Heads or tails? It's a little simplistic when we are talking about the greatest Flat race of them all but the bookmakers effectively make this year’s Cazoo Derby a toss-of-the-coin job with Bolshoi Ballet about Evens to provide Aidan O’Brien with a ninth winner of the great race.
It was tough to find chinks in the favourite’s armour even before O’Brien took us all by surprise on Wednesday afternoon by announcing his five other entries left in the race would not be coming to the party.
That sends a loud message that Bolshoi Ballet has not stood still since his runaway win in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown last month, when the Galileo colt stamped himself as Coolmore's number one candidate for Epsom. The rain that fell at the track on Friday will not have damaged his chances, either.
Is Bolshoi Ballet too short in the Derby betting? The On The Wire team give their selections
It is a little surprising his connections have not afforded him the luxury of a pacemaker – an O’Brien-trained runner has usually taken the field along since 2008 – but Bolshoi Ballet has generally led or raced close to the pace in his past four races and perhaps that offers a clue that his connections are happy to entertain the idea of him taking the race by the scruff of its neck. It didn’t do Serpentine any harm last year, or Slip Anchor or Reference Point before him.
Unfortunately, I’m already playing catch-up on the race after having an ante-post bet on Sir Lamorak, who will be standing idle in his box at Ballydoyle when the runners are sent on their way at 4.30pm. I’m not inclined to chase my losses but have got five other bets on the card.
2.00 Epsom: Patient Dream at a general 9-2
He looked an improved performer here on his return in April when winning in good style (watch above) against seven rivals over an extended mile.
That showed the track holds no fears for him and the manner in which he saw his race out, coupled with his middle-distance pedigree, suggests this longer trip will also suit.
Patient Dream has been pushed up 7lb but the form of his return win has a glow with second, third, fourth, sixth and eighth all winning since, and the fifth going close at Ascot. With Oisin Murphy taking over in the saddle, I thought everything pointed to him being a short-priced favourite but there is plenty of 9-2 on offer.
3.10 Epsom: Duke Of Hazzard at a general 8-1
The bad news is that it’s been almost two years since he last won and that he finished behind a couple of rivals who he faces again when finishing seventh of nine runners on his return at Ascot at the end of April.
However, he shaped really well in that contest without his usual blinkers when one of the last off the bridle. It looked a clear case of him needing the run, like in previous campaigns, and his connections on Friday reported him to be in rude health.
Duke Of Hazzard ran well to be placed in the Summer Mile (behind Mohaather) and Lennox Stakes (Space Blues) after his return last year and this represents an easier assignment for the 2019 Celebration Mile winner, who will be re-equipped with headgear and will have the services of Frankie Dettori for the first time.
He's not had much racing on softish ground but, being by Lope De Vega, it should not be an issue.
3.45 Epsom: Recon Mission at 12-1 with bet365
A high draw on the stands’ side is generally perceived as an advantage in the Dash but runners drawn either 1 or 2 have taken the spoils four times since 2012 (at 50-1, 16-1, 25-1 and 33-1) plus twice made the frame.
There is also more pace among those drawn low, so hopefully there will be no excuses for Recon Mission from stall 2.
The five-year-old took full advantage of a sliding mark when winning over course and distance in April. You can watch the closing stages above. He has been nudged up 3lb and this is a deeper race but he’s still 10lb lower than when winning a valuable sprint handicap at York two years ago plus Ray Dawson takes another 3lb off his back. Easy ground is no issue for him.
5.15 Epsom: Group One Power at 7-2 with bet365
He went into plenty of notebooks when a close fourth to Hukum in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and was having only his second race since then (and just sixth in total) when making all in the Great Metropolitan Handicap here in April.
It wasn’t a great renewal of the race, but he did fend off course specialist Soto Sizzler, who he meets again, and followed it with another bold display at Ascot last time when ridden a tad too aggressively on the soft ground.
Nevertheless, Group One Power fended off all bar Louganini with the rest well strung out behind him. In the circumstances, a 2lb rise looks lenient and he is likely to take plenty of stopping.Start your free one month trial of Racing TV now and enjoy all the action from Britain and Ireland!
5.50 Epsom: Danzeno at a general 7-1 (NOW A NON-RUNNER)
I’m not in the habit of backing 10-year-olds burdened with top weight returning from eight months off but am happy to make an exception with Danzeno, a remarkable horse who has now had a three-figure rating for seven years.
He seemed almost as good as ever last year, running well in the Wokingham on his return and then being placed in each of his other six races – including when runner-up in the Portland.
This is not quite so competitive as the numbers suggest and if he’s somewhere near his best then he will, at the very least, be hard to keep out of the frame. My one niggle is that he is using this to blow away the cobwebs before a fifth tilt at the Wokingham but that cavalry charge is not far away and so I don’t imagine him being too rusty. This is a decent prize in its own right and he's versatile regards then ground.
How To Bet £20 on Cazooo Derby Day
General prices in brackets.
2.00 Epsom: Patient Dream £6 win at a general 9-2
3.10 Epsom: Duke Of Hazzard £3.50 win at a general 8-1
3.45 Epsom: Recon Mission £2.50 win at 12-1 with bet365
5.15 Epsom: Group One Power £4 win at 7-2 with bet365
5.50 Epsom: Danzeno £2 each-way at a general 7-1
£1.30 Win Patent costing £9.10
2.00 Epsom: Patient Dream (9-2)
3.10 Epsom: Duke Of Hazzard (8-1)
5.15 Epsom: Group One Power (7-2)
20p Win Super Yankee costing £5.20. Above trio with
3.45 Epsom: Recon Mission (10-1)
5.50 Epsom: Danzeno (7-1)
10p Win Heinz costing £5.70. Above quintet with
4.30 Epsom: Bolshoi Ballet (5-4)
Select any odd to add a bet