STAR PREVIEW: Derby Day Epsom

Aidan O’Brien might not have been a happy man at the end of yesterday’s racing but he is not one to give up and he goes at today’s Derby with a squad of seven, aptly perhaps – given a win today would be his seventh success in the race.

One of his seven does make our final two, but the horse who receives the win verdict is Telecaster, who has made remarkable progress in his short career. Beaten on debut by fellow contestant Bangkok, he’s since made big strides in winning a Windsor novice stakes by nine lengths and then taking the Dante at York.

That day he had to get the better off Too Darn Hot, last season’s Champion two-year-old who was then second in the Irish Guineas just a week later. He travelled very impressively that day when on the hind quarters of the leader Turgenev, and whilst some have queried the early pace that day, he ended up six and quarter lengths clear of the pacemaker and there was a gap of five lengths from second Too Darn Hot to the third Surfman.

He must prove today that he can a) stay and b) back up that effort from three weeks ago, but his exceptional breeding suggests he can do both; Telecaster is a son of 2008 Derby winner New Approach, and out of Shirocco Star, who was an agonisingly close second to Was in the 2013 Oaks, both of whom did so off 14 day gaps.

Frankly a bigger negative is the fact he’s in stall 2, which has a terrible record in the Derby, Oaks and Coronation Cup – even when corrected for SP – but everything else about him just appeals too much and perhaps sitting back off a stronger pace will help matters.

Bangkok beat Telecaster on his debut – and did so in tidy style and he’s since won the Sandown Classic trial impressively, but Telecaster was making his debut whilst Bangkok had already seen plenty of action and it’s entirely possible that Telecaster has improved past him.

The one that makes most appeal of The O’Brien seven is Circus Maximus. He was getting 5lbs from runner up Mohawk that day, but had a lot more in the tank than his winning margin suggested and cheek pieces might help him focus more today. His juvenile form, meanwhile, is easily amongst the best in the field. He was third only to Magna Grecia and Persian King in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket when he handled the dip well, and then he was fourth behind Magna Grecia and Phoenix of Spain in the Vertem Futurity. He was just behind the strong stayer Western Australia – since a winner over 1m 5f there – and the skills of Frankie Dettori here are simply a bonus.

Sir Dragonet was a very impressive winner of the Chester Vase, following on from his excellent win on debut when he once again surprised Ballydoyle. The time of that win – better than the Chester Oaks by over a second (with Norway, eight length second, reopposing) – underlines the class of the performance, although this is a different kettle of fish, racing over Epsom’s unique course on extremely fast ground, and he will have to race better than he did early on at the Roodee even if the hill should see him fly home.

It was hard not to pick Broome, the winner of the Ballysax Stakes and then the Derrinstown Stud Derby trial, especially in light of his strong late runs in both, but he was significantly less impressive on the better ground last time and the market looks to have found him now.

Madhmoon’s Guineas fourth was an excellent run and he beat Broome comprehensively over a mile as a juvenile, so he needs respect even though he might end up being a 10-furlong horse later in the season.

Anthony Van Dyck has only run badly once in his life – that coming at Churchil Downs when he didn’t handle the track at the Breeders’ Cup – and he was very game in victory at Lingfield when he knuckled down well to take their Derby trial. He showed a log of stamina on soft ground there and handled the course perfectly, so ought to be thereabouts and improvement is expected given how he drifted before the off that day.

Japan is one to fear. A game winner of the Beresford Stakes last season, he had several hold ups before his reappearance in the Dante, when he was caught flat footed by the change in pace by speedier types. He made a decent late run for fourth there, but he ought to improve more than perhaps any horse from Ballydoyle and 12 furlongs should be right up his street.

Sovereign is a nice horse but looks exposed, Hiroshima shouldn’t be good enough, Humanitarian needs this trip but is taking a giant leap in class, and Line of Duty’s reappearance was a dire effort.

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There’s no great appetite to play in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes (2.35) or the Diomed (3.10) given that both Sir Michael Stoute favourites are very hard to weigh up whilst having their own questions, and the Investec Dash (3.45), the traditional betting challenge, makes much more appeal.

Epsom’s idiosyncratic five furlongs – the fastest five furlongs on the planet – really does suit course specialists but one of the closest relations would be Goodwood, where Just Glamorous made a fine debut for Grace Harris when beaten just a nose nearly a month ago. Previously a group class horse with Ronald Harris – indeed he slammed Marsha by three lengths when earning a rating of 113 – he would then go onto win a Listed event and finish second in a handicap off 106. Rated just 86 following a poor season in 2018, he appeared to have benefitted from a break when lightning quick at Goodwood and the fact he went well odds on in the run bodes well, especially if one assumes he improved for the outing.

Not many three year olds run in this, but Recon Mission is of interest based on two good efforts in three-year-old handicaps this year. He was too active on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown when he was caught late on by Leodis Dream, and then got going too late at Chester when flashing home for second. A high draw has proven useful in this race and if he can get a good spot early on, then he might come home much better than some.

Duke of Firenze, Muthmir and Harome were the others on the shortlist.

The Investec Private Banking Handicap (2.00) is always a fun, competitive affair and so is the London Gold Cup where The Trader came fifth. He ran into a decent opponent on his return at Chelmsford and in the London Gold Cup, he was one of a couple to make a big move from three to two furlongs out and he paid for that a little when he faded into fifth.

Mark Johnston’s team are in flying form with seven winners in the last fortnight and if previous seasons are anything to go by then the London Gold Cup form will be worth following. Nayef Road and Politicise are the big threats, with the performance of the former important as a Derby reference guide.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)

2.00 – Investec Private Banking Handicap (Class 2) (3yo 0-105)
BACK The Trader 2 pts win at 7/2 with

3.45 – Investec “Dash” Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+)
BACK Just Glamorous 1 pt each/way at 16/1 with
BACK Recon Mission 1 pt each/way at 14/1 with

4.30 The Derby
BACK Telecaster 2 pts win at 9/2 with
BACK Circus Maximus 1 pt each/way at 9/1 with

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