The Epsom Derby 2016

As Tesio, one of the kingpins of breeding himself, said: “The Thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby. If you base your criteria on anything else, you will get something else, not the Thoroughbred.”

It is a reminder of the legacy of today’s Epsom Derby (4.30) that the above remains true to this very day, with generations upon generations of our greatest stars having passed the post infront after the incredible journey that the Downs takes. At The Races analyst and Final Furlong star Kevin Blake best describes it here – – but it’s one of many factors that makes today’s event so wonderfully open from both a sporting and betting perspective.

There are 16 runners, more than half the field is separated by less than 6lbs, the first and joint third favourites have had less than 10 runs combined and it’s 6/1 the field. In such circumstances, some will find going for the favourite a cop-out but Wings of Desire showed immense promise in landing the Dante, the strongest recognised trial for this, and if improving as one would hope, he can take the beating today.

His journey to the top has been a rapid one, having made a nice debut on his debut when running on into third at the Craven meeting over 10 furlongs. Having been out the back, he promised to improve for a step up in trip, and duly won his maiden with ease. Connections sent him for the Dante straight afterwards, and the booking of Frankie Dettori – who jumped off the proven Foundation – spoke volumes beforehand. Keen early, Dettori had him anchored in rear and with plenty to do to say the least when the race go going, but he was relentless in coming down the outside to pass most of the field and with every run it becomes clearer and clear that he was always going to get there and that over today’s extra distance he would have been even more impressive in victory.

He did not impress everybody at Breakfast With The Stars, but he has been supplemented nevertheless and the man who had last year’s Derby 1-2 can be trusted to make the right choice on his participation; It may be that he finds today coming too quickly for him – this is his fourth run in just over 31 days and he was doing halfspeeds for most of them – but others are in the same boat and in any case he can still be improving.

The trials this year may not have been the strongest overall, but in beating Deauville (Group 3 winner, Group 2 second in Royal Lodge), Foundation (unlucky in Racing Post Trophy) and coming clear nicely of a field full of prospects, he sets a standard that should see him shorter than he currently is.

Such is the esteem that US Army Ranger is held in that before he’d stepped foot on a racecourse he was being backed for this and he did nothing to dispel those vibes when taking his maiden at the Curragh on debut. Expected to improve, he did leave the bare form behind when he won the Chester Vase, travelling smoothly, but he did not impress in struggling to get past the rallying Port Douglas (fourth in the Racing Post Trophy) and Biodynamic (well behind him as well) when getting 4lbs, with the runner up handled kindly to be polite that day. One would wager that he will improve more than the runner up will on just his third start, but he must if he is to take a leading role here on many formlines (albeit he is bred in the purple to do so). Preference would be for Port Douglas of the two.

The best form in this race comes from Maasat, second in the Dewhurst and then the Guineas, when he stated on as if he’d relish 10 furlongs at the least. He has to be respected on that basis, but there are many doubts in the pedigree as to whether he’ll get a stiff 12 furlongs here. We can take or leave him, and even at the prices, I’ll leave him.

The openness of this race sees a lack of Group 1 form, but Cloth Of Stars was second in the Criterium De Saint-Cloud last year when Idaho was fourth and he has since looked just as good, winning his two races there in style, including the Prix Greffulhe in fine style when he stayed on strongly to beat Robin Of Navan. Whilst he was having his first run of the season, the time shaped very well, he promises to improve for this trip being by Sea The Stars, and he handled the course beautifully at Breakfast With The Stars. He has a great deal going for him today and is taking the same route that Pour Moi did before winning in 2011; At 9/1 he is a strong each/way bet to give Goldolphin a first Derby.

Ulysees is regally bred, being by a classic pairing of Galileo and Oaks winner Light Shift, and he has improved rapidly with three promising starts. However his contention here is partly taken on trust, given the lack of substance to his latest win (went off 4/11). Improve he will, but he is rightly priced from this standpoint. Rain in the week was a godsend for Harzand’s chances, and he has to be respected following his win in the Ballysax, but the initial impression from connections that he wouldn’t handle the track remains strongly in the mind and the juice has gone out of the course to boot. Idaho, who was behind him in the Ballysax and then third in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, can reverse the form on this better ground with his conquerors on those two occasions. It was a tight finish to the Derrinstown Stud Derby trial last time, but the winner Moonlight Magic, impressive as he was, had the run of the race that day whilst Idaho promised to improve again for another step up in trip that day having gotten going in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Shogun was ahead of him that day but has always wanted a quicker surface than he’s going to get today and his 1-8 record doesn’t make a whole load of appeal.

Algometer was second to Midterm after winning a good Newbury maiden on the same day he did, and he rallied really well to land the Cocked Hat Stakes. The further he goes the better he’s going to be and the ground is perfect, so 33’s looks overpriced but so do many here. It’s a shame that Midterm is injured, although he represented the form as well as he could at York.

The Lingfield trial hasn’t given us a winner since High Rise but Humphrey Bogart was strong at the finish and has to be respected here, having proven he handles the course when second to So Mi Dar in the Derby trial, the form of which has worked out well. However he may struggle to confirm the form with Across The Stars, who was coming with a rattle late and looked as if a stiffer finish may have seen him reverse the form.

Red Verdon is a rapidly progressive colt who could have gone for other targets but his connections deserve credit for giving him the chance to be here (as do Ulysees, given his lowly official rating). He’s a nice horse but he has not given a signal that he could play a leading role here even if coming forward again for a third run at 12 furlongs. Advice The Derby, Wings Of Desire, 1 pt win (5/1 general) The Derby, Cloth Of Stars, 1 pt each/way (8/1 general, 15/2 Paddy Power, Skybet*)