Seymour Biz blows the dust of his trusty Panama and heads to Epsom, where the Derby Day card looks surprisingly open. The big race itself is very-much up for grabs and he makes a case for backing a pair of runners. Both have been sired by Galileo, the stallion who continues to dominate the most-important British flat race of the season. Find all of his UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
It’s Derby Day and the television cameras have deferred to Surrey along with the showmen and all their fairground rides. Epsom will be a riot of colour for a few days as the festival takes off. The ITV have again given over their programme entirely to the Derby meeting forsaking Doncaster and Musselburgh’s afternoon fixtures. What that means is they will show just five races in the best part of four hours the rest of the time filled in with waffle, fashion, old clips and so-called celebrities, oh, and loads of adverts. But if you can sit through that lot there is some pretty exciting racing slotted in amongst the dross. Besides the Derby itself, which promises to be one of the most open and exciting betting contests for years, even Aidan O’Brien doesn’t know which of his seven entries will win, there are some great other races to run the rule over. The Princess Elizabeth looks a good contest and there are two cracking handicaps, I especially like the Dash, seeing those top class sprinters going hell for leather downhill on Epsom’s manicured turf is a sight to behold. So here are my thoughts for the meeting and this week’s Lucky 15.
The first race on the Epsom card is at 2.00, the Investec Private Banking Handicap. Top weight and favourite for this is Mark Johnson’s Nayef Road who won a nice handicap at Newmarket in early May. He was then highly tried in the Dante at York where he finished a well beaten sixth. I just wonder if that loss will have affected his confidence and along with the weight he has to carry his chances have been diminished. Creationist has been winning small races on the all-weather for trainer Roger Charlton but was unable to make an impression in a Listed race at Newcastle in April. Le Don De Vie won here at Epsom in April over just over a mile but is stepping up in class and distance. Politicise and Alkaamel both run for trainer William Haggas and of the two I prefer the former who lost a shoe at Haydock recently when running third behind the smart Oasis Prince. His form as a juvenile is strong and he is able to take this.
The Princess Elizabeth Stakes is at 2.35 with the favourite, Veracious, trained by Sir Michael Stoute. After winning her penultimate race last year she came out at Newmarket in early May for her seasonal reappearance and was backed off the boards. She only beat one home and whether she needed that race or not this was a pretty poor start to her four-year-old career, she would need to improve considerably to take this prestigious contest. Second in that Newmarket race was Nyaleti but she could manage only fourth, nine lengths behind Lah Ti Dar, at York three weeks ago. Richard Hannon runs Anna Nerium who won two classy contests last year, she had a prep run on the all-weather in April prior to a run on turf at Goodwood in May. She stayed on strongly that day but was unable to reach the winner Awesometank trained by William Haggas, who stayed on really well. They reoppose here and my preference is with the Haggas filly to confirm the placings.
Moving on to the 3.45, we have the Investec “Dash” Handicap and there is a really exciting race in prospect. There is a warm favourite from Denis Gerard Hogan’s yard in County Tipperary called Hathiq. This speedster has won twice already this year, once on his home course on yielding and latterly on firm ground at the Curragh, although he has a 4lb penalty for that win he is still 5lbs ahead of the handicapper. However it’s a long way from Tipperary to Epsom and he is very unlikely to find the sort of ground he likes, there is better value to be found elsewhere. It seems hard to believe that Duke Of Firenze who won at York last week won this race in 2013! At York he had several of these behind him but the penalty for his latest two wins should hold the 10-year-old back. The most interesting of those behind Duke Of Firenze last week could be Eeh Bah Gum who was hampered and didn’t get a clear run, he can go well. Another 10-year-old in the race is top weight Caspian Prince who has won this race on no fewer than three previous occasions, I think it’s a big ask to expect him him to carry top weight to victory on a fourth occasion. William Haggas’s interesting entrant is Muthmir. This Group Class horse is having his first run in a handicap since 2014, but it is his first run of the season so I will side with Tim Easterby’s Eeh BahGum to take the spoils.
So, we come to the big race itself at 4.30, the Investec Derby. The race is dominated by trainer, Aidan O’Brien, who has seven runners declared, more than half the field. He has the favourite, Sir Dragonet, who won the Chester Vase quite impressively beating stablemate Norway by 8 lengths early in May, I cannot see Norway reversing that form. All in all it was a poor renewal and Sir Dragonet had little to beat. Another O’Brien runner, Broome, has been a revelation this year winning twice at Leopardstown, beating Sovereign on both occasions, after only claiming one victory in five starts last season. However he seems to want an easy surface and he won’t get that here at Epsom looking at the forecast. Anthony Van Dyck won a trial at Lingfield three weeks ago and looks to me to be the best of the O’Brien horses after stepping up in trip with no problem. Of his other two runners, Japan was well beaten in the Dante and Circus Maximus had to be driven out to beat nothing in the Dee Stakes at Chester, he also needs give underfoot. The British challenge is led by Hughie Morrison’s Telecaster the winner of the Dante at York. The race seemed to be run to suit him that day and I can’t see him getting the run of the race here with the O’Brien contenders swarming all over him. Bangkok from Andrew Balding’s yard beat Telecaster at Doncaster in March then went on to win at Sandown, but both those races were over 10f and I wonder if he can cope with the extra couple of furlongs here. In a very competitive renewal I will side with Anthony Van Dyck but as a lively outsider I must mention Line Of Duty, Charlie Appleby’s colt had a great two-year-old season including winning at the Breeders Cup meeting, his run in the Dante was too bad to be true, he can run a big race at a nice price.
Epsom Lucky 15
3.45. Eeh Bah Gum
4.30. Anthony Van Dyck