Aidan O’Brien already has a record eight Cazoo Derby winners to his name and is odds-on to add a ninth at Epsom on Saturday week. Bolshoi Ballet and High Definition dominate the market for the Ballydoyle maestro but it is the trainer’s unheralded Sir Lamorak who is the one begging to be backed at 25-1 with Sky Bet or a general 20-1.
On paper, he hardly screams Derby winner-in-waiting as he was beaten in two maidens at the end of last year; won by by a narrow margin on his return at Dundalk and then followed up in a handicap, off a mark of 85, at Leopardstown last time. Generally, winners of Britain’s premier Classic have to be rated about 120.
But this is O’Brien we are talking about, plus a son of Camelot with plenty of other pluses in his pedigree and lots of untapped potential. O’Brien won last year’s renewal with a colt who won a maiden just a week before and his past three Derby winners have been with his perceived fifth, third and fourth strings, so it can pay to the expect the unexpected.
The style of Sir Lamorak’s victory last time - his first outing on turf away from deep ground - suggested he would soon be making his mark in much better company as he showed terrific acceleration to win in commanding style from well off the pace. That takes some doing at Leopardstown, a track where it often pays to race handy.
He was subsequently declared for the Chester Vase – a race which two of O’Brien’s Derby winners used as a final stepping stone to Epsom – but was pulled out because of the soft ground. So the fact he arrives here after winning a handicap is a little misleading.
He might not have beaten much on his latest start (although enough for the handicapper to push him up 14lb) but the clock backed up the visual impression he created. It’s a far from exact science given the different tempos of the races in question but he won in a time the best part of a second quicker than that recorded by Bolshoi Ballet in the Group Three Ballysax Stakes 35 minutes earlier, plus he was carrying 2lb more.
The manner in which Sir Lamorak finished the race on his latest start indicated another couple of furlongs will do him no harm and, possibly, plenty of good.
His runs in the mud at the end of last season were not devoid of promise, either, as he did not get much room to manoeuvre when fifth to the more experienced Bolshoi Ballet on his debut at Leopardstown before finishing a close fourth over 7f at Curragh soon after came behind rivals who have since made an impact in pattern company.
We simply don't know how good he might be, and at 25-1 he's worth risking.
There’s no disputing that Bolshoi Ballet was impressive when sprinting clear of the opposition in the Derrinstiown Stud Derby Trial back at Leopardstown last time and, bar his general price of 15-8, he ticks just about every box going. Good luck if you are on at fancy odds but all the value has been squeezed out of him.
Keep in mind, too, that O’Brien has landed the Derby seven times when having two or more runners in the race but only on two of those occasions has he won with his shortest-priced runner.
Hurricane Lane and High Definition ran solid trials when first and third, respectively, in the Dante at York. Both should be suited by stepping up in trip, a remark that is also applicable to Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney, who apparently scoped dirty on his previous start who well adrift of Bolshoi Ballet. This trio are all single-figure prices, though, and choosing between them is not easy.
Mohaafeth, John Leeper and Third Realm have accumulated seven wins between this year and add intrigue to what looks a deep race but their form lacks some substance and none are trading at especially fancy prices.
I was half-tempted to have a second small each-way bet on 33-1 chance One Ruler, whose form over a mile stands pretty close inspection. However, he pulled hard early on in the 2000 Guineas and the further I delved into his pedigree the more I became convinced he will not get home.
The Cazoo Oaks, 24 hours earlier, does not have as much depth but O’Brien again dominates the market with Santa Barbara and Snowfall. The former, fourth in the 1000 Guineas on only her second start and bred for middle distances, is likely to be a tough nut to crack but I was taken by Zeyaadah’s reappearance run behind Dubai Fountain in the Cheshire Oaks and she gets my vote.
The winner, among last year’s top juvenile fillies, got the run of the race that day and prevailed by a length but she was getting 3lb from the previously unbeaten Zeyaadah and the story might well have been different had the runner-up not been the umpteenth horse in history to meet traffic problems at that track.
Easy to back beforehand and not given a tough time, Zeyaadah travalled like the best horse in the race and could hardly have shaped much better in defeat. She’s more than entitled to turn the tables on her conqueror and her efforts last year included a defeat of Mystery Angel at Newmarket. That filly has come out and won the Pretty Polly Stakes this term before predictably being tapped for toe in a muddling Musidora.
There seems to be a lot of stable confidence in Zeyaadah’s stablemate, Teona, but she did plenty wrong when third in the Musidora and is going to have to grow up pretty quickly if she is to win the fillies’ Classic. Zeyaadah is a certain stayer and, at this stage, looks more the finished model. I fancy she will be hard to keep out of the frame and the 8-1 on offer with bet365 is too big.
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the Cazoo Derby
£6 win and £7 each-way on Sir Lamorak at 25-1 with Sky Bet in the Cazoo Derby
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the Cazoo Oaks
£10 win and £5 each-way on Zayaadah at 8-1 with bet365 in the Cazoo Oaks
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