Muddled Epsom Derby Picture Sets Poser for Punters

Epsom Derby Selections

Has there ever been a more confused ante-post Epsom Derby market? A glance at the betting lists in the wake of the final big Derby trial, the Group 2 Betfred Dante Stakes at York on May 12, shows that many firms have two fillies at the head of the betting, while other leading contenders including Dante winner Wings of Desire and French group winner Cloth of Stars don’t even hold an entry in the race!

Minding to Win Epsom Derby

If either of the outstanding three-year-old fillies seen so far this season do run – Minding, winner of the Qipco 1000 Guineas, and So Mi Dar, winner of the Epsom Debry Trial and the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes – they would probably beat the colts. The fillies certainly look a better crop this season than their male equivalents, judged on form shown so far this campaign.

Aidan O’Brien’s Minding is hot 5/4 favourite for the Oaks after a blinding win in the 1000 Guineas and is 5/2 (with a run) to land the Derby. She looks almost certain to stay on breeding, ticks all the right boxes, and could very well win if connections decide to let her take her chance. That however is unlikely, with the Coolmore triumvirate surely hoping to win another Derby with one of their colts, turning him into yet another multi-million dollar stallion to add to their outstanding list of sires.

So Mi Dar Scratched

So Mi Dar has already beaten the colts in the Epsom Derby Trial over a mile-and-a-quarter before slamming her own sex in the Musidora at York. She also looks sure to stay, has proven her ability to handle the track, and is still unexposed after just three runs, but her owners, the Lloyd-Webbers, seem reluctant to take on the boys. That might change nearer the big day though, and if she runs, she could take all the beating.

UPDATE: It has been confirmed So Mi Dar will not race in the Oaks due to a mild sickness. 

Selections for the Epsom

Wings of Desire Horse

Wings of Desire

As far as the colts go, the victory of John Gosden’s Wings of Desire at York in the Dante Stakes was a fine effort and looked the best of the Derby trials. The winner of a lowly Wolverhampton maiden on his previous outing, the well-related colt showed a smart turn of foot to reel in the classy Deauville, while his stable companion Foundation was an unlucky-in-running third.

Foundation would be a very interesting Epsom contender, but Gosden has said he will run in the French equivalent instead.

Gosden was clearly elated with the winner who he described in his post-race interview as “freakish”, pointing out that the son of Pivotal hadn’t even had a proper gallop by March of this season. His ascent to the top has been rapid and there could be more to come. He looks a worthy general favourite at around 4/1.

There is still some 9/2 on offer for the apparent Aidan O’Brien trained first-string US Army Ranger, a short-head winner over his stable companion Port Douglas (conceded 4lbs) in the Group 3 Chester Vase. The winner was having only his second ever run after winning a maiden at the Curragh five weeks earlier, and while he battled on well to score – and there could be a lot of improvement to come – he didn’t jump out as being good enough to win the Derby. Time will tell.

Hugo Palmer, trainer of the fine 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold, has asserted that his charge will not run in the Derby as he believes he won’t stay, primarily using a genetic test as the basis of this assumption. That’s a big shame, because his style of racing indicates that he will get further than a mile, and who’s to say he won’t last out the journey at Epsom? Connections could yet change their collective mind and he is offered at 10/1.

French challenger Cloth of Stars is an interesting option. He’s trained by the legendary Andre Fabre who sent out Pour Moi to win the Derby a few years ago, and has already shown he has trained on nicely in beating old rival Robin of Navan in a Group 2 in France. The pair met in a Group 1 in France last term when Harry Dunlop’s charge just got the better of the argument.

If he does turn up at Epsom then the hint should be taken as Fabre rarely brings horses over to England without genuinely believing they can win. He is currently available at tempting each-way odds of 10/1.

Of the rest, Midterm looks an unlikely runner after bombing out when only fifth in the Dante, but the runner-up in that race, O’Brien’s Deauville, could go to Epsom and would certainly not be without a chance at 12/1.

Jim Bolger’s Moonlight Magic was fairly impressive in winning the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown (a race that has thrown up a number of subsequent Derby winners in the recent past), and is another to be respected at odds of around 12/1.

At bigger prices you could do worse than consider the Owen Burrows-trained pair of Massaat and Muntazah, both owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum. Massaat (a 16/1 shot) ran a stormer to be second in the 2000 Guineas and looked as though he would stay further than the mile. He is still learning his trade and could be something of a surprise package, while Muntazah ran fourth behind Wings of Desire at York and was keeping on at the finish, suggesting he will stay the mile-and-a-half at Epsom. He is available at up to 50/1 in places.

In the News

[1], Goodwood in line for Epsom Oaks and Derby pointers, 2016