And just like that, it’s here again – but this year there’s a difference, it’ll be the richest ever race to be run in Britain. A grand total of £1.625 million is up for grabs between the winners and losers.
I laid out my antepost Derby picks over a week ago and I’m sticking by them. Eminent remains around 7/1 as it was last week, but Permian is beginning to shorten and 11s are as good as you can currently hope for.
Much of the build-up has been around the social media induced craze of should/shouldn’t the 1000/1 Diore Lia be running in the Derby, the biggest flat race in the world… No, of course she shouldn’t; but there’s no rules stopping her, so let’s move on.
We’ll start with Permian, Mark Johnston’s gutsy and hardened 3YO that won me over a long time before the Dante. If he was trained by Aiden O’Brien, John Gosden or Roger Varian, the biggest price you’d see is 6 or 7/1, perhaps even favourite. Yes, he’s far from your typical Derby hope, having been raced frequently and not primed for the race from a yearling. But in the stalls and running round the beloved Poundland Hill, Permian stands equal with the might of Ballydoyle, Godolphin and Oppenheimer.
Versatile on ground, tick. Handles Epsom, tick. Experienced, tick. Still improving, tick. There’s not many boxes left unchecked, and why you can argue and even hope something would improve past him to win the prestigious Derby, I still think he’ll go very close and certainly be in the places. At 11/1 he’s my best bet.
The Ballydoyle contingent is headed by Cliffs of Moher, who’s vying for favouritism with John Gosden’s son of Frankel, Cracksman. The Chester run was far from convincing and in anyone else’s hands is probably a double figure price, spot the recurring theme here. But, this is AOB, and his clean sweep of the big races has continued into this season.
Yet, he doesn’t seem to have the strongest of hands in the biggest of them all, and like last year with US Army Ranger, plenty of doubt surrounds his favourite. A team of seven are still entered and the supposed ‘gamble’ on Capri has quickly dried up with the ground. Venice Beach and Wings Of Eagles need to find plenty of improvement from their Chester Vase efforts which hasn’t been indicated. Douglas Macarthur has never lived up to his early reputation and The Anvil will surely play a ‘team’ role with Finn McCool. For once, and I’m sure I’ll end up eating these words, I think this Group 1 may just slip through the might of Coolmore’s hands.
It leads us on to our second pick, Eminent, trained by Martyn Meade and the horse we selected with Churchill in the 2000 Guineas. Everything just happened a bit quick at Newmarket and he didn’t have the pace to live with the likes of Churchill, Barney Roy and Al Wukair. But, this form looks the best 3YO form around and the 3.5 length sixth was far from a disaster. The trip is a gamble but his pedigree suggests it’s achievable, as well as the way the horse travels through it’s races.
If the son of Frankel has much petrol left in the closing stages he’ll be in with a massive chance. He’s shown a turn of foot when winning the Craven and has the class to fly past those tiring in the final furlongs. He should handle the track, his Newmarket forms lends to this and I just suspect his price may drift as the weekend approaches. The usual money will come for the Ballydoyle cohort, as well as the trendier horses such as Cracksman and the Godolphin trio.
It’s never an easy race to judge for obvious reasons. Just like the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, the air of unknown clouds so many of the runners. Dubai Thunder has raced once, Cracksman only twice. Knowing which horses go on what ground is near enough a guess, as is the 12F trip they all face over the undulations and twists of Epsom. In this instance, I’m sticking with the safer ground of Permian and Eminent. Good luck.