Epsom Derby tips – Runner-by-runner preview for Saturday’s 2020 Classic renewal

Get our Epsom Derby tips for Saturday's Classic action.Get our Epsom Derby tips for Saturday's Classic action.

With the 2020 Epsom Derby going to post on Saturday we give our Epsom Derby tips and assess each of the runners in the flat season’s biggest horse race.

On a history-making day at Epsom on Saturday, both the Epsom Oaks and the Epsom Derby will be run on the same day following Covid-19 forcing the original meeting to be lost. Both Classics however feature on a condensed card at the Surrey track.

The final field of runners is now known and a 16-strong line-up of classy colts and fillies will heat to post at 4.55pm for the Classic contest, each having an eye on a first-prize of almost £285,000 for the winner.

We’ve taken a runner-by-runner look at the big-race field and offer up our best Epsom Derby tips to land the season’s premier Classic contest.

EPSOM DERBY TIPS RUNNER BY RUNNER GUIDE

ENGLISH KING


Leapt to favouritism for the Classic following a demolition job of his rivals to land the Lingfield Derby Trial, a route to success taken by last year’s Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck.

Ed Walker’s charge showed the longer trip to be no issue having won over ten furlongs previously at Newcastle, cruising into the contest before quickening up smartly to brush aside Berkshire Rocco. That form is solid with the runner-up finishing runner-up since at Royal Ascot in the Queens Vase, and the winner of that contest won the Irish Derby last weekend.

Sure to improve again he has the services of Frankie Dettori here and he’s set to go close here.

Epsom Derby tips. Can English King give Ed Walker a Derby winner?

Epsom Derby tips. Can English King give Ed Walker a Derby winner?

KAMEKO


Showed progressive form last term, ending his season with a win in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle having earlier been beaten at Newmarket in the Royal Lodge Stakes behind Royal Dornoch.

He failed to handle the dip on that occasion, but he showed the benefit of experience back at Flat HQ when winning the 2000 Guineas, bursting the Pinatubo bubble in the process by handing that one his first career defeat.

The runner-up and third – Wichita and Pinatubo – have since filled the same positions in the St James’ Palace Stakes although places were reversed on that occasion so the Guineas form looks very useful and there’s likely better to come from Andew Balding’s charge.

Stamina has to be a concern and the Kitten’s Joy colt isn’t obviously bred to relish this step up in trip and he hasn’t looked entirely at home on the Newmarket undulations despite his previous success so his ability to handle this track is another slight worry.

MOGUL


The first of a possible six-strong Aidan O’Brien battalion, the Galileo colt won twice last term over one mile before perhaps failing to handle tapeta on his final start behind Kameko at Newcastle.

Sent off favourite for the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Ballydoyle runner perhaps wasn’t seen to best effect and shaped as if in need of the outing so he ought to prove much sharper now that run under his belt.

There is a slight question mark over the strength of that Ascot form and his defeat in that race having had a less than ideal preparation; while the winner was stepping up his form considerably from an earlier all-weather defeat.

Better is expected now though but he’ll have to step up on that performance to feature here although he certainly wouldn’ t be the first O’Brien Epsom Derby winner to have disappointed on his first start before going on to take top honours.

RUSSIAN EMPEROR


Stepped up on a narrow defeat behind Cormorant on his seasonal debut in the Derrinstown Derby Trial to collar First Receiver in the Hampton Court Stakes, finishing strongly for the win and the Galileo colt can progress again.

He had shaped well at the Curragh beforehand, looking the best hose in the race despite his narrow defeat where he possibly was just given too much to do off what was a steadily-run contest. However the way he finished off at Ascot suggests he’ll be better suited by an even stiffer test and this extra quarter-mile could well deliver another jolt of improvement.

The bare form of that Ascot success demands more from him if he’s to feature here, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pull out further progress and every chance he can make his presence felt at this higher grade.

Russian Emperor can step up on his Royal Ascot win.

Russian Emperor can step up on his Royal Ascot win.

VATICAN CITY


Got off the mark at the second attempt when successful in a Dundalk maiden contest last October; the Galileo colt then made a solid return to action when finding only Siskin too strong in the Irish 2000 Guineas when making his reappearance.

That was a solid performance given he was denied a clear run at a crucial stage and he should be sharper now with that under his belt so there’s be no shock in seeing him improve on the back of that run.

This longer trip is an unknown and he’s not guaranteed to see out the extra yardage on breeding; but if he can see out the stiffer test of stamina then he could step up again and he’ll be a threat to all if finding further progress over this longer trip.

PYLEDRIVER


Won two of his four starts as a juvenile which included in a Listed contest at Haydock before failing to beat a rival upped to Group Two company when finishing last of seven runners in the Royal Lodge Stakes.

William Muir’s charge made a pleasing return to action when finding only one too good at Kempton in the rearranged Classic Trial and he took a significant step forward when beating Mogul and others to win the King Edward VII Stakes.

He had had the benefit of a run going into that contest which proved an advantage and it can be argued his rivals performed below their best in what was a messy race. His task now is to back up that win and overall he has a bit more to do to follow up on a track which might not suit given he had appeared not to handle the undulations well at Newmarket previously. Stamina will certainly be no issue, but this will demand a good bit more from him if he’s to follow up.

HIGHLAND CHIEF


Got back to winning ways when scoring in a competitive Royal Ascot handicap last month, beating Tritonic by a half-length.

That was his first start beyond one mile, but he had won over five furlongs on his debut and he finished off his last win strongly to suggest this even greater yardage will hold no fears although there has to be question marks over his form to date and whether he’ll be good enough to make the step up to Group One company from a handicap.

Both wins have come in the mud so the better ground at Epsom may not prove to his liking. He’ll get a strong pace which will suit, but he’ll need a significant career best to feature here and others hold stronger claims of success although he’s fully entitled to take his chance.

Highland Chief takes his chances in the Epsom Derby.

Highland Chief takes his chances in the Epsom Derby.

MOHICAN HEIGHTS


A winner in Ireland on debut for James Stack, the Australia colt made his first start for David Simcock a winning one when taking the Listed Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury in August.

Subsequently third to Pyledriver on his reappearance at Ascot in the King Edward VII Stakes he was doing his best work at the finished and he could prove better now he’s had a run under his belt and with more of a pace on here to aim at.

He had beaten Berlin Tango in that Salisbury victory and that one went on to finish runner-up to English King at Lingfield so he has to be respected with the potential for significant improvement to come and he could prove a lively outsider to consider for those looking for some value Epsom Derby tips as a bigger priced alternative.

KHALIFA SAT


A second runner in the race for Andrew Balding, the Free Eagle colt arrives on a hat-trick of wins following a brace of successes either side of a break at Goodwood.

The latest of those came last month with a Listed defeat of Emissaray where he made all the running before keeping on gamely to repel the challenge of the runner-up to land the Cocked Hat Stakes. Although not obviously bred for a stamina test, he saw out the trip really well and this extra furlong should be in range.

The form of that success though can be questioned given he only had three rivals to beat and he was seen to good effect on the sharp end. He’ll find it much harder to deploy similar tactics in a much deeper race and he’ll need to find a significant chunk of progress if he’s to feature.

EMISSARY


Battled hard on his reappearance behind Khalifa Sat at Goodwood in the Cocked Hat Stakes but was unable to reel in the winner. Hugo Palmer’s charge could however prove a different proposition now and the Kingman colt can improve on that effort.

Possibly denied by inexperience on what was just his second outing, he had looked one to follow when scoring on his Wolverhampton debut last October. He needs more judging on his reappearance but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him progress again after just two career starts and he is surely capable of better .

Connections reach for cheekpieces now which could help eke out another chunk of improvement, and he can go well for his trainer who saddles his first ever runner in the Epsom Derby although he faces a very stiff test of his mettle at this much higher level.

Khalifa Sat and Emissary will renew rivalry in the Epsom Derby.

Khalifa Sat and Emissary will renew rivalry in the Epsom Derby.

SERPENTINE


Another of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Epsom Derby candidates, the Galileo colt arrives on the back of a win at the Curragh last month, beating Monument Valley by a impressive margin, possibly improved by the application of cheekpieces for the first time.

He made all the running that day in what was a decent time, and he ought to be suited by this even stiffer test of stamina. However, the leap to a Group One immediately out of winning a maiden will prove an altogether different ball game and he’ll find it much more difficult to adopt a similar trail-blazing role here.

While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him run well, he’s surely well down the list of the Ballydoyle battalion for more Classic success although it wouldn’t be the first time one of the yard’s perceived also-rans came out on top.

WORTHILY


Made a good impression when scoring on debut at Newbury and takes a significant step up in class on just his second career start with John Gosden throwing the Point Of Entry colt into the lions’ den.

He won his debut despite being easy to back in the market, running out a comfortable winner and there’s sure to be more to come from him given his trainer isn’t known for pitching his horses too deeply. His presence here then has to be of interest for all this represents a massive step up in class.

With only one previous start his inexperience in comparison to his rivals is a worry; while Gosden elected to free Frankie Dettori to take up the ride on English King. He could be anything pitched in at this level on just his second outing and he looked a good prospect winning his debut but this demands significantly more.

MAX VEGA


Rounded off last term with a brace of wins at Pontefract and Newmarket, the latter coming in a Group Three contest, and the Lope De Vega colt will be sharper for his return to action at Kempton last month when finishing fifth behind Berlin Tango in the rearranged Classic Trial.

Ralph Beckett’s charge looked very much in need of that outing, and he had beaten Berkshire Rocco in his Newmarket win; that form ties in with English King, and he’ll strip fitter now so could take a big step forward with the form of that Newmarket success looking very solid with Miss Yoda also meeting with defeat before returning to win the Lingfield Oaks Trial.

Trip and ground are likely to present no issue and while he needs a shade more here his two-year old form would certainly give him a chance if he proves he’s trained on. He could outrun his big odds then for his shrewd yard.

MYTHICAL


Won a Gowran Park maiden last term for Aidan O’Brien but the Camelot colt was readily brushed aside by Max Vega at Newmarket in the Zetland Stakes although he ran well for third upped to a French Group One at Longchamp on his final start of the campaign.

Only fifth on his return to action in the recent Gallinaule Stakes at the Curragh, he was subsequently found to be lame and that run can be best excused.

His best form has come on softer ground though and the quicker conditions at Epsom could see him struggle. He’ll have to shrug off his mishap at the Curragh also from last time, while his bare form leaves him with plenty on his plate and he could find this level of company too much.

Aidan O'Brien has six Epsom Derby runners in Saturday's Classic contest.

Aidan O’Brien has six Epsom Derby runners in Saturday’s Classic contest and the Ballydoyle maestro carries our Epsom Derby tips selection.

AMHRAN NA BHFIANN


Twice-raced maiden who made his reappearance at Leopardstown last month where the Galileo colt finished three lengths’ fourth behind Tiger Moth.

He possibly needed that first run, but he looked stretched by the trip and this even longer distance may well see him run out of petrol. He can improve however on his reappearance now he’s had a run and he may well do better; but he’ll have to defy more than 130 years of history if he’s to win this as a maiden and he looks very much up against it at this level.

GOLD MAZE


Jessica Harrington continues in flying form but her representative here has plenty on his plate although he wasn’t disgraced in the Irish Derby behind Santiago at the Curragh last weekend where he eventually finished sixth.

The well-bred Golden Horn colt had found only Crossfirehurricane too strong the time before in the Gallinaule Stakes, and he possibly paid the price last weekend of racing too keenly.

He’s one of two maidens in the field and so also has to defy history if he’s to collect; but the form of the Irish Derby doesn’t look particularly strong and there’s a suspicion this might come too soon after what appeared quite a hard race.

EPSOM DERBY TIPS – BIG RACE VERDICT


English King will be a popular choice as he bids to emulate last year’s winner Anthony Van Dyck by winning both the Lingfield Derby Trial and this Classic contest; Ed Walker’s charge was impressive in winning the former and has the services of Frankie Dettori although the bare form can perhaps be questioned although there’s certainly more to come from him.

Kameko sets the standard on overall form following Group One wins at Newcastle and Newmarket, the latter in the 2000 Guineas although Camelot in 2012 was the last to do the Guineas/Derby double and Andrew Balding’s star has to prove stamina over an extra half-mile while he might also want a flatter track than this.

Aidan O’Brien meanwhile saddles six in the race where RUSSIAN EMPEROR might prove the pick of the bunch and the Galileo colt was strong at the end of ten furlongs when beating First Receiver to win the Hampton Court Stakes.

He was arguably unlucky not to have won the time before on his return at Leopardstown and he’ll be well-suited by the step up this trip judging on the way he finished off at Ascot last time. His bare form leaves him with more to do and he’ll certainly need to step up again.

However there’s likely more to come and with two runs under his belt he won’t be lacking for sharpness, while last season’s winning rider Seamie Heffernan takes the reins. He could be set for a big run and he’s taken to give trainer O’Brien an eighth Epsom Derby success.