epsom Derby Preview Betting Tips Conclusion
Golden Horn is a worthy favourite, assuming the Dante is actually the best form we have seen and it isn’t always. There is a stamina doubt which would be exacerbated if any significant rain fell at the track. He may continue the good record of favourites in this race but at around 6/4 he represents little value.
If the heavens opened then Irish raider Success Days would become very attractive and his price would contract markedly.
The O’Brien first string Giovanni Canaletto must be a good worker at home judging by the money that has come for him and Ryan Moore has chosen him over stablemates Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro. However Moore’s mount does not yet boast the necessary form in the book to justify his single-figure odds. Possibly the best value lies with the overlooked O’Brien second and third strings.
Hans Holbein is likely to make a bold bid from the front to slip the field and stretch any stamina limitations his better-fancied rivals may possess. It could play into the hands of Kilimanjaro, who caught the eye when winning the always-unfashionable Lingfield Derby Trial.
Kilimanjaro has a seriously improving profile, having won a mere Dundalk maiden prior to his last-to-first victory at the Surrey track. He has a major chance of giving jockey Joseph O’Brien his third Epsom Derby winner. Of all the runners, this son of Derby winner High Chaparral is one of only two (the other being Hans Holbein) guaranteed to get this mile and a half trip.
- He can be the first since High Rise in 1998 to win at Lingfield and go on to land the Epsom Derby. Bet on KILIMANJARO each-way at best odds of 20/1 with SkyBet or Coral.