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Epsom Derby expert verdict

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 oft-difficult to handle camber of the run-in which can unbalance runners.

A big field of 19 runners will face the gate for the top-class contest; who will add their name to an already illustrious hall-of-fame?

As is usual for this contest, Aidan O’Brien once again will boast a richness of talent in the colts’ Classic, headed by his Cliffs Of Moher (4/1, Bet365) who will bid for a hat-trick of wins following success in the Dee Stakes where he won well despite still looking inexperienced.

The Galileo colt had earlier beaten Orderofthegarter impressively at Leopardstown, and sure to improve he’ll be a big threat to all. Of the Ballydoyle battalion which numbers no less than six runners from the Irish maestro, he is the choice of Ryan Moore, and further progress should see him firmly in the mix.

Derby favourite Cliffs Of Moher can improve on his Chester win, and he is one of seven runners in the race for Aidan O'Brien.

Stablemate Capri (14/1, William Hill) can’t be underestimated, and supporters of the Galileo colt would have been happy to see rain at Epsom earlier in the week. 

An impressive winner of a Curragh Group Two contest last term, beating Yucatan, he stepped up on that effort upped in trip at Saint-Cloud on his final run of the season, finishing third to Waldgeist.

 While he hasn’t disgraced himself in two starts this season on quicker ground in Group Three races behind Rekindling and stablemate Douglas Macartur, he is open to further improvement at this distance; but more rain would be welcome to his chances.

Douglas Macarthur (25/1, William Hill) and Venice Beach amongst the seven-strong entry by the Ballydoyle maestro for the colts’ classic, and both have claims despite needing to improve on their efforts to date.

The former was a Leopardstown winner last July, prior to running well behind Best Of Days in the Royal Lodge, although shaping as if needing a stiffer test; the Galileo colt subsequently finished fourth behind Waldgeist at Saint-Cloud, one place behind stablemate Capri.

However, he had Capri behind when going close on return at Leopardstown behind Rekindling, and he showed a likeable attitude to hold off Yucatan in the Derby Trial back at that venue last time.

On form, he looks closely matched with his stablemate, and while he needs to pull out more, he could be one to consider as a value each-way chance.

Venice Beach (14/1, Sky Bet) meanwhile arrives in search of a hat-trick of wins, having posted an easy success at Tipperary in April, and following up with a defeat of Wings Of Eagles in the Chester Vase last time.

Another by Galileo, his stamina for this trip is proven, and open to improvement he is another solid performer for the Ballydoyle camp, although Chester Vase winners don’t have a great record in the colts’ Classic; while Ryan Moore overlooks him this time in favour of Cliffs Of Moher.

Venice Beach is another to arrive at Epsom via a Chester win.

The Anvil (50/1, Bet365) ran well for third in the Chester Vase, making most of the running and keeping on well to the line to go down by just over one length; however, his sole win to date has come on the all-weather, and on that Chester run he has work to do with Venice Beach to overturn the form from the Roodeye.

Similar comment applies to the last of the O’Brien runners in Wings Of Eagles () who split Venice Beach and The Anvil at Chester; he didn’t have a hard race there, and the Pour Moi colt could conceivably progress past both stablemates given it was his first start of the season, while the other two had already had the benefit of a run.

A winner at Killarney last term, he is another for whom improvement will be required, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him give a good account.

Eminent (7/1, Paddy Power) represents the 2000 Guineas form, which was won by Churchill, although the Craven Stakes winner wasn’t unfancied for the first colts’ Classic of the season; however, he spoilt his chance by pulling hard, and the longer trip of the Derby will need to produce improvement if he’s to bounce back, although he’s a very talented performer who may well have more to offer.

His dam stayed this far, while there is some speed in her pedigree; not seen at his best in the 2000 Guineas, he could bounce back over the longer trip and is feared, although the imposing Frankel colt may not be seen to best effect at this venue.

John Gosden meanwhile could saddle five runners in the race, headed by the unbeaten Cracksman (4/1, Paddy Power) who has shown he can handle this venue when winning here on his return to action with a defeat of subsequent Dante Stakes winner Permian.

However, the prospect of softer ground at York prevented the Frankel gelding from taking his chance in the Dante; although recent drying conditions following earlier rain will be welcome.

He still looked raw here last time, but he is sure to progress as a result of the experience; while he arguably needs to improve again given Permian’s subsequent exploits in winning the Dante at York, he represents the same connections as 2015 winner Golden Horn, and the Frnakel colt should go well although the extra distance is an unknown.

Not seen to best effect in the 2000 Guineas, Eminent could improve for the longer Derby trip.

Gosden could also saddle recent Cocked Hat Stakes winner Khalidi (25/1, Bet365), who has been supplemented for this race on the back of that impressive Goodwood success.

The high Chaparral colt appeared well-suited by the step up to this trip, keeping on strongly to post a five-lengths winning margin over Fierce Impact and Raheen House; he is another for whom improvement on that effort could see him in the mix.

Pealer (200/1, William Hill) was a winner at Southwell in early-May, beating Meyandi by a massive margin to open his win account after a pair of in-the-frame efforts previously, which included when fourth behind Tamleek at Newmarket.

He has shown nothing however to suggest he is up to the task of winning this, and he faces a mammoth task to get competitive here; although he could potentially be deployed as a pacemaker for one of the more fancied Gosden runners.

Glencadam Glory (50/1, William Hill) was a juvenile winner at Doncaster last term, and his run at Sandown in April behind Flood Warning can be discounted as he fluffed the start so to finish as close as he did was a solid run in the circumstances.

However, he proved no match for Godolphin’s Best Solution at Lingfield in the Derby Trial, finishing three lengths’ runner-up to that rival having again been slowly away from the boxes.

He can’t afford to do the same again in this stronger contest; but nevertheless he has something to find on form if he’s to get competitive in this contest.

Crowned Eagle (40/1, William Hill), who would be bidding for a hat-trick of wins heading into Epsom, completes the Gosden quartet and the Oasis Dream colt looked progressive when scoring at Windsor recently from Secret Advisor.

That run hinted at better still to come, and he is another open to improvement; although he’ll need to step up on the form of his wins to get competitive here. First-time cheek-pieces may help elicit a forward step, and he could be capable of a big run despite being thrust into the deep end taking a massive step up in class.

At big prices however, BENBATL (25/1, Sky Bet) could be worth an interest despite coming off worst in a Dante battle with Permian, and despite his big price he may prove the pick of the Godolphin trio and shouldn’t be underestimated here.

The thrice-raced Dubawi colt was a debut winner at Doncaster in April prior to posting an excellent third in the Craven behind Eminent where he shaped as if in need of a stiffer test when beaten just two lengths.

Having done good late work in that race, he was stepped up in trip for the Dante at York, where Saeed bin Suroor’s charge was just outbattled by Mark Johnston’s charge having led briefly in the final furlong; but he kept on well once headed, battling all the way to the like, and an extra quarter-mile on better ground may well produce further improvement in the Dubawi colt who will sport a hood and tongue-tie combination for the first time.

He is surely capable of better still, and if the headgear produced further improvement in the Dubawi colt then he could outrun his odds to get back on the scoresheet here.

Oisin Murphy will be the man in the saddle on board Benbatl.

Best Solution (12/1, Bet365) meanwhile would have to step up on his Lingfield Derby Trial success, although it was an impressive performance that hinted at better to come.

He had the reopposing Glencadam Glory behind, scoring by three lengths, and while that rival blew the start and gave up ground, the manner of his win suggested he likely would have beaten that rival in any case.

A step up is required, but he’s progressive and should give a good account.

Meanwhile, the once-raced Dubai Thunder (20/1, William Hill) completes the Godolphin challenge, and the Dubawi colt made a taking introduction when scorching to a wide-margin win at Newbury on his debut just over two weeks ago.

This is a significant step up in class facing Saeed bin Suroor’s charge, but the manner of that win was impressive and suggested he could well develop into a top-class performer in time.

He is an exciting addition to a cracking field for this colts’ Classic, and while it is a big ask for him to follow up that impressive success thrust into Group One company, he can give a good account.

Rekindling (25/1, Sky Bet) meanwhile failed to beat a rival home on his last foray into Group One company last term in France behind Waldgeist; but Joseph O’Brien’s charge beat Douglas Macarthur to win the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown prior to a creditable fourth to Permian at York in the Dante.

A winner on soft ground as a juvenile, the High Chaparral colt could improve for the step up in trip, and there could be worse outsiders to side with.

Permian (12/1, Bet365) was supplemented for this race following his win in the Dante Stakes at York, where he had to dig deep to fend off Benbatl to land that Group Two prize.

Mark Johnston’s charge has considerably more experience to call upon than any of his rivals in this contest, having seen plenty of action as a juvenile; and he shaped well on his return to action at Bath in a handicap behind Hushood despite looking in need of the run.

Only beaten a neck there, the Teofilo colt has since been narrowly denied by Cracksman here in April prior to posting back-to-back successes at Newmarket and latterly York; a typically tough customer from this yard, he has to be respected upped in trip, although there is a chance he may just lack the scope of a couple of these rivals.

However, Dante winners have a solid record when stepping into the Derby cauldron with ten winners doing the York/Epsom double.

Dante winners have an excellent record in the Derby, and Mark Johnston's charge will be the latest to attempt the double.

Rekindling (25/1, William Hill) finished fourth in that Dante, having won on his return to action at Leopardstown in the Ballysax Stakes.

Joseph O’Brien’s charge is a smart performer, but this could prove too tough given there appeared no apparent reason for his defeat at York; however, the longer trip may see him in better light here for all he does need to find some improvement to feature.

Salouen (66/1, Paddy Power) improved with every start as a juvenile, scoring at Windsor and Salisbury prior to running solid in-the-frame efforts at Chantilly and Doncaster.

Sylvester Kirk’s charge made another promising return to action when just beaten a neck behind Khalidi at Newmarket in the Fielden Stakes;  this longer trip will suit the son of Canford Cliffs, but on balance of his form he is another for whom significant improvement is required.

Diore Lia (1500/1, BetVictor) completes the field, and the twice-raced maiden has been a talking point in the build-up to this contest having been thrust into the Classic spotlight by trainer John Jenkins.

It is unlikely there’ll be a fairytale ending to this story however, with the filly having finished well-beaten on both starts to date in maidens at this venue, and at Lingfield when last seen. 

She hasn’t qualified for an official mark as yet, but with a lowly Racing Post Rating of just 69 – some 28 points below the next lowest-rated Pealer, who has an official rating of 85 – it would surely rank as one of the biggest shocks in horse racing history if she were to somehow win this.


Although beaten in the Dante behind Permian, it could be worth taking a chance that the first-time headgear sported by BENBATL (25/1, Sky Bet) may bring about sufficient improvement in the Dubawi colt to go one better.

Saeed bin Suroor’s charge never made it to the track as a juvenile, but he quickly made up for lost time when impressively scoring at Doncaster in April, beating a couple of subsequent winners in the process of a very smart performer.

Fast-tracked on the back of that run into the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, he was seen doing good late work behind Eminent, keeping on well and shaping as if a stiffer test would suit; he did little wrong in the Dante next time, travelling well and briefly taking up the running inside the last furlong before being outbattled by the winner.

The head-gear applied may help produce some further improvement, and the Godolphin runner can post a big effort here where he could outrun his big odds.

2017 EPSOM DERBY SELECTION – BENBATL (25/1, Sky Beteach-way)

Frankie Dettori after winning the Epsom Derby.

epsom derby - the history

The Epsom Derby is the blue riband race for the thoroughbred flat racing horse. Held at Epsom Downs each June, the Derby is a Group One over 1m4f for three-year-old colts and fillies. It is the fourth classic contest of the season, preceded by the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks, and is the second leg of the Triple Crown. 

The Derby is Britain’s richest race and the most prestigious of the five classic’s. A prize fund of over £1.3 million ensures the contest is the grandest of the season and one in which is viewed by millions around the world. It is widely-regarded as Britain’s biggest race-day and has become one of the nation’s greatest yearly occasions.
The Epsom Derby has welcomed some of the world’s very best thoroughbred racehorses throughout its rich history. The contest is not only a momentous occasion for horse and connections, but the Derby also stands as a pivotal contest for the breeding industry. Victors of the Epsom classic routinely move on to enjoy lucrative careers at stud as leading stallions. The great Galileo, winner of the 2001 Derby, has progressed to become Britain and Ireland’s top stallion. Fellow Derby victors Sea The Stars and New Approach have also cemented their position in the breeding ranks with many more expected to do so in the future.

Many of the world’s leading operations including Coolmore and Darley specifically target the Epsom Derby as the centre-point of a thoroughbreds breeding careers. Winning the lucrative 1m4f classic catapults a horse’s worth at stud and in turn increases the revenue each breeding establishment generates.

Winning the Epsom Derby is not a straightforward task, however. The Surrey setting is renowned for being one of Europe’s most unique tracks and requires a certain mixture of attributes to succeed. It is a true test of stamina and mentality as the undulating turns and one-sided camber can catch inexperienced horse’s off-guard. The sweeping left-handed turn into the home-straight, named Tattenham Corner, sees many contenders win or lose their races. There is a demanding right-to-left camber inside the final three-furlongs that routinely sees runner race against the far-side rail before a stiff uphill finish.

famous epsom derby winners

Founded in 1780, the Epsom Derby was originally contested over a distance of one-mile before behind transferred to 1m4f in 1784. It was run on a Thursday in late May or early June, depending on the time of Easter, up until being moved to a Wednesday in 1838. From 1900 to 1995 the Derby was raced on the first Wednesday of June but has since moved to the month’s first Saturday since 1995. During both World War I and World War II the Derby was run at Newmarket and renamed the ‘New Derby’.

For the three-year-old thoroughbred horse, winning the Epsom Derby is the greatest achievement in racing. It is one of the oldest prizes in the sport and brings with it immense rewards both on and off of the track. In recent years, the Derby has produced some of the most thrilling sporting triumphs. 

In 1981, the Derby hosted one of the best performances in its history when Shergar annihilated the field to win by 10-lengths. It was a hugely memorable display and made Shergar a British household name. The horse would then become a fan-favourite before being involved in his notorious kidnapping in 1983. 

The 2010 renewal saw the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Workforce storm to victory under jockey Ryan Moore to win by seven-lengths. It was a performance that smashed the course record and cemented the horse’s claims as one of the greatest winners of the race. Workforce went on to later win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and become European Champion Three-year-old Colt.

the world's most prestigious race

Epsom Derby day is also a fantastic celebration of British tradition and fashion. A number of Royal family members, including Her Majesty The Queen, routinely make the trip to the Surrey track each year for the flat season’s premier race. Celebrities from all industries follow thousands of enthusiastic racegoers in experiencing a part of the day’s unparalleled atmosphere.

Every year the Epsom Downs are made open to the general public who can enjoy the leading horse racing action for free whilst indulging in the day’s traditional family fair entertainment. Record suggests over 100,000 in total descend upon Epsom for their showcase afternoon and each play a major role in cementing the Derby’s position as one of the country’s leading yearly events.

The incredible combination of Europe’s best thoroughbred flat racing, rich British tradition and leading fashion
 and entertainment makes the Epsom a sporting event like no other. Its prominent position in the sports calendar showcases its importance as the three-year-old colts and fillies seek to cement further memories in the race’s long-standing history.

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