Brian Healy previews the 2016 Epsom Derby, the second of the colts' Classics, and he picks out a value selection to continue Aidan O'Brien's Classic dominance.
Just twenty four short hours after the fillies’ contest the Investec Oaks Classic, the turn of the colts will be upon us as the best three-year olds go head-to-head over 1m 4f of the unique Epsom track in pursuit of the Investec Derby.
The premier Classic contest boasts a scheduled off-time of 4.30pm and is one of the biggest betting events of the year as the best three-year old colts from the UK and Ireland, as well as France – and occasionally further afield – to contest over this idiosyncratic track that places some stern demands on the horses with its’ undulations and sweeping corners, not to mention the camber of the run-in.
Aidan O’Brien is likely to hold another strong hand in the 1m4f contest, and the Ballydoyle maestro is responsible for the current ante-post favourite, US Army Ranger
), a currently once-raced colt by Galileo who made a strong debut impression when gaining a narrow victory over Aasheq at the Curragh in early-April.
That came on heavy ground, and the strapping colt overcame early inexperience to win cosily from the well-regarded Dermot Weld-trained runner, with the pair more than three lengths ahead of the third home.
Sure to improve on that run, there is no shortage of stamina in his pedigree and he is sure to be suited by the Derby trip. Better ground will help, but he showed at the Curragh that testing conditions are no issue, and he looks sure to go well if turning up at Epsom.
Aidan O'Brien will undoubtedly hold another strong hand of Derby contenders, led by US Army Ranger.
The ante-post market behind the favourite is congested, with several possible participants all trading within a few points of each other, including Sir Michael Stoute’s Midterm
Another colt by Galileo, he was also a debut winner when scoring at Newbury with a one-length defeat of Magnum despite being slowly away. However, when asked by Ted Durcan to go about his business, he quickened up really smartly and produced a strong run to land the spoils.
That run hinted that the Khalid Abdullah-owned colt would improve for a stiffer test, as he took a while to hit top gear, and the step up to the Derby trip should unlock more potential.
John Gosden won the Investec Derby twelve months ago with Golden Horn, and his WAJEEZ
(16/1, Sky Bet
) would be bidding to give the trainer back-to-back wins in the race following Golden Horn’s success twelve months ago.
Like US Army Ranger and Midterm, the Lope De Vega colt was a debut winner, scoring in the soft ground at Nottingham back in November when trouncing Twobeelucky by seven lengths and looking a real prospect given the way he quickly went clear of his field when asked, and he kept on strongly to the line.
Foundation (left) saw his Derby aspirations dented with a defeat in the recent Craven Stakes.
Like Golden Horn twelve months ago, the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned colt isn’t an obvious type on breeding to appreciate the step up to the Derby trip, although there is plenty of stamina on the damsire line, so he has strong chances to stay the trip and he is one to be interested in; as is Foundation
(20/1, Stan James
) who contested the Racing Post Trophy last term – a good pointer to the Derby – where he endured a nightmare passage to eventually finish third.
A three-time winner last term, including beating Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket, he made his seasonal return to action in the Craven Stakes where he had no answer to Stormy Antarctic when finishing runner-up to that rival.
The Zoffany colt shaped at Newmarket as another who might appreciate a stiffer test as he just couldn’t quite match the late surge of the winner. Whether he will stay the Derby trip remains debatable, and on breeding at least he isn’t certain to see out the trip; he may prove more of an Eclipse horse in time; but sceptics were keen to highlight a perceived lack of stamina in Golden Horn twelve months ago, and that one proved plenty of people wrong.
Could Foundation do the same?
The unbeaten Ultra
(16/1, William Hill
) would have been a fascinating condender, but having met with a set-back it is unlikely Andre Fabre’s charge will make Epsom; however, the reputation of Jim Bolger’s Moonlight Magic
) took a dent with a poor run at Leopardstown in the Ballysax Stakes.
The heavy ground clearly didn’t suit the son of Cape Cross, but he finished tired and possibly didn’t stay the trip in the conditions; although it is worth remembering it was his first run of the season and he may have needed the outing. While better ground may help his chances of getting home, he can certainly progress with that run under his belt, although he doesn’t look an obvious Derby candidate.
It could be back to the drawing board for Jim Bolger and Moonlight Magic, who appeared not to get the Ballysax Stakes trip.
From that race, IDAHO
) could be the one to take out of the contest, although the winner Harzand
) also holds a Derby entry.
While Aidan O’Brien’s US Army Ranger is likely to prove his first-string, the Galileo colt could well prove a strong alternative to the ante-post favourite, and he shaped well when making a winning debut at the Curragh in October, convincingly beating a useful sort in Theodorico.
The very soft ground at Saint-cloud in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud possibly didn’t help show him at his best, but he had plenty of use made of him in that race and he stuck well to his task to finish fourth, beaten around six lengths; but it did hint that he had stamina for the Derby trip, and his run in the Ballysax Stakes was another good effort despite finishing runner-up.
Unruly in the stalls, he came with a good-looking run to lead the pack entering the final furlong, and although possibly just out-stayed on the heavy ground by Dermot Weld’s charge, that rival had had the benefit of a prior run whereas it was the first of the season for the Ballydoyle runner, and he can build on that run back on better ground.
The pair had pulled seven lengths clear of two other Ballydoyle runners in Beacon Rock
) and Cook Islands
), both of whom also hold Derby entries; but on that run, both would have a bit to find with the selection.
He could provide a value alternative to his more fancied and shorter-priced stablemate, US Army Ranger, who is for now at least all potential.