The experts at Timeform take a look at the Epsom Derby market and pick their idea of the winner of the Group One.
In stark contrast to the latest renewals of the Derby - which have centred around the likes of Golden Horn (13/8), Australia (11/8), Dawn Approach (5/4), Camelot (8/13) and Carlton House (5/2) - after all the various trials, from Lingfield to York, this year's race looks a wholly open affair with no clear standout performer.
What we have is a group of around seven or eight colts at the top of the Timeform ratings separated by only 7 lb. In essence - one of the most winnable runnings in recent memory.
Top of the ratings after winning one of the key trials for the Derby, the Dante at York, is Wings of Desire, a full-brother to The Lark who will seemingly relish the return to a mile and a half at Epsom (won his maiden over the trip at Wolverhampton). Despite the visual impression at the time (several horses keen throughout), the Dante was run at a sound pace, and the form looks solid, for all the favourite Midterm was disappointing and was subsequently found to have been injured. Wings of Desire's relentless progress inside the final three furlongs to get on top of Deauville late on demonstrated a giant leap forward from his maiden win, and as the winner of the deepest trial, he holds an obvious chance. Though there are some minor concerns about his level of experience given he only made his debut in mid-April, he deserves to be favourite on form.
Wings Of Desire winning the Dante.
Current favourite though, and a horse with even less experience than Wings of Desire, is US Army Ranger. He's taken the same route to the Derby as 2013 winner Ruler of The World by winning the Chester Vase after making his debut at three in a Curragh maiden in April, and he's clearly very well regarded, having been backed into 16/1 in places for the Derby before he had even been seen on a racecourse. Though it is his connections (who of course target this race relentlessly) and reputation, rather than his form that has led to him heading the Derby betting. US Army Ranger's Chester win was not overly impressive - he failed to put a seal on the race after travelling well and only beat his considerately-ridden stablemate Port Douglas by a short head, in receipt of 4 lb - but it was a smart effort nonetheless and will no doubt aid his development aplenty. It would be no surprise to see him leave that form well behind him on Saturday, though it is hard to recommend him as a betting prospect as 7/2 favourite on what he has achieved, in such an open race.
Cloth of Stars - one of a few supplemented horses for this year's race, which includes the aforementioned Wings of Desire - entered the Derby picture with a pleasing performance in the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud in early-May. By Sea The Stars out of a sister to Oaks winner Light Shift, Cloth of Stars is bred for this test (had been a free-going sort but settled better last time and should stay), while it is of course encouraging that trainer Andre Fabre also won the same race with 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi.
Cloth Of Stars winning at Saint Cloud
Another colt bred for Epsom greatness is Ulysses - by Galileo out of Oaks winner Light Shift herself - who has attracted support in recent weeks (now around 8/1 in the betting) after some positive reports from trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who is seeking his sixth win in this race. Ulysses has just a maiden win to his name, but he looked something out of the ordinary when winning over ten furlongs at Newbury by eight lengths in mid-May. Naturally, Ulysses has plenty to find ratings wise with some of the Derby trial winners here, but with more to come as he steps up to a mile and a half, he is a truly fascinating contender in the race he was bred to win.
Besides the principals in the betting, there plenty of other interesting contenders too, including Guineas runner-up Massaat (though he's not a certain stayer on breeding) and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner Moonlight Magic, who is Godolphin's second representative. Add to those other potential improvers in Ballysax winner Harzand and unlucky Lingfield Derby Trial third Across The Stars (who is preferred to the supplemented winner of that race, Humphrey Bogart) and this year's Derby could well be more open than the preceding 'Dash'!
There must, however, be a winner of the biggest Flat race in the world, and though there are countless other potential improvers, it is hard to ignore the rapid progress that Wings of Desire has made in his short career to date, and the Dante may once again provide the key to the Derby as it did in 2015 with Golden Horn and 2007 with Authorized.
Back Wings of Desire
in the Epsom Derby at 5.50 with Betfair