The world's most famous Classic looks set to be a fantastic contest and it's difficult to remember a renewal of the race that looked more competitive. With the bookmakers currently offering 4/1 the field it looks like a difficult puzzle to solve but there are a whole host of enhanced price promotions and free bet offers up for grabs.
I’ve been busy assessing the challengers to Wings of Desire
I've got a good favourite's chance in the Derby and the forecast rain doesn't do us any harm. He'll definitely stay, and being out of Pivotal, any cut in the ground would be OK too.
As per the Oaks though, it's an incredibly wide-open Derby but I have managed to narrow down the threats to four. These are the horses I'm most scared of:
Moonlight Magic - won well in Ireland and trained by the master, Jim Bolger.
Cloth of Stars - he's got the Fabre factor and he looked to be in incredible condition at Breakfast with the Stars.
Deauville - we just beat him in the Dante and he doesn't have much to find.
Ulysees - all of Newmarket is talking about this horse but he lacks experience, which you could say about quite a few of the other runners.
Make no mistake, the Derby is the ultimate test of a racehorse and it challenges them in every way.
It tests stamina, balance, everything. Winning the Derby is no fluke, only the best will come through it.
Hopefully that’ll be the case with my horse this Saturday. It’s going to be another incredible renewal, you can be sure of that.
The 2016 running of the Derby is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing contests in the past few years and Richard has expert tips on the Group One highlight.
Heading the market is the somewhat uneasy favourite US Army Ranger, who had been trading as low as 3/1 following his narrow Chester victory in May, but is now available at around the 4/1 mark. Ryan Moore has been quoted as saying that he has not yet made up his mind on his Derby ride, and wants to leave the decision as late as possible, so I think the favourite is opposable given the workmanlike nature of his successes to date.
US Army Ranger may well turn out to be the best horse in the Derby in the longer term, but he has only had two runs in his life (and none as a two year old), so may well be a little short on experience.
The John Gosden trained Wings of Desire is the horse challenging US Army Ranger at the head of the market, coming into the race off the back of a hard-fought Dante victory at York. To my eye that form doesn’t look anything special, and I can’t justify his market position at this stage, for all that he is respected.
The trends it has been years since a horse has won the Derby at odds greater than 7/1, so it makes sense to focus on those towards the head of the market. The one I like is the Andre Fabre-trained CLOTH OF STARS
). This horse looked a classy two year old, but finished his campaign with defeats on soft ground behind the talented Robin of Navan. He showed his improvement as a three year old however to reverse form with that rival at Saint Cloud on his most recent start, staying on impressively to win by two and a half lengths.
Cloth Of Stars winning at Saint Cloud
His pedigree gives me no reason to doubt his stamina for the extra two furlongs of the Derby distance, being by Derby winner Sea The Stars, and being a brother to Warrior of Light, who won over a mile and a half. He can race freely in the early stages of races, but that tendency has improved with each start, and I would think the early pace of the Derby should be strong enough to get him settled.
His recent work over the Derby course at ‘Breakfast With The Stars’ showed that connections mean business, and vibes were positive in the aftermath. His trainer and jockey (Andre Fabre and Mikael Barzalona) have an outstanding strike rate when sending over horses to England, and I think Cloth of Stars has shown more than enough to date to go close in a competitive Derby at an each way price of 7/1.
- CLOTH OF STARS
Across The Stars
Sea The Stars half-brother to very smart winner up to 1½m Bronze Cannon. Confirmed two-year-old promise when landing odds in Lingfield maiden on return, and shaped best (not clear run) when one and a half lengths third to Humphrey Bogart in Derby Trial on turf there since. Booking of Kieren Fallon brings back memories of Kris Kin, who won an open Derby for same connections in 2003, and could go well at a big price.
Confirmed debut promise when landing Newbury maiden last October, and gave Midterm a brief scare in the Sandown Classic Trial on his return. Built on that form when winning four-runner Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood (11f) since and even more to come over 1½m+, though may just find a few too good here.
Got off the mark in 11f Kempton maiden on return and excelled himself up in grade when third in a valuable sales race at Newmarket next time. Similar form when nine lengths fourth to US Army Ranger in Chester Vase last time.
Cloth of Stars
Supplemented for this race at a cost of £75,000 on Monday. Won first two starts at two and signed off for 2015 when second to Robin of Navan in 1¼m Saint-Cloud Group 1 (Idaho fourth). Won over 1¼m there on both starts this year, beating Robin of Navan in Group 2 on latest and has more to offer. Free-going sort (usually held up) but should stay 1½m and is respected.
Brother to very smart 1¼m-1½m winner The Corsican. Won first two starts last term, including Group 3 at the Curragh, before finding Foundation too good in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket and then disappointing in first-time cheekpieces in the Racing Post Trophy. Back on song in first-time tongue tie when neck second to Wings of Desire in Dante on reappearance. Clearly worth considering, but doubtful he has the potential of some, including from his own stable.
Built on promise of two-year-old debut when cruising home in Cork maiden on return and took another step forward when following up in seven-runner Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown in April. Will stay at least 1½m and likely to progress further but both wins on heavy ground and no significant rain forecast.
The third supplementary entry. Did little wrong in five starts at two and really hit his straps on his last two outings, neck second to So Mi Dar in the Derby Trial here and winning the Lingfield Derby Trial (11.5f) by half a length from Carntop. Plenty more needed here, however.
Brother to high-class winner up to 1½m Highland Reel. Not disgraced in Group 1 company straight after making a winning debut last October, and improved when one and a quarter lengths second to Harzand in Ballysax at Leopardstown on return. Couldn't uphold latter form with Moonlight Magic when third in the Derrinstown but was left poorly placed in a muddling affair and it's likely we've yet to see his true colours. Could outrun long odds.
By Teofilo out of a two-year-old 6f winner (half-sister to useful juvenile sprinter Dolled Up). Backed up favourable impression made on debut when easily landing odds in Leicester maiden last September and then chased home Air Force Blue in the Dewhurst. Improved again when one and a half lengths second of 13 to Galileo Gold in 2000 Guineas back at Newmarket on return, unable to match winner's acceleration but sticking to task well, and remains with potential. Will stay 1¼m, but pedigree suggests this trip could stretch him.
By Cape Cross out of Oaks third/Irish Oaks runner-up Melikah. Won both starts at two, including listed race, and much better for return (well beaten on heavy going in Ballysax) when winning eight-runner Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown (good ground) last month from Shogun, Idaho and Beacon Rock. Probably more to come, but odds around 12/1 are a fair reflection of his chance.
By Galileo and closely related to useful 1½m-1¾m winner Walzertakt. Wore first-time blinkers when narrow winner of the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last September and matched that form when fourth in Racing Post Trophy. Much improved in tongue strap/cheekpieces when short-head second to much shorter-priced stablemate US Army Ranger in Chester Vase on reappearance, rallying despite not being so forcefully ridden as winner and also conceding 4 lb all round. Holds good form claims in an open year, but several are open to more improvement, including a couple of his stablemates.
Another supplementary entry, having won 1½m handicaps at Chester and Haydock on his last two starts (also unlucky not to win a similar race on his return). Certainly worth his place at listed, minor pattern level, but this could be a bridge too far at this stage.
Brother to last year's shock Oaks winner Qualify, so pedigree suggests he could step up now tackling 1½m, but form (one maiden win from eight starts, well held in Irish 2000 Guineas on latest) leaves him with plenty to find here. Has looked quirky, too (usually blinkered).
By Galileo out of Oaks winner Light Shift. Backed up promise of sole start at two (sixth to Algometer) when a close second to Imperial Aviator (franked form) in maiden at Leicester on return in April and improved again when winning similar race at Newbury (1¼m) by eight lengths. Clearly more needed upped to this company, but hard to know where his progress will stop and represents yard that has won the Derby five times.
US Army Ranger
By Galileo out of Oaks runner-up/Irish Oaks winner Moonstone. Like his dam, didn't make his debut until the April of his three-year-old year, winning cosily in a 1¼m maiden on heavy ground at the Curragh. Came out only second best at the weights when beating stablemate Port Douglas (conc. 4 lb) by a short head in six-runner Chester Vase at Chester (12.3f) last month but went like the best horse for a long way. That experience is likely to have sharpened him up, and the vibes suggests he's still at the top of the Ballydoyle pecking order.
Wings of Desire
The final supplementary entry. Only made his debut in April (like US Army Ranger), and built on that effort when winning a 1½m maiden on the tapeta at Wolverhampton. Chosen by Frankie Dettori over Foundation in the Dante Stakes at York last month and took a huge leap forward to win by a neck from Deauville (Foundation third). Open to further progress, especially back up over this trip (brother to smart winner up to 14.6f The Lark and high-class 11f/1½m winner Eagle Top) and probably the one they all have to beat here.
Timeform Derby 1-2-3
1. Wings of Desire
2. US Army Ranger
Timeform Analyst's Verdict
The best performance in a trial was put up by WINGS OF DESIRE and, with even more to come back over 1½m, he just gets the nod to give John Gosden and Frankie Dettori back-to-back Derby winners. The highly-regarded US Army Ranger heads a 5-strong team for Ballydoyle, while Ulysses is completely unexposed and is taken to complete the placings.