Good morning all,
The sunny weather seems set to continue. The chance of heavy showers at Epsom before the start of the Cazoo Derby Festival seem to have disappeared. In fact, if the weather forecasters are correct, we’re set for warm and dry spell that could last between now and the start of Royal Ascot. That’s great news for those of us looking for the Derby to be run on a sound surface. Fingers firmly crossed that the weather forecasters are proved correct.
Inside today’s main piece. I continue to look ahead to the Derby Festival. Plus, I have had look at races at today’s meetings at Hamilton and Leopardstown.
Cazoo Derby Festival
The Cazoo Derby Festival begins tomorrow with the Oaks and Carnation Cup, the highlights of a seven-race card on the Downs. Unlike last year when the meeting took place a month later than normal and behind closed doors. This year Epsom racecourse will welcome a small crowd of racegoers, some 4,000, to watch the action.
The final declarations for day one are now out. The Oaks (4:30) will see 14 fillies meet the starter for the second English fillies Classic of the season. The other Group 1 on the card, the Coronation Cup (3:10), sees a small but select field of 7 runners go to post.
The surprise Derby news is that Bolshoi Ballet is likely to be the sole Aidan O’Brien runner in the Derby. The strongly fancied High Definition is now to be aimed at the Irish Derby which seems a good move as that track will suit him better than Epsom. The decision also suggests Bolshoi Ballet has been doing all the right things at home.
One Guineas form could hold the key
Aidan O’Brien saddles five of the 14 runners. They include favourite Santa Barbara, recent Musidora winner Snowfall and Divinely who was backed at big odds in the ante post market earlier in the week. The race has an interestingly look about it although on paper it doesn’t seem as strong as the line-up as for the Derby.
The once raced Santa Barbara’s inexperience was evident when she finished a 1 ¼ length 4th of 11 in the English 1,000 Guineas. On pedigree 1m 2 ½ f+ should suit so in the circumstances her Guineas effort was a good one. The daughter of Camelot is a lovely look filly who's open to plenty of improvement.
Saffron Beach was ¼ length and two places in front of the favourite in the 1,000 Guineas. At the prices she looks better value of the pair but there are doubts about her stamina for 1m 4f and she had race fitness on her side at Newmarket.
Dubai Fountain had Zeyaadah back in second when winning the Cheshire Oaks. The runner-up was weak in the betting for her seasonal reappearance and may have needed the run. She also had to wait for a gap to appear two out and didn’t get the run of the race like the winner. Zeyaadah is open to more progress of the pair but on pedigree is by no means certain to stay a strongly run 1m 4f. Dubai Fountain is an uncomplicated filly who looks a guaranteed stayer and is almost double the price of the Roger Varian filly.
Snowfall got the run of the race out in front when winning the Musidora at York last month. Back in third that day was another Varian horse Teona. The daughter of Sea The Stars was far too keen on her seasonal return and ran green when asked for her effort two out. The first-time hood is applied today and she’s a filly capable of plenty of improvement if York has taken the fizz out of her. [VV1] Snowfall has improved from two to three and another big run can be expected although stall 12 isn’t a positive.
Willow is another O’Brien runner. Her dam won an Irish Oaks and was runner-up at Epsom and she looked a nice prospect when winning a Leopardstown maiden back in October. Has disappointed on both this season’s starts. Hopes are pinned on the quick ground and the step up to 1m 4f bringing out her best.
Sherbet Lemon, Save A Forest & Divinely were first, second and fourth respectively in the Lingfield Oaks Trial last time. There’s been money for Divinely this week but the other two fillies remain three times that one’s price. All three have wide draws to contend with though.
Aidan O’Brien has a strong hand of contenders. Santa Barbara would be a backable price at 5/2 or bigger. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if we see a much better run from Willow unless she's on pacemaker duties. Dubai Fountain has a solid enough each way chance and could be the pick of the home team ahead of Zeyaadah and Teona.
Another non-runner for the column yesterday. Well, I suppose that's one way to avoid a losing selection. Let’s hope today’s gets a run. I have put two of today's races under the microscope.
2:45 – Illusionist bounced back to winning form over C&D last week. He’s got a 8lb penalty for that success and is back up to Class 2 company. Yard in great form and another win can’t be ruled out, if he’s as good on much quicker ground.
Danzan hasn’t won since February 2018, however, he comes into the race in good form having finished runner-up at Doncaster and occupying the same position behind Mr Lupton at York last time. Ella McCain takes off a handy 5lb and shouldn’t be far away on ground that suits.
4:50 – The 1m 4f Listed Nijinsky Stakes is arguably the most interesting race either side of the Irish Sea today.
Fernando Vichi should go close after his 6 ½ length 3rd of 7 behind Bolshoi Ballet in the Derrinstown Derby Trial last time.
Flying Visit got closer to Bolshoi Ballet than Fernando Vichi on his seasonal return but has disappointed on both subsequent starts. He takes a slight drop-in class here but you would be disappointed if he was good enough to win this.
The Mediterranean showed he had trained on from two to three when winning a 1m 4f maiden at Leopardstown last month. That was just the colt’s second career start and he’s open to further progress for Aidan O’Brien who has saddled the winner of this race three time in the last six years.
Ruling was runner-up to The Mediterranean last time. He also had just two starts and is another open to further progress.
Colour Sergeant is more exposed but had some solid juvenile form and put in a career best on RPR’s when a 1 ¾ lengths 3rd of 6 to Kyprios at Cork 41-days ago. Needs the step up to 1m 4f to unlock more improvement.
Agrimony looked a colt going places when winning a mile maiden at Gowran Park two starts back. Struggled when well beaten in the Irish 2,000 Guineas last time. Prior to that race his trainer had suggested that the son of Pivotal could be an Irish Derby horse. He stays 1m 2f well and on pedigree has a good chance of staying further. If you forgive him his last run he's a big player here.
4:50 – Agrimony – 15/2 @ Bet365 & Paddy Power
Good luck with your Thursday bets.
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk