Timeform take a look at the 2012 Epsom Derby and give their expert tips on the Epsom Group One.
Aidan O'Brien will have been in the position only once before when Camelot lines up in the Derby, as of his previous five 2000 Guineas winners only 1998 hero King of Kings went on to run in the Epsom showpiece, that horse one of eight HQ classic winners to have tried the Derby in the last 20 years, with the peerless Sea The Stars the only one to pull it off the double. Can Camelot add to that stat on the first Saturday in June?
Camelot stood out going into the Guineas, admittedly on potential rather than form for all that he'd taken the RP Trophy (winners of that race have taken the Derby three times since 2001) comfortably in October, and he duly delivered in maintaining his unbeaten record, gaining a second Group 1 win from just three career starts. The way Camelot travelled and closed that day suggests he should have no trouble racing around Epsom and it's hard to believe that he won't benefit from the step up to a mile and a half, taking into account both his pedigree (by Montjeu, out of a nine-furlong winner) and racing style.
When Galileo won in 2001 he was Ballydoyle's sole representative, while High Chaparral led home a one-two a year later from just three runners. In the ensuing barren period the yard has saddled 39 runners, at an average of over four per race, which tends to point to the fact that when they're confident they have a good one, they tend not to go mob-handed. With that in mind, I don't expect to see all five of the yard's entries take their chance this year, Camelot likely to be backed up by either Imperial Monarch and/or Astrology.
Imperial Monarch, who has the Derby in his blue blood being a son of a winner (Galileo) and half-brother to a runner-up in The Great Gatsby, has done everything asked of him with great promise so far, producing an impressive performance when taking the Sandown Classic Trial on his return having been taken to race alone on the outside in search of better ground, conceding the field at least six lengths. Imperial Monarch definitely has Group 1 potential and should prove well suited by a mile and a half.
Astrology promised plenty last year and, after seven months off and over a two furlong longer trip, he showed improved form to get off the mark in pattern company by readily making all in the Dee Stakes at Chester. He looked more straightforward that day than he had at times last year, handling the more testing conditions than he'd encountered previously really well, and if there's one O'Brien runner that holds on for a place having raced prominently (a la The Great Gatsby and At First Sight), then it'll probably be him.
Of the other Ballydoyle entries, the physically impressive Tower Rock showed a good attitude when getting closer to Light Heavy in the Derrinstown than he had in the Ballysax but is patently not good enough, while Chester maiden winner Father of Science is open to further improvement but is unlikely to be dropped in at the deepest of deep ends.
Andrew Balding has already saddled an Epsom classic winner, 2003 Oaks heroine Casual Look doing the business in the trainer's maiden year, and he actually remains unbeaten in them having not had any runners since. Timeform figures and the market are united in the belief that his Dante winner Bonfire heads the home defence, the half-brother to last year's Musidora winner Joviality having taken great leaps in each of his two starts since his winning debut, with the form of his fast-finishing third in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud last season boosted when winner French Fifteen finished second in the 2000 Guineas. He's rumoured to be quirky at home but he showed a good attitude on the Knavesmire and, whilst not the most stoutly bred (dam won over a mile), his style suggests that he'll benefit from a step up in trip. He remains capable of even better.
David Lanigan knows all about Niarchos Family-owned Epsom classic winners having been assistant to Sir Henry Cecil when Light Shift won the Oaks in 2007, and that filly's rider, Ted Durcan, has expressed "huge belief" in Lingfield Derby Trial winner Main Sequence's ability to put up a very bold show on Saturday week. Main Sequence will head to the race having taken an unconventional route, winner of both a nursery and a handicap, but the fact that he's a recognised trial winner who's unbeaten in four means he deserved plenty of respect and certainly has place claims.
Parish Hall may have lacked the brilliance of many a Dewhurst winner but the fact that his trainer has recently stated "he's as good a colt as I've had", and that group contains his unbeaten champion juvenile Teofilo and subsequent Derby winner New Approach, suggests he shouldn't be underestimated this term. Out of a mare that stayed twelve furlongs, Parish Hall has the physical scope to develop into a better three-year-old and, having missed the Newmarket Guineas owing to adverse ground conditions, his seasonal reappearance will come in Saturday's Irish equivalent, for which he's been well supported. Whether he can match or even raise his game just a week on at Epsom remains to be seen.
John Gosden, who sent out Benny The Dip to win in '97, has just Thought Worthy remaining, the rangy colt having recently landed the listed Fairway Stakes at Newmarket. Despite winning two of his three outings so far, the overriding impression is that we've yet to see the best of this brother to St Leger Winner Lucarno (fourth in '07 Derby), especially as his stamina is yet to be tested fully, but whether he's up to Derby standard is questionable, the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot possibly a more realistic alternative.
Despite being beaten a neck by Thought Worthy last time, Noble Mission, who shares the trait of having a classic-winning full-sibling, actually emerged with a 4 lb higher Timeform rating than his rival having conceded 5 lb to the field owing to his victory in a similar race at the track two weeks earlier. Almost certain to be the first ever Derby runner to wear a hood if lining up, Noble Mission shapes for all the world as though he'll be at least as effective at further than ten furlongs though, like Frankel, he looks set to give the race a miss.
Godolphin look set to rely upon Mariner's Cross, who was beaten a neck by Sir Henry Cecil's colt in the listed Newmarket Stakes earlier this month. Mariner's Cross has made a promising start to his career, lining up at HQ just 16 days after comfortably taking what has proved a strong Wood Ditton at the track, and remains unexposed but his lack of experience (unraced at two) would be a concern.
Mickdaam will break new ground if winning as he made his stakes breakthrough in Dubai, his win in a listed race at Meydan in March sandwiched by in-frame efforts in the UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby. Having finished second in a valuable sales race at Newmarket on his British return he didn't need to improve to take the five-runner Chester Vase, handling the testing conditions well and having no problem with the two furlong longer trip, and has certainly earned the right to line up at Epsom. The Derby is likely asking too much of him, however, and he hardly gives the impression that he's the sort to relish the track's undulations.
Given the events of last year and Mikel Delzangles' British classic record reading a 2000 winner and third from just two runners, the unbeaten Kesampour would be an an interesting proposition for all he'd have a fair bit to find with the form principals, but he's set to stay at home and contest the Prix du Jockey Club.
To conclude swiftly, Aidan O'Brien's previous two Derby winners, Galileo in '01 and High Chaparral a year later, may have both prepped for the race in ten-furlong trials but it's safe to say that neither had the speed and change of speed that Camelot possesses and, put simply, he will win the 2012 Derby.
Back Camelot @ 1.97 with Betfair
in the Derby at Epsom on Saturday June 2.