Australia should outshine the field in the Derby.
Red-hot favourite Australia may have failed to justify the hype when only third in the 2000 Guineas, but Aidan O’Brien’s high opinion of him was essentially vindicated, and he came out of the Newmarket defeat with his reputation enhanced, if anything.
As a son of an Oaks winner, he’s always appealed more as an Epsom contender in any case, and nothing that’s happened since, has harmed his prospects, unless you subscribe to the rumour that he’s been beaten up the gallops by stablemate Geoffrey Chaucer, a notion inspired either by a bookmaker, or within the Coolmore camp itself as a means of propaganda. Despite all the positives, the market has not spoken at all for the ante-post favourite in recent days, and the talk that he might go off an odds-on chance on Saturday has dried up.
The bottom line is that Australia was elevated to an almost unbackable status in the ante-post market for the Derby, and his inevitable drift has been accompanied by negative talk by those who really ought to know better. Two weeks ago, we couldn’t possibly envisage backing Derrick Smith’s colt for the race, but as his odds crept closer to the 2/1 mark, it became harder and harder to ignore the form choice.
We expect his price to harden again now that his participation is guaranteed, and we’re in no hurry to oppose him, particularly as the pair closest to him in the ratings have drawn the inside stalls, a fact which seems a positive at first glance, but leaves them exposed on the flank as the field initially goes right from the mile-and-a-half start.
For one who can break slowly, Australia has fared better with stall twelve, but connections will be hopeful that he has ironed out that particular quirk. All in all, the favourite looks solid, with the only cloud on the horizon being, well, the clouds on the horizon. Epsom has so far missed the anticipated thunderstorms, but the possibility of a downpour remains for Saturday, and testing ground is the one aspect which could derail the Ballydoyle colt.
Potential favourite backers may want to pay at least as much attention to the sky as they do the parade ring, then, but Australia is undoubtedly the one they have to beat to clinch the Derby on the day.
Gallops rumour has seen Geoffrey Chaucer promoted to high rank in the betting, but he makes less appeal that a couple of others for those seeking value. Kingston Hill would be clear second choice but for his potentially awkward draw, and he’s the one the shrewd money will be on if the storm breaks over Epsom before race time, as he showed when ploughing through the slop at Doncaster last autumn. Without the rain, his chance isn’t forlorn, and that’s also true of Dante flop True Story, given how that race has worked out, but the most appealing at bigger odds is Ebanoran.
All the talk after the Derrinstown was how unlucky Geoffrey Chaucer was in the scrimmaging which saw Ebanoran demoted, but the first past the post was, in my view, better than the bare result, and the way he swept to the lead after failing to settle was taking. He clearly needs to grow up a little, and a repeat of those hard-pulling antics may be his undoing, but it must be remembered that he’d only raced in a maiden in his juvenile season, and was still very green last time.
With John Oxx finally back in form, and Ebanoran learning by the run, he appeals as the one horse in the race still capable of taking a big leap forward in form terms. Debate will rage about who came out of the Leopardstown Trial as the moral winner, but the Aga Khan’s colt is twice the price of the unlucky third there, and that is simply wrong. He has more potential than either of the pair he split in the Derrinstown, and must be the shortest priced of that trio for the betting to make any sense.
The BetBright Verdict
Selection: Australia – 5/4 (win)
Each-way alternative: Ebanoran – 14/1 (each-way)
The Derby goes off at 4pm tomorrow, Saturday, June 7th.
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