STAR PREVIEW Sat: Epsom Derby Day

The Derby & Oaks
Live on ITV 1HD & ITV Hub from 1:25pm, and Opening Show on 9:30am on ITV4 HD
Live on Racing TV from 12:00pm


No fans, no buses on the hill, no top hats in the enclosures and not a member of the Royal Family to be seen. This is a Derby (4.55) like no other but the result may stay the same as Aidan O’Brien’s Russian Emperor is chosen to take the spoils.

Like most in this field, he was lightly raced at 2 (third on only start), showing middle distance promise that he built on when doing all his best work late to win a Naas maiden in March. That suggested he’d improve a good deal when stepped up in trip so it was no surprise he was sent off favourite for the Derrinstown, although things once again didn’t go his way as Cormorant stole the prize from the front.

Sent to Royal Ascot for the Hampton Court Stakes, he got a much stronger pace to run at and relished that test as he flew home (having been one of the first off the bridle) to catch First Receiver and Berlin Tango in the last couple of strides. He left the impression that he’d relish another step up in trip but his closing sectionals were impressive there, clocking 11.95 from the 3-furlong pole to the 2 furlong pole, 12.01 between the second last and final furlong, and 12.24 for the final furlong; As a comparison, he was just 0.23s (one and a half lengths) slower than Prince Of Wales’s winner Lord North, a comparison which reflects extremely well on him.

The form of the Hampton Court also stands up very well. Second First Receiver was unexposed, but third Berlin Tango had impressed when running out a smooth winner of the Kempton Classic Trial when King Edward VII winner Pyledriver was second (Max Vega fifth) and fourth Juan Elcarno had run a very creditable fifth in the 2,000 Guineas beforehand. That’s one of the best pieces of form in the race and his breeding (and to a lesser extent striding) suggests this trip will be fine; his track form and visual impressions suggest he ought to relish it. Stall 6 is not a worry, and neither is the state of the ground, which is on the slow side at the time of writing – His trainer’s record needs no introduction either and all things told he must have a fighting chance of making it an incredible eight for Aidan O’Brien.

Our ante-post selection of Kameko (1.5 pts each/way for at 8/1 recommended 5 June) ought to provide us with a value run, and he comes with fine form claims, but there are legitimate concerns about him staying the full trip – based on both his breeding and stride analysis, which have him as a miler or ten-furlong horse in the shape of Roaring Lion – even if we have a live contender at the tasty price of 8/1.

English King, who produced perhaps the most stylish performance in the field so far when cantering clear of subsequent Queen’s Vase second Berkshire Rocco in the Lingfield Derby trial, is a worthy favourite in what has the feel of an open renewal. Much has been said about stall 1 for him, but not enough to actively dissuade one from his chances – for all he’s not the selection.

Pyledriver was an impressive winner of the King Edward at Royal Ascot and was very high on the list of contenders; Mogul (fourth there) has long been highly rated and promises to improver from his return at Royal Ascot, but he will need to if he’s to reverse that form and Mohican Heights shaped well there also, for all that the winner would be fancied to come out on top again.

Few horses have the promise of Vatican City, who was denied a run in a messy Irish Guineas before flashing home. He shaped as if extra distance would be no issue there – certainly not ten furlongs – but his breeding doesn’t encourage hugely for further despite having group class siblings at 10 and 12 furlongs. He has huge potential going forward but better days could lie at shorter for him.

Of the other Ballydoyle horses Serpentine, out of Oaks runner-up Remember When, is respected on the basis of a transformation when first-time cheekpieces saw him take apart at Curragh maiden from the front last week. This could hardly be a bigger step up, but he would be dangerous off the front end without much attention. Mythical has proven disappointing after running away with a Gowran maiden and Amhran Na Bhfiann didn’t show enough at Leopardstown to suggest he’s ready for his yet. Gold Maze, another Irish challenger, couldn’t land a blow in a weaker Derby last week.

Highland Chief did us a huge favour when coming with a rattling run to take the Golden Gates handicap at Royal Ascot, relishing a strongly run and stiff ten furlongs, and doing so off a mark of 101. He wasn’t right when beaten in the Royal Lodge last year, and being out of a 1m4f Group 3 winner, will surely relish this trip today, whilst the ground ought to be no issue either, and he is a fair each/way shout for those wanting a big priced selection.

Of the rest, Max Vega is hard to fancy on his return form, whilst Khalifa Sat and Emissary both impressed with their attitudes in the Cocked Hat Stakes but neither screamed Derby contender on a line through third Celestin there (beat 6th in King George Handicap at Yarmouth the time before). Worthily, an impressive Newbury maiden winner, has been given a big vote of confidence by John Gosden to come straight here and has had his form franked since, but he is not the only horse of huge promise in a fascinating renewal.

In The Oaks (3.40) 1,000 Guineas winner Love is hugely respected and should take the beating, but the manner in which Frankly Darling won the Ribblesdale was that of an Oaks winner all over and she gets the vote to give John Gosden yet another triumph. Many have made the case that she was better positioned that Ennistymon (Ribblesdale second) at Royal Ascot, and the runner up certainly needs respect here, but she had more in hand than her winning margin and hopefully that experiences will have made her more tractable.

It would be no surprise if Gold Wand ran a big race although this will ask much more of her than beating three debutants and others are just as unexposed. There’s no obvious reason for Passion or Bharani Star to reverse Ascot form, and whilst Queen Daenarys wasn’t suited by the way the Pretty Polly unfolded, the winner and third let that form down at Ascot and there’s been no excuse for the poor effort of Tiempo Vuela in that contest.

Elsewhere on the card, in the Woodcote Stakes (1.50), Modern News is given another chance after not firing over 7 furlongs on soft ground in the Chesham at Royal Ascot, based on the impression he left in the final furlong on debut at Newmarket. The course is a slight worry for him but if he gets balanced in time he should be suited by the last furlong. Twaasol, Mutazawwed, and Inhaler are all respected whilst connections who have useful juvenile stock have shown faith in Calcutta Cup.

All the form Safe Voyage has shown gives him a cracking chance in the Surrey Stakes (2.25), and as long as the ground doesn’t go too fast then he can be too strong for Shine So Bright, Oh This Is Us and Daarik. Shine So Bright, who is worth forgiving for his Royal Ascot run, is the main threat.

Desert Icon looks ahead of his mark in the Investec Handicap (3.00) but not ahead of the market against other progressive types.

The Princess Elizabeth Stakes (4.15) is a fascinating contest. The impressive Chelmsford novice stakes winner Foorat (sister to 1m1f-1m2f Group 1 winner Benbatl out of the same connections’ 1m2f Group 1 winner Nahrain) is an exciting prospect, but so too is Love And Thunder, who was just beaten by a subsequent Group 2 runner-up at Deauville (7.5f, AW) on her sole run for Andre Fabre before winning a Newbury novice stakes in good style on her stable debut three weeks ago.

The pair of them face a good yardstick in Cloak Of Spirits, who might have found the ground too slow when well beaten in the Coronation Stakes and it looks like a contest to sit and watch.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Modern News 1 pt win in 1.50 Epsom at 2/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Safe Voyage 2 pts win in 2.25 Epsom at evs with starsports.bet
BACK Frankly Darling 2 pts win in 3.50 Epsom at 13/8 with starsports.bet
BACK Russian Emperor 2 pts win in 4.55 Epsom at 11/2with starsports.bet


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