Geoffrey Riddle sifts through each of the Investec Derby runners and delivers his blue riband verdict ahead of the 239th running of the Epsom Classic. Watch video analysis from the key British trials from the Racing UK team and get key stats.
I have been watching replays of old Derbys all week and the one thing that I was continually reminded about is the need for tactical speed at Epsom. Of course a horse needs to stay every inch of the 12-furlong undulating and cambered horseshoe, but look at Lammtarra in 1995. He was in sixth place with two furlongs to go. Then whoosh.
Wind the clock back to eight years ago and two and half furlongs out Workforce was about seven lengths adrift of outsider At First Sight, and then ate up the ground to post the fastest time in Derby history.
Look at the aerial shots of Camelot devouring ground in the closing stages to beat Main Sequence and stable companion Astrology in 2012. Of course, rivals are tiring but the blend of stamina and speed, mixed with the agility to handle the unique racecourse is what makes it such a beguiling contest and spectacle.
Watch how the Derby draw unfolded on Thursday plus stats from Nick Luck
Rain this week at Epsom, however, will place more emphasis on stamina – think stayers such as Harzand two seasons ago, and who can forget Sinndar grinding down subsequent Arc and Juddmonte International winner Sakhee into the turf.
And both were bred by the Aga Khan, which for me, could well hold the key to unlock some profit in the market.
Dee Ex Bee - Trainer: Mark Johnston; Jockey: Silvestre De Sousa:
General odds: 25-1
Dee Ex Bee gets in to the race having won the Totepool Conditions Stakes at Epsom in October on heavy ground.
He also ran well when third in the Derby trial in April, so clearly handles the track. Should it rain further in the build up to the race he could well be one to consider as an each-way option, or even just a place selection at big odds.
He was only just behind Young Rascal at Chester and had a wider draw. Although he lacks the scope for improvement of the winner, he should not be more than double his price given the margin of victory.
As a son of 2013 Champion Stakes winner Farhh, out of an unraced mare by 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Seeking The Gold, there will be better stayers in the field though.
Delano Roosevelt - Aidan O’Brien - Seamus Heffernan;
Delano Roosevelt is a son of Galileo, the sire who has produced three Derby winners and who is looking to post a joint-record fourth win this year.
The colt is out of Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Again, who won at the Curragh on soft ground, and he has been seen to best effect on rain-softened surfaces.
Delano Roosevelt was well-backed when second to stablemate Nelson in the Ballysax Stakes on heavy ground in April, and found Hazapour too good in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at the same course last month, despite giving the winner a good tussle in the closing stages.
It is crucial to remember, however, that in the Derrinstown Delano Roosevelt had the benefit of race fitness. He looks a stayer, and if there is more rain he would be of interest for at least a place.
Hazapour - Dermot Weld - Frankie Dettori:
Hazapour was 50-1 for the Derby before he struck on seasonal debut from Delano Roosevelt at Leopardstown in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, a race that has produced Derby winners Sinndar (2000), Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002).
Dermot Weld’s charge showed a decent turn of foot, and held off the runner-up with tenacity.
Hazapour’s pre-race Derby odds were so big because in his past three career starts last season he showed the sort of speed more associated with a ten-furlong horse. Indeed, after the Derrinstown, Dermot Weld revealed he even toyed running the horse in the Group Three Amethyst Stakes over a mile.
On first inspection, Hazapour does not have the stoutest of breeding as he is by French 2,000 Guineas and French Derby winner Shamardal. Pakistan Star became the sire's first top-level winner over 12 furlongs in Hong Kong on Saturday, but like the mercurial Hong Kong talent all the stamina comes from Hazapour’s dam, Hazarafa.
Hazarafa is by Hazariya, who produced Harzand, Hazapour’s uncle and the 2016 Derby winner. Hazarafa is by Daylami, the brilliant grey who had the perfect blend of speed and stamina to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf over 12 furlongs and the Irish Champion Stakes over ten. Both of Hazapour's parents won on soft ground.
The Aga Khan's representative looks to have the blend of a Derby winner, and for those who like the Dosage Index, he comes out as a decent stayer with a score of 1.00.
Stats Amazing - The Aga Khan’s five Derby winners from 14 runners:
1981 – Shergar
1986 – Shahrastani
1988 – Kahyasi
2000 – Sinndar
2016 – Harzand
Kew Gardens - Aidan O’Brien- Donnacha O'Brien
Kew Gardens already has a place in history as Aidan O’Brien’s first Zetland Stakes winner, a race in which the master of Ballydoyle ran last year’s Derby scorer Wings Of Eagles.
Kew Gardens beat Dee Ex Bee that day, and has not won since. He found Mildenberger too good over an inadequate nine furlongs in the Fielden Stakes, carrying a penalty, before going down by more than three lengths to Knight To Behold in the Lingfield Derby trial.
He missed the break, gave chase too early to the winner and then hung left and edged right under pressure.
Kew Gardens is by super sire Galileo, and his dam, Chelsea Rose, was a Listed winner over 12 furlongs. He could well be too slow for this test. He is as big as 25-1 for the St Leger with the sponsor, William Hill, but as short as 12-1 elsewhere.
Knight To Behold - Harry Dunlop - Richard Kingscote:
Knight To Behold is a well-bred son of 2009 Derby winner Sea The Stars out of an unraced mare by Sadler’s Wells.
The first Sea The Stars colt that Harry Dunlop has got his hands on beat Kew Gardens with ease in the Lingfield Derby trial after the masterful Richard Kingscote quite rightly let his mount go to take an easy lead about a mile out.
What the form of that race is worth is a matter of debate, but the time was nothing special.
No Lingfield Derby Trial winner has won the Blue Riband since High-Rise 30 years ago and even impressive winners such as Main Sequence in 2012 came up short at Epsom.
Masar - Charlie Appleby - William Buick:
Masar is a globe-trotting colt who has been tried on multiple surfaces and who does not have the traditional profile of a Derby contender. No Craven winner has struck in the Blue Riband since 1898, when Jeddah doubled up at Epsom at 100-1, for instance.
However, there are positive indicators everywhere you look.
He beat subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Romanised in the Solario at Sandown. He chased home Happily and subsequent French 2,000 Guineas winner Olmedo in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagadere in October. He thrashed subsequent impressive Dante winner Roaring Lion in the Craven at Newmarket. He raced with little company save for Roaring Lion and Nebo when third to Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas. How he is three times the price of Roaring Lion is a mystery.
His sire, New Approach, was second in the Guineas before going on to win the Derby in 2008 and he is out of gutsy UAE Derby winner Khawlah, so his breeding is suited to the Derby, if a little eccentric.
Stats Amazing - Defeated Guineas horses in the Derby:
Since 1946 a total of 11 horses have won the Derby after being beaten in the 2,000 Guineas.
Roaring Lion - John Gosden - Oisin Murphy:
There have been several horses who have shown their best at ten furlongs and their sheer ability and class enabled them to stay the distance in the Derby.
Roaring Lion does not look to be one of them.
He is by Kitten’s Joy, an American sire who has produced two winners over 12 furlongs. One of those was last season’s impressive Sword Dancer winner Sadler’s Joy, while the other was Hawkbill, who won the Dubai Sheema Classic in March with a soft lead.
His dam, Vionnet, who is by 2007 Kentucky Derby hero Street Sense, won over an extended mile. His Dosage Index of 2.64 offers little hope, as it is comfortably the worst in the field with the ten-year average being 0.93.
The Dante Stakes on the flat and galloping Knavesmire at York certainly did not prove the roan colt will stay another two furlongs at Epsom.
The race was run extremely steadily, with the final three furlongs developing into a sprint of eye-popping proportions.
According to Simon Rowlands, the sectional timings expert, Roaring Lion ran the final three furlongs of the Dante in 33.85 seconds, which is faster over that strip of ground than star sprinter Harry Angel in the Duke Of York, and tearaway sprint handicappers George Bowen and El Astronaute.
It was the second fastest final three furlongs of the entire three-day meeting, and it is no surprise to see him the 6-1 favourite for the Coral Eclipse in July.
Aidan O’Brien’s battalions will ensure there will be no hiding place for at least the first mile and by the final two furlongs Roaring Lion is unlikely to have enough in the tank to unleash such a sprint finish, especially if the ground remains soft.
He may even be running on fumes by then anyway.
Saxon Warrior - Aidan O’Brien - Ryan Moore:
Saxon Warrior has been bred specifically for this race. He is one of the first horses Coolmore have bred by Deep Impact, Japan’s supersire who is basically the Galileo of the Far East.
He is out of 2011 Moyglare winner Maybe, a Galileo mare who is sure to be the source of his tactical speed that was for all to see when he won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
With 50-1 outsider Tip Two Win in second, subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas flops Elarqam and Gustav Klimt close behind and sprint aspirants James Garfield and Murillo all failing to underpin the Rowley Mile form since there is a danger Saxon Warrior beat little on his reappearance.
Deep Impact at stud in Japan.
He is unbeaten in four starts, however, and whatever he achieved in the opening leg of the Triple Crown was always going to be a bonus. Soft ground is unlikley to see him at his best.
Stats Amazing - Odds-on favourites__:
There have been 14 odds-on favourites beaten in the Derby. Those to have fluffed their lines include Entrepeneur, who was fourth at 4-6 in 1997, and Tenby at 4-5 in 1993. El Gran Senor was another who was second at 8-11 in 1984.
Camelot was the most recent odds-on winner in 2012, with Shergar demolishing the field before that at 10-11 in 1981. Sir Ivor (4-5) is the only other odds-on winner since the Second World War.
Sevenna Star - John Gosden - Robert Havlin:
Sevenna Star hammered King’s Proctor in heavy ground at Windsor on his first start of the season after a breathing operation, and he rolled in to Esher a fortnight later to deny Ispolini in the Classic Trial at Sandown. Hunting Horn, who has been beaten by Hazapour and Young Rascal, was in third.
He was an unlikely runner, with trainer John Gosden mulling a possible appearance in the King Edward VI Stakes at Royal Ascot but the rain has come and the master of Clarehaven fancies rolling the dice with the hulking son of Australian sire Redoute’s Choice. He looks interesting at 16-1 for the St Leger with William Hill.
The Pentagon - Aidan O’Brien - Wayne Lordan:
The Pentagon is a solid performer, who won his maiden in pleasing fashion on good to firm going. He has shown since that he is clearly talented, finishing on the heels of Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion in the Racing Post Trophy after a three-month layoff and was third in the Ballysax and the Derrinstown.
The son of Galileo and Vadawina, an Aga Khan-bred mare who won the 2005 Prix Saint Alary over 10 furlongs, is sure to relish the trip but unfortunately may be better on faster going. He is another who could pick up the pieces if some of the principals fail for stamina. He is 25-1 for the St Leger.
Stats amazing - big-priced outsiders in the Derby__:
The longest-priced horse placed in the Derby was 500-1 shot Termion, who was runner-up in 1989. Blue Judge and Blues Traveller finished second and third in 1993. The 100-1 chance At First Sight found only Workforce too good in 2010, while Dragon Dancer was 66-1 when involved in a four-way finish behind Sir Percy in 2006.
Young Rascal - William Haggas - James Doyle:
William Haggas won his private debate with the owner of Sea Of Class on Wednesday and pulled the filly out of the Oaks when many believed she had an outstanding chance.
It underlines the approach to Epsom held by the Newmarket trainer, and his record in the blue riband speaks for itself. He saddled Shaamit against all credulity to win on seasonal debut in 1996. Our Channel was a Win And You’re In candidate for his UAE owner when 13th in 2014 and then Storm The Stars ran a huge race to finish behind Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs a year later.
In Young Rascal he has an exceptional talent, who is improving rapidly, and he clearly thinks the world of the son of French Derby winner and 2013 Arc third Intello.
The Timefigure of 127 he produced at Chester when winning the Vase on the Roodee is the best of any horse in the field this season. That day he revealed a willing attitude, plus the ability to extricate himself from trouble and he beat Dee Ex Bee with a bit in hand. All good Epsom traits.
The Chester Vase has proved a decent guide in the past few years with last year’s winner Wings Of Desire using it as a springboard. US Army Ranger won at Chester and was second at Epsom the previous year, while Storm The Stars placed in both races. Aidan O’Brien used the 12-furlong event to prep the lightly-raced 2013 winner Ruler Of The World, while Treasure Beach was another to place in both contests the year before that.
Zabriskie - Aidan O'Brien - Padraig Beggy:
This son of Frankel and an unraced daughter out of miler Nureyev does not look to have the stamina to deal with the demands of the Derby. He has proven form in soft ground, however, having won his maiden over an extended seven furlongs at Tipperary last season.
He has undergone a wind operation since he finished last in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, but did not look to be totally enamoured with Epsom in the trial when behind Crossed Baton on his reappearance and did not enhance his staying credentials, either.
He would not have relished the sprint of the Dante, but he does not look win material.
Saxon Warrior is the best horse in the race and the 2000 Guineas was always going to be a bonus. This son of Deep Impact has been the product of deep thinking from Coolmore and it would not be a surprise were their Far Eastern gamble pays off spectacularly. Of his stablemates, Delano Roosevelt is probably the most attractive to back.
Like Coolmore, we are in this game for the money and with Saxon Warrior pitted against some strong stayers trying to squeeze any value out of his odds-on price, or any winning lengths markets, looks fraught with danger.
I would prefer to back Hazapour and Young Rascal each-way, and put them in reverse forecasts with the favourite in the expectation Roaring Lion blows out.
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