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The Cazoo Derby: Runner-by-runner guide to the Epsom showpiece

By Harry Allwood@harry_allwood
Sat 5 Jun 2021

Harry Allwood puts each Cazoo Derby contender under the microscope plus reveals his big-race verdict.

Who wins this year's Cazoo Derby? Bolshoi Ballet has been all the rage at the head of the betting following his Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial romp last month, and his price has also contracted after Aidan O'Brien declared none of his stablemates for the Epsom showpiece.

This will be the first time the Ballydoyle team have relied on just one runner in the world's greatest Flat race since 2004 as they seek their ninth victory in the race, and I would not be surprised if their charge was sent off a shade of odds-on.

A Classic winner, a dual Group One winner plus a rival that has already beaten him are among his opposition, though, and if you take out the favourite, it looks a wide-open contest.

There has also been a significant change in the ground conditions following persistent rain on Friday, with the going officially changed to good to soft. Based upon the times of the first couple of races on Friday, the ground appears to be verging on soft, which it could be ahead of Saturday's race if the rain continues to fall.

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Below is a guide to the 12 contenders plus a big-race verdict. Good luck.

1. ADAYAR

Sire: Frankel. Trainer: Charlie Appleby. Rating: 107. Draw: 1. Odds: 40-1.

Positives: Nicely bred colt who has shaped as though the Derby trip will suit, and his run in the Lingfield Derby Trial all but confirmed his stamina for this distance. Appears versatile ground-wise and, judged by his size, will only get better with age.

Negatives: Sluggish out of the stalls on his past two starts and was no match for Third Realm at Lingfield, so it is difficult to see him reversing form with that rival, especially from stall one. Other contenders also look to have stronger form.

Verdict: This looks a tough ask and he will need everything to fall right if he is to make an impact from his draw.

2. BOLSHOI BALLET

Sire: Galileo. Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Rating: 117. Draw: 9. Odds: 5-4.

Watch a full replay of Bolshoi Ballet's impressive Derrinstown success

Positives: Has taken his form to another level this season and has been strong at the line on his past two starts over 1m2f, so it’s unlikely the extra two furlongs will be an issue here, especially as he’s by Galileo. Won the Derrinstown Derby Trial in a fast time when last seen and is Ballydoyle’s only runner in the race plus has a good draw.

Negatives: Failed to sparkle on his only start at Group One level last year, although heavy ground was to blame on that occasion. Although he defeated Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney in the Derrinstown, Jim Bolger’s charge did have excuses on that occasion which makes the form questionable given the second and fifth have disappointed since.

Verdict: Seems straightforward, ticks plenty of boxes and is sure to stay the trip, so looks the one to beat.

3. GEAR UP

Sire: Teofilo. Trainer: Mark Johnston. Rating: 112. Draw: 6. Odds: 40-1.

Mark Johnston discusses Gear Up's Cazoo Derby credentials

Positives: Already a Group One winner and defeated Bolshoi Ballet in France last year. Shaped as though he needed the run when fifth on his return in the Dante where he travelled well before fading. Showed a good attitude in his three victories last season and his career best was on heavy ground, so should have no problem handling the ground conditions. He’s also bred to be a better three-year-old and is closely related to horses that stayed 1m4f.

Negatives: Has a few lengths to find with Hurricane Lane on their Dante run and his win at Group One level was a muddling event in testing conditions. His trainer has never won this contest and it is also a concern that he didn’t appear to handle the track at Newmarket that well last season.

Verdict: Likely to improve for his seasonal return but others hold stronger credentials.

4. HURRICANE LANE

Sire: Frankel. Trainer: Charlie Appleby. Rating: 112. Draw: 5. Odds: 9-1.

Angus McNae analyses Hurricane Lane's Dante victory

Positives: Stayed on strongly to land the Dante last time out, defeating some useful rivals and that is arguably the best British form on offer here. He’s by Frankel and his dam stayed two miles, so should relish this step up in trip, especially as he took a while to get going at York. Unbeaten in three starts and won at Newmarket on debut, which was on heavy ground, and that bodes well for him handling Epsom.

Negatives: You can pick holes in the form of his Dante success – some of his rivals weren’t seen to best effect - and quicker conditions on Saturday will pose a question mark. He hasn’t got as much experience as some of his rivals, although has looked professional so far.

Verdict: Improving colt who has shown a good attitude and he makes plenty of each-way appeal, especially as four horses in the past 20 years have completed the Dante-Derby double.

5. JOHN LEEPER

Sire: Frankel. Trainer: Ed Dunlop. Rating: 106. Draw: 12. Odds: 8-1.

John Leeper raced keenly en route to victory at Newmarket

Positives: Bred to be a champion and looked a high-class colt in the making when winning a Listed contest last time out. Plenty went wrong for him in that falsely-run race and it was encouraging he found more under pressure once he hit the rising ground. His breeding certainly suggests this trip will be in his favour and a faster pace should help him settle. Drawn 12, but that is likely to help him and has Frankie Dettori on board.

Negatives: Raced keenly at Newmarket which he won’t be able to get away with on Saturday and the form of his Listed win is not as strong as what others have achieved. He also appears to still have some maturing to do, so this may be a step too far at this stage of his career.

Verdict: Needs to take another step forward but is improving and there’s a good chance he’s got bundles of improvement left in him.

6. MAC SWINEY

Sire: New Approach. Trainer: Jim Bolger. Rating: 119. Draw: 8. Odds: 8-1.

Mac Swiney showed a good attitude to defeat Poetic Flare in the Irish 2,000 Guineas

Positives: Dual Group One winner who had excuses when defeated by Bolshoi Ballet in the Derrinstown and bounced back when pulling out all the stops to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas last time out. That is the strongest piece of form on offer and his sire won this race in 2008, so he is likely to stay the extra four furlongs. Has always been considered a Derby contender by his trainer and his experience will stand him in good stead. He’s also officially the highest-rated contender in the field.

Negatives: Hasn’t been the most consistent and it is a concern his below-par efforts have all been on good ground, although it will be a positive for him if the ground continues to ease at Epsom. Had a hard race in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and has only had a fortnight to recover plus he’s had eight starts, so may not have as much potential as some of his less-experienced rivals.

Verdict: Sure to be involved in the finish if he stays the trip, and although his career-best efforts have been in testing conditions, it may just be that his stamina has come into play in those contests, and he’s found the ground too quick over inadequate trips on his other starts. The one to beat on form and it is wise to think he is a middle-distance performer.

7. MOHAAFETH

Sire: Frankel. Trainer: William Haggas. Rating: 111. Draw: 4. Odds: 7-1.

Mohaafeth barely came off the bridle when successful at Newmarket last time out

Positives: Didn’t show a huge amount as a two-year-old but has taken a big step forward this season and improved on each start. Hugely impressive when defeating the 107-rated Secret Protector in a Listed contest last time out and relishes faster ground. He looks sure to stay this trip with stamina in his pedigree and has improved for the step up to ten furlongs on his past two starts.

Negatives: The manner of his victory last time out may have been exaggerated with the runner-up off the bridle a long way from home and probably didn’t show his best. The third also didn’t appear to handle the track. The form of his previous victory in a handicap is below the standard needed to be competitive here as well.

Verdict: Rapidly improving but probably needs to find another chunk of improvement to land a blow, although it’s not out of the equation that he will do, based upon his breeding.

8. MOJO STAR

Sire: Sea The Stars. Trainer: Richard Hannon. Rating: -- Draw: 10. Odds: 100-1.

Watch how Mojo Star fared on his latest start

Positives: Has shown plenty of promise on his first two starts and pulled clear with a well-related gelding, who has won again since, last time out. Half-brother to the useful Turgenev and is drawn in the most successful stall in Derby history.

Negatives: He’s by Sea The Stars, but there isn’t bundles of stamina in his pedigree and this looks a tough ask at this stage of his career.

Verdict: Clearly has a bright future, but looks out of his depth here.

9. ONE RULER

Sire: Dubawi. Trainer: Charlie Appleby. Rating: 114. Draw: 11. Odds: 25-1.

Watch a full replay of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas

Positives: Group Three winner who was only narrowly beaten by Mac Swiney in the Vertem Futurity last year. Has handled Newmarket well and connections are confident Epsom won’t be a hinderance to him plus he doesn’t seem ground dependant. Likely to strip fitter for his run in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas and pleased connections in a recent racecourse gallop.

Negatives: His breeding suggests he will not be suited by this step up in trip, and he hasn’t shaped as though he’s crying out for 1m4f, either. Looks the stables second string on paper and even if he does stay the trip, he has work to do to trouble the leading players.

Verdict: Has plenty of ability and is one of the highest-rated contenders, but this trip poses a big question mark.

10. SOUTHERN LIGHTS

Sire: Sea The Stars. Trainer: Joseph O’Brien. Rating: 104. Draw: 3. Odds: 20-1.

Southern Lights was unlucky not to finish closer in the Derrinstown

Positives: The further he went, the better he looked when successful in a 1m2f maiden in April and would have probably finished second in the Derrinstown had he not been hampered. Has shaped like a middle-distance performer and a strong gallop should suit.

Negatives: Wouldn’t have got close to Bolshoi Ballet in the Derrinstown even with a clear run and it’s hard to see him getting any closer on Saturday.

Verdict: He’s progressive, but needs to take another big step forward to be in the mix.

11. THIRD REALM

Sire: Sea The Stars. Trainer: Roger Varian. Rating: 108. Draw: 2. Odds: 14-1.

"He has all the right credentials" - Roger Varian on Third Realm

Positives: Made a striking move on the downhill run into the straight when landing the Lingfield Derby Trial, so should have no problem handling Epsom. Ought to have learnt plenty in that contest as he was still green under pressure and is one of the few in this field that have proved they stay the trip. He’s a half-brother to several high-class performers, including Group One winner Ajman Princess, and has won on soft.

Negatives: Ran around under pressure at Lingfield which could lead to him becoming unbalanced in the home straight at Epsom. The form of his Derby Trial win does not look that strong, either, and stall two isn't ideal.

Verdict: Holds each-way claims with less boxes to tick than most.

12. YOUTH SPIRIT

Sire: Camelot. Trainer: Andrew Balding. Rating: 111. Draw: 7. Odds: 33-1.

Andrew Balding tells us more about Youth Spirit

Positives: Has always shaped as though middle-distances would suit and confirmed that was the case when producing a career-best in the Chester Vase last time out. Khalifa Sat finished second at a big price in last year’s Derby for his connections and he’s progressive plus ought to have more to offer over this trip. He's also relished cut in the ground.

Negatives: It didn’t look the strongest renewal of the Chester Vase he won last time out – a couple of his main rivals also ran below-par - and the form he showed prior to that falls short of what others have achieved here.

Verdict: It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him run well, although further improvement is required on the form he has shown so far.

HARRY'S BIG-RACE VERDICT:

Rory Cleary discusses Mac Swiney's victory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas

Bolshoi Ballet looks to have all the right credentials to win a Derby and is deservedly favourite following his impressive Derrinstown success where he recorded a fast time. It is also significant that he is Ballydoyle’s only runner this year and has strong claims of providing Aidan O’Brien with his ninth Derby victory.

However, at 5-4, he does look a shade short now and I’d rather side with a contender each-way.

The one who makes the most appeal at the prices is MAC SWINEY on his first attempt over 1m4f. He has a few lengths to find with the favourite on their Derrinstown run, but he had excuses on that occasion as he scoped dirty afterwards and quickly bounced back to form in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Interestingly, Jim Bolger said that contest was a prep run for the Derby, so he may come on for the run again and although he’s unproven over this trip, his breeding points to him relishing the extra four furlongs.

I don’t think he is necessarily ground dependant, either, as he has been unable to show his best over shorter trips on a quicker surface, and his stamina has come into play over a mile in testing conditions. However, the ease in the going can only be beneficial to him given he's already proven on soft and heavy ground.

He has the strongest form next to his name, and Jim Bolger said last season his son of New Approach is his Derby horse for this year. Let’s hope Mac Swiney can follow in the footsteps of his sire and claim the Classic showpiece on Saturday.

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