16.30 - The Derby runner-by-runner guide
The first thing to say about the Derby is that the race is run at 4.30pm on Saturday afternoon, and the track can dry out very quickly if there has been no rain for a day or so, so bear that in mind. Obviously it is a big-field Derby, so the draw will be important for a number of reasons; how you start, the horses that are around you, and the position you get. But you deal with it.
Across The Stars: I rode him on his debut, and when he won his maiden at heavy odds-on this season. Looked a little unlucky when third in the Lingfield Derby Trial, and is a progressive stayer who is sure to be suited by a stronger-run race. But I don't think he will be good enough here.
Algometer: Second to me on Midterm in the Sandown Classic Trial and ground it out well at Goodwood. The trip will obviously be no problem, nor will the rain earlier in the week, but class probably will be. Looks more of a St Leger type.
Biodynamic: Credible enough runs at Newmarket and Chester, but next to no chance from what I can see.
Cloth Of Stars: Is probably more priced up on who trains him to be honest, rather than on form, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as Andre Fabre is a genius and I never underestimate anything he sends over. I rode Idaho in the race he finished second to Robin Of Navan last season and although he has obviously improved this season, I wasn't particularly impressed by his win in the Greffulhe last time. I thought it was a weak race. But he will stay, handle cut and, like I say, is trained by a master.
Deauville: I think the recent rain has gone against him, even if he did win on heavy ground on his debut, so he is one horse that wants the ground to dry up quickly. But he ran a better trial than most in here when an excellent second for me in the Dante, and I felt that he would come on for that run, too. On form, he has a leading chance, and that chance gets better on drying ground over this trip.
Harzand: I rode Cook Islands to finish fourth to him and Idaho in the Ballysax, and you had to be pretty impressed with him there. And clearly the rain earlier this week is a big plus to his chances. But I'm pretty sure that Pat (Smullen) said after the race that he would be worried about this big individual not being ideally suited to Epsom. And initial impressions are often the most telling.
Humphrey Bogart: Has form on the track - a good second to So Mi Dar - and he did it well enough at Lingfield. Has a few positives, but the necessary class to win a Derby probably isn't one, and I can't see him winning this, to be honest.
Idaho: I rode him as a juvenile, and he looked a stayer in both the Ballysax and the Derrinstown last time, and I get the impression there is plenty more to come from him stepping up in trip. I think a lot of the Irish horses from the Derrinstown are evenly-matched, though, and it is simply a matter who improves the most for the step up in trip.
Massaat: Probably brings the strongest form to the table here with his Guineas second, but he hasn't struck me as a stayer, to be honest.
Moonlight Magic: I can see him running well, and he is certainly bred for the job. But he may just have got the run of the race when winning the Derrinstown and, as I said, I don't think you can be confident about who will come out best of the first three home from that race here, let alone winning the Derby. But he is a player, for sure.
Port Douglas: He looks a rock-solid horse. I haven't ridden him but the merit of his second to US Army Ranger was there for all to see at Chester, especially as he was giving me 4lb. I wouldn't underestimate him as we know that he stays and already has the form to take a hand. The blinkers replace the cheek pieces, but he wore those when he won the Beresford, so I wouldn't be worried about that.
Red Verdon: I rode him when he won off a mark of 80 at Chester last month, and he followed up in good style at Haydock next time, although that looked a pretty weak handicap. Stays and is improving and I can see why they have supplemented him in an open year. It is hard to really see him winning, though, but he could run a similar race to Red Galileo in this race a couple of years ago, I suppose. This is a big ask, though.
Shogun: Ran well enough in the Irish Guineas last time but he will be much better suited by this trip on the evidence of his Derrinstown second, where he was just getting going for me at the finish. But soft ground would be an issue for him, so drying conditions would be a big plus. The blinkers that he wore last time are off and he certainly moved and travelled ok for me without them in the Derrinstown.
Ulysses: I have a lot of time for this horse, I always have, but I think it has maybe happened a bit too late for him. He has plenty of questions to answer after just winning what looked, and rode like, a modest maiden at Newbury, but he is certainly bred for the job and is one of the many in here who could step forward massively. I haven't sat on him at home since that maiden win - and he did win it impressively, I accept that - but the boss seems happy enough with him. He is a colt of great potential; it's just a matter of whether this race is coming too soon in his education.
US Army Ranger: Unbeaten, bred for the job and won't mind whatever the ground throws at him. And he did travel well and give me a really good feel when winning the Chester Vase. Again, one of the many potential improvers in here - and he needs to improve, obviously - and I am happy to be riding him.
Wings Of Desire: Arguably the most solid horse in a race full of unknowns. Good winner of a good trial, and will be suited by going back up in trip. Quite obviously, there is a lot to like about his chances.
In summary this is a very hard race to call, and an incredibly open Derby. I genuinely wouldn't be surprised if any one of eight won it, maybe more, as we are dealing with lightly-raced, middle distance colts, most of whom are unexposed and ready to take a big step forward. There are several in here who could stick their hand up on Saturday afternoon. Let's hope I am on the one who sticks it up the highest.
We have been lucky enough to win this race with some decent horses in the past, most notably Conduit but I think Stravagante would have developed into a very smart colt too had he not picked a fatal injury at Ascot on his next start, and hopefully Poet's Word will be competitive here off a mark of 87. But there are any numbers of dangers in here - and Cartago clearly bumped into one in Imperial Aviator in the London Gold Cup last time - so I imagine the winner will have to have a few pounds in hand. Poet's Word finished third in a good Chelmsford maiden that has worked out well first time up, and his stablemate Shraaoh, won a Newcastle maiden by six lengths after finishing third to him over 1m2f at Nottingham last time. And the second and fourth have won, too, from that maiden. He is clearly going the right way, and hopefully there is more to come from him.
Postponed is the right favourite here, and probably deserves to be odds-on. He proved he can handle plenty of cut in the ground when he won the King George last season and from what I saw of him in Dubai he could have returned an even better horse. He was very impressive in winning the Sheema Classic from Duramente. Found probably found the going a little on the soft side for her at the Curragh last time, but the winner is top-class on his day. So is my filly though, and she showed in beating Golden Horn in the Breeders' Cup Turf that she gets this trip well enough. Hopefully, she can give Postponed a race. Simple Verse and Second Step have outside chances on their best form, as does Arabian Queen, and all have a run under their belts, too. But they have to improve to beat Postponed and Found.