One of the most eagerly awaited days on the racing calendar comes around, yes, it’s the first juvenile hurdle of the season at Hexham later! Only kidding, it is, of course Derby Day and I’m only sad that I’m not there in person. I loved working there two years ago, that for the first time, it was a proper party atmosphere and one of the best days I’ve ever worked on a racecourse. Maybe next year, eh?
So here are my thoughts on the first five races at Epsom, and one I really fancy goes in the first…
2.00 – 10f Handicap
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I really like the chances of Patient Dream here.
Ralph Beckett’s gelding won here on seasonal debut in April with a bit in hand, and that piece of form looks very strong, with the second, third, fourth and sixth all winners since. There’s plenty of stamina in the pedigree, the dam being a 12f winner herself, so there’s no reason to think this step up in trip isn’t going to bring about more improvement, and with so many plus points against him I think I’d almost have him favourite here. If he isn’t in the frame, it’ll be a long old afternoon for me.
I managed to get a bit of the 4-1 around yesterday, knowing he'd be backed once the rain came. I think the current price is a bit skinny, but at 7-2 and bigger I'd be a player.
2.35 – Princess Elizabeth Stakes
Not a betting race for me, but Illykato, who did well enough at two, looked a different horse on seasonal debut this year when upped to a mile at Goodwood, battling on willingly to get there in the final stride. Another 100yds won’t do her any harm on that, she clearly handles downhill tracks and if she steps forward again, might be the one to beat.
3.10 – Diomed Stakes
Looks open, but I’ll take a chance on the Cole’s Duke Of Hazzard. His form rather tailed off towards the end of last season but wind surgery in the winter gives a clue as to what the issue might have been. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt at present, as he travelled perfectly well on his reappearance at Ascot and I’m going with tiredness rather than wind issues as to why he finished off weakly. Hopefully with that under his belt, he will strip fitter and finish stronger. The track is a question mark, but he handles Goodwood fine, which gives plenty of hope he’ll act here too.
3.45 – Epsom Dash
Plenty of the pace looks to be among the low numbers, with previous winner Caspian Prince, Ornate, Blue De Vega, Yimou, there’s bundles of it, and if they all edge across then those drawn middle/high and that are usually held up are going to need more luck than usual getting through. As such, I’ll take one drawn high, and one low…
Sunday Sovereign was a classy juvenile that’s had his issues since, but looked back to something more like it at York, going from the front and only worn down late by the improving Pendleton. Upped 3lb for that but that still leaves him on a workable mark. A drop of rain Friday (and the forecasts say there might be some) wouldn’t harm his chances any. If Sunday Sovereign can jump out from stall 19 and grab the rail, he might have it to himself. And there’s no better man than De Sousa from the front, as we all know.
Recon Mission is one of the pace angles I can see coming across from low and I don’t think being drawn outside likely leaders Ornate and Caspian Prince will do him any harm. I think he’s a bit stronger than those two coming home and if they do get themselves in a tangle mid/high he could be the one to benefit. A C&D winner last time out, he goes on most ground and although his mark is as high as you’d like, he ought to get a clear run to the line here, and that counts for plenty.
4.30 Epsom – Derby
Bolshoi Ballet is, of course, the correct favourite and the fact Ballydoyle rely on just the one runner than the usual battalion does rather suggest they think he’s more than good enough. He’ll be well backed Saturday, but shorties aren’t the way we play on the Punt, so at bigger prices and extra places I’ll take two swings at Southern Lights, who was behind Bolshoi Ballet at Leopardstown and on that has plenty to do, but got no run at all and they weren’t hard on him once his chance had gone. He looked a strong stayer as a juvenile, and this trip ought to be well within his compass. If Bolshoi is to win, I don’t think Southern Star will be too far behind.
Youth Spirit was always going to be a better horse this season, and I was really taken with his Chester Vase win. He had to wait for the gap but once it came he quickened up smartly and beat better rated horses with a bit to spare. A form line through Fancy Man gives him a little to find with John Leeper, but not that much, and there’s a huge price differential between the two. Friday's rain was very much in this strong stayer's favour, and he looks a decent e/w shout.
Today's selection – Youth Spirit (e/w 4 places) 4.30 Epsom
Good luck with all your bets today,