The biggest race in the world is just two weeks away. A number of candidates have already stamped their claims for the Epsom Derby and GG have analysed the five leading chances according to the markets. Read our thoughts below, alongside Sky Bet’s fantastic new customer offer of £30 In Free Bets When You Place Any Bet.
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Desert Crown 9/4
Sir Michael Stoute may have won the Derby twice, but a contender for him in the race has been hard to come by in recent seasons.
DESERT CROWN has changed everything this term. He will be set for Epsom as one of, if not the most inexperienced horse in the field, but he has created quite the impression. A winner of his only start at two, he won a Nottingham maiden by 5½ lengths and was instilled as a 33/1 shot for the Derby.
Before he had even met a racecourse this season, those odds had begun to tumble. No sooner had Guineas weekend passed at Stoute’s local Newmarket than Desert Crown had shrunk to single-figure prices. Remarkably, a similar market move was not reflected in York’s Dante Stakes, his trial for the Derby last week.
He was allowed to go off as a 7/2 joint favourite, which must have been a christmas present come early for all his Derby backers. He duly won in the style of a very good horse, beating a well-backed yardstick by 3¼ lengths. Richard Kingscote did not have to get too busy.
There may be a few concerns that he drifted right in the closing stages, as that would not suit Epsom’s cambers. However, that run may only have tuned his engine and the real thing may be very exciting if it roars into life next month.
Stone Age 5/2
Another horse who has been a recent favourite for the Derby, STONE AGE also only shot to prominence this season.
Although he displayed his talent at two, placing in both a Group 2 and a Group 1, he managed to end the season winless. Aidan O’Brien campaigned him aggressively, stepping him up to Group company despite being narrowly denied in maidens at Leopardstown and Galway.
Ballydoyle clearly wanted him to learn his trade at the top, but eased their sights at the start of this year. Stone Age won a Navan maiden over 1m2f by nine lengths and was duly an odds-on favourite for Leopardstown’s Derby Trial after that.
Ryan Moore again went from the front and, again, Stone Age just kept on galloping, beating a decent enough field by 5½ lengths this time. The longer trips he has faced this term have clearly benefited him and the step up to 1m4f could bring about further improvement still.
Piz Badile 7/1
Among Ulysses’ first crop, PIZ BADILE has so far been the best advertisement for his sire’s ability.
Stamina has looked his forte from the off. Although it may have appeared a low key event, he rallied very gamely to win on debut in a 1m Killarney maiden, having been put under strong pressure. Four lengths back in third was Buckaroo, second favourite for this weekend’s Irish 2000 Guineas.
Donnacha O’Brien’s charge only ran once more as a juvenile, finishing second in Leopardstown’s Group 3 Eyrefield Stakes over 1m1f. That was a good effort after a 103-day break and he was only eaten half-a-length.
Reappearing this term, he looked all but certain to finish second to Buckaroo in the Ballysax Stakes over 1m2f. However, Gavin Ryan, who is set to be replaced by Frankie Dettori at Epsom, conjured a brilliant rally by his mount to pinch the race back in the shadows of the post.
This horse clearly has guts and could take some pegging back if able to get to the front. He could provide his trainer with a first British Classic.
Aidan O’Brien may have feared being swamped by Charlie Appleby and Godolphin this season, but the situation has changed dramatically since Epsom’s Classic trials.
Despite being up against a heavy odds-on favourite in New London, CHANGINGOFTHEGUARD proved markedly too good from the front in the Chester Vase. Ryan Moore controlled that race superbly, but it was still a taking success.
He was another who largely underwhelmed at two, finishing well beaten in two Leopardstown maidens over 1m. He did hint that there was more to come on his final juvenile start though, as he was beaten just a neck by stablemate River Thames.
His yard presented him with a very winnable opportunity in a Dundalk maiden last month, which he won cosily by six lengths. However, it was more surprising that he was in a league of his own at Chester next time out.
The field was very small in that contest and it is likely his main market rival underperformed. That said, unlike those above him in the market, he has definitively proved he has the ability over the Derby trip and though Ryan Moore may opt for Stone Age, Changingoftheguard should not be forgotten.
Star Of India 12/1
Much more diminutive than those above, STAR OF INDIA nevertheless showed good heart to win another of Chester’s Derby trials in the Dee Stakes.
A full brother to Roman Empire, a decent enough horse for O’Brien, Star Of India has already won more races for the yard than his sibling. He was a striking winner on debut, pulling away to win by 2¼ lengths at Leopardstown over 7f. That was his only run last season.
He was given a very ambitious task on his comeback, perhaps to see if he could turn into a Guineas horse as well. However, he faced the monstrous Native Trail in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket and could not maintain the pace he set from the front.
Although he ultimately faded to fifth, he was still well-fancied, with his yard in such sensational form, for his trial at Chester over 1m2½f. He scythed through the pack late on, winning by the same margin as his debut and confirming himself as a dark horse for Epsom.
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