The Epsom Derby is the most prestigious and valuable Classic of the English flat season (4pm Saturday). This year’s betting market seems to be fuelled by rumours rather than fact and provides an interesting opportunity for pragmatic punters.
No horse has won this race at a starting price of more than 7/1 since the turn of the century but the market is so distorted by the ‘Australia factor’ that the usual principles may not apply.
Aidan O’Brien’s Australia (6/4) has been the long term hot favourite, at times odds-on, even though he is unproven beyond a mile and has only a single Group 3 victory to his name. Yes, he is perfectly bred for this race. His sire Galileo won it by a decent margin and his dam, Ouija Board, took the Oaks by an even larger one but stamina is not always inherited.
This season we have only seen him once, finishing third by three quarters of a length to Richard Hannon’s Night Of Thunder in the 2,000 Guineas. It was a messy race and he did look to be staying on well in the closing stages but we cannot be certain that he will get the distance here or enjoy the undulations of Epsom.
The betting market suggests that Australia is the horse that everyone has to beat. He has supposedly posted superb consecutive fractions at home and the commercially aware annual phrase ‘the best horse I have ever trained’ has been wheeled out yet again.
Have punters forgotten that O’Brien saddled the heavily hyped 4/1 favourite in the 1,000 Guineas, Tapestry, who finished last? He also sent out the favourite in the Lingfield Derby Trial, Mekong River, who finished eight lengths adrift of the field.
In both those races the O’Brien second string (ridden by Ryan Moore) outperformed their more fancied horse ridden by his son, Joseph. Then there was last year’s Epsom Derby, when Ruler of the World provided Moore with victory as the yard’s second string to the more fancied Battle of Merengo.
The O’Brien second string this year, Geoffrey Chaucer (10/1) shortened dramatically in the ante-post Derby betting in late May. There were whispers that the surge of support followed a piece of work in which he outperformed Australia. Could this Ballydoyle rumour be true?
This son of Montjeu started as the successful favourite (unlike Australia) in both his starts last season. After winning his maiden he took the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh, beating his stablemate, Oklahoma City, by just over a length.
In his only run this season he finished nearly three lengths behind Dermot Weld’s Fascinating Rock in the Group 3 Derby Trial Stakes at Leopardstown over a mile and a quarter in May having been eased by Joseph O’Brien. It was not his jockey’s finest hour. He managed to get boxed in amidst a field of just six. It was not a true run race either. They crawled until it became a three furlong sprint and the first past the post by a head, John Oxx’s Ebanoran who bumped into Dermot Weld’s Fascinating Rock, was subsequently demoted to second place in the stewards’ room.
Geoffrey Chaucer will be partnered by Ryan Moore who, like the now retired ultra reliable Mick Kinane, has the balls to take dramatic action if a situation demands it.
Ebanoran is an interesting prospect at 16/1. Oxx has won the Derby twice – with Sinndar in 2000 and Sea The Stars in 2009. This son of Oasis Dream out of a Sadler’s Wells mare is not the hopeless case that his odds would usually suggest. He won his only start as a two-year-old and came third in a 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in March having been held up. His latest run suggests that he might struggle with the extra two furlongs, especially as he is not the easiest horse for his jockey, Declan McDonogh to settle.
Dermot Weld commands respect as a trainer but he has never won the Derby and has saddled disappointing favourites in the past. Fascinating Rock (16/1) looks better qualified to perform well than many here. This son of Fastnet Rock finished fifth in his only start as a two-year-old but is unbeaten, thanks to the stewards’ room, in his three starts over a mile and a quarter this season. He shares a rating of 113 with Ebanoran and has to be in with a shout if he handles the track. It is a fairly big ‘if’ though. His high head carriage and style of running do not look ideal for Epsom.
True Story (12/1) is one of three runners for Godolphin and will carry their first colours. He was the 6/1 second favourite in the Derby betting but drifted dramatically after his odds-on flop in the Dante on good to soft ground. He was beaten not just by Kevin Ryan’s subsequently impressive French Derby winner, The Grey Gatsby, but Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Arod into third.
A son of Manduro out of a Darshaan mare, he is bred to get the distance but is a temperamental type who can be edgy in the preliminaries. True Story’s biggest fan and jockey, Kieren Fallon (pictured), said he thought the colt needed better ground and would benefit from the extra distance after the Dante. Fallon knows how to ride this course and has three Derby wins under his belt but with rain forecast for the day, conditions will probably be less than ideal and he cannot be followed with any confidence here.
Godolphin’s other hopes look to be distant ones. Charlie Appleby’s Sudden Wonder (66/1) finished third in the Lingfield Derby trial but looks likely to be outclassed here, rated 105. His stablemate Pinzolo (66/1) is rated 1lb lower and will have the same problem.
The 16/1 available seems a fairly generous price for Arod as he finished within a length of The Grey Gatsby in the Dante and it was only his third start. He won his maiden over a mile and a quarter in April and came third in his only run last season. He finished strongly in the Dante but, as a son of Teofilo, there has to be some doubt about the additional distance here. Despite that he will improve and the Dante Stakes arguably represents the best form in Europe this year, with the winner’s subsequent brilliance in France. So Arod does looks very interesting each-way, although jockey Jamie Spencer has a tendency to give a horse too much to do and does not always shine in big fields and rough races. Let’s hope it is not yet another Spencer hard luck story.
John Gosden was pleased with the way Western Hymn (14/1) handled his canter round Epsom last week but said that ‘his price of 14/1 was representative of his chances with such an outstanding favourite to beat.’ Is he over-rating Australia or does this colt seem unspectacular at home?
This son of High Chaparral is unbeaten in his three starts and got the better of the Lingfield Derby Trial winner Snow Sky at Newbury in April. He should not be troubled by a bit of cut in the ground and has a realistic chance under William Buick.
Another horse who will enjoy softish going is Roger Varian’s Kingston Hill (7/1). Varian was initially disappointed with his colt’s Guineas performance but, after he had seen the replay was fairly satisfied. He did not break well and finished five lengths behind the winner in eighth. He was unbeaten in his three starts last season, including a four and a half length victory in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. If the rain arrives on time this son of Mastercraftsman is definitely one for the shortlist.
The Ballydoyle third string, Orchestra (14/1) also has a decent chance of performing well under Seamie Heffernan. Like last year’s Derby winner, Ruler Of The World, he won the Group 3 Chester Vase (over a mile and a half) in May on his seasonal debut under Ryan Moore – albeit by a much shorter distance. He beat Gosden’s Romsdal by a nose. He looked a bit green and will probably come on for the run.
By Galileo he is a big, well put together colt who handled the tight turns of Chester surprisingly well. If he also copes with the undulations of Epsom he should be thereabouts at the finish. At least he is proven over the distance.
Epsom Derby Betting Tips Conclusion
The 6/4 favourite Australia might just live up to the hype but he has plenty to prove and provides no value whatsoever at his current price. You can make a case that Arod (16/1) has the best form in the book of all the runners and he does have appeal each-way. Roger Varian’s yard is in great form but Kingston Hill (7/1) looks to need plenty of rain to show his best. If the promised deluge arrives then his price will contract. The favourite’s stablemates Geoffrey Chaucer (10/1) and Orchestra (14/1) both have decent claims but the exceptional assistance of Ryan Moore makes GEOFFREY CHAUCER our each-way Derby betting tips advice at a best price of 10/1 with Bet365, BetVictor or Boylesports.