With Zarwraq a late defection from the Investec Derby, we have 12 colts lining up to win horseracing’s greatest race.
Run at Epsom Downs it’s a true test of the thoroughbred. Speed, stamina, class and balance along with a strong mind are all characteristics needed for winning the Derby.
This year’s running appears at the mercy of John Gosden; the Newmarket handler housing the first two horses in the betting, Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs. It makes sense to start with that pair.
Epsom Derby Preview
In winning a late season Nottingham maiden in 2014, Golden Horn looked like a potential pattern class performer, but at the time, we still couldn’t envisage the son of Cape Cross being such a short price for the Derby.
His progress since has been quick and on the back of just three runs, you’d have to think there is more to come.
John Gosden’s inmate went from winning his maiden to a Listed event before scoring in the Dante, a significant Derby trial, all in the space of three runs and six months. Those are the signs of a good horse.
His decisive victory at York, defeating his opponents with ease by two-and-three-quarter lengths and three-and-a-quarter, respectively, had a touch of the wow factor about it.
Many wonder will he stay, it’s a question that is asked about most in this field, but for us, the trip won’t beat him.
He ticks plenty boxes, there are no negatives and as the betting suggests, Golden Horn is the one to beat.
His stablemate Jack Hobbs is the chief threat if the betting is to be believed.
Like Golden Horn, John Gosden’s charge came into this season as a bit of an unknown; we were more in the dark about him than the race favourite actually, but a sensational handicap win at Sandown catapulted him to the head of the Derby market in April.
While the victory ‘was only’ in handicap company it was one of the most breath-taking performances in recent memory, visually.
The son of Halling just kept going further and further away from his field. It was a joy to watch.
Many felt it was a flash in the pan, but his Dante Stakes second proved he was a good horse.
Well-beaten in the end, by Golden Horn, it was still a step in the right direction especially when you consider he was a touch keen early and raced enthusiastically without cover.
Signs of greenness were also evident so another improved performance is entirely possible.
With the step up in trip supposedly promising to suit he may well get closer to Golden Horn.
Elm Park is another horse that is entitled to get closer to Golden Horn on the back of the Dante.
Last season’s Racing Post Trophy winner made a pleasing comeback when third at York, albeit he was beaten a fair distance in the end.
His margin of defeat does the son of Phoenix Reach a disservice, however, given he was very keen early and sat much closer to the decent early gallop.
Andrew Balding’s horse probably couldn’t done with a lead for longer in the straight and all things considered, it was an excellent reappearance.
With him sure to improve for the run, and the step up to 12 furlongs, we can see Elm Park running big, but we do have concerns about him on the course.
We feel he can handle the downhill run fine, but wonder will he get away with changing his legs up the Epsom cambered straight?
Should he run straight and true he is another to consider.
The fact Ryan Moore has chosen to ride Giovanni Canaletto of the Ballydoyle trio is a huge positive for the horse’s chance.
After the son of Galileo was beaten in his Derby prep race, many felt Hans Holbein would be the number one contender from Aidan O’Brien’s yard.
Moore rode both in their latest races and has plumped for the former. This is significant.
On paper the chestnut is interesting. A full-brother to Derby hero Ruler Of The World and also from the family of Duke Of Marmalade his pedigree is top-class.
His trainer/jockey combination consistently instil fear into bookmakers and they have reacted by significantly shortening his price in recent days.
This, along with his below-par form, in comparison to the above three contenders, means he lacks value. None of his performances have suggested he is capable of winning a Derby, but you simply can’t rule him out based on his strong connections.
To be fair to Giovanni Canaletto he will strip much fitter today than his last run where he showed a likable amount of pace while also shaping as if the step up in trip would suit.
He has a lot more on his plate today, no doubt, and the value is gone, but he is a very interesting contender nonetheless.
Best of the Rest
If the official handicapper is to be believed than Ken Condon’s Success Days is in no doubt the race value play.
Officially the joint-second best horse in the 2015 Derby, on ratings, he can still be back at a price of 16/1. It’s more than likely to do with his unheralded trainer, who is not as well recognised among the training elite.
His grey son of Jeremy is a solid horse, however, but it’s hard to get away from his form coming on soft ground. He’ll face much faster conditions in the Derby and his tendency to hang is also a concern with regards handling the camber up the straight.
Despite Hans Holbein now having the look of being a sacrificial front-runner for his more fancied stablemate Giovanni Canaletto, he deserves a positive mention.
Before Ryan Moore abandoned him he was of a small interest to us based on his gritty nature.
This son of Montjeu is a strong stayer with a good attitude and if left do his own thing in front throughout the race he could cause a small shock.
One things for sure, he won’t be stopping if Seamus Heffernan gets the fractions right, but there must be a concern on class grounds; essentially, is he good enough?
We have our doubts on that score, he’ll probably find a couple too good, but of the double figure pried runners, he interests most.
The rest of this field don’t look good enough although Storm The Stars warrants inclusion as he is a progressive sort of horse.
He was beaten by Hans Holbein in the Chester Vase where the race didn’t pan out as well as it could for him.
This more galloping track, in parts, will suit his strong staying ability, but we wonder is he one; good enough for a test like this and two; mentally adequately matured to take on a the Derby test? We have our doubts.
A handful of horses only look good enough to take this year’s Derby. Hans Holbein’s strong staying power is respected, but Ballydoyle look to have a better contender in Giovanni Canaletto.
While that is the case his raw form needs drastic improvement and we’re not sure that will come in the space of 13 days from his last run.
Aidan O’Brien is a master at peaking his horses for the big occasion, but it will be a small surprise to see Ballydoyle win their fourth Derby in-a-row.
It will be somewhat of a shock if Ireland win, in fact, but if Ken Condon’s Success Days proves as efficient on this quicker ground he looks a big price.
With all that said, however, the first three in the market are the ones to concentrate on.
Elm Park should get closer to Golden Horn today with a prep run under his belt.
The step-up in trip is another plus, but the course is a worry for such a big horse who has a habit of changing his legs meaning, it looks as if John Gosden has the Derby at his mercy with either Golden Horn or Jack Hobbs.
Golden Horn is favoured over his stablemate. At this moment in time he looks the better and more professional horse and is taken to see out the Derby trip.
Jack Hobbs is still learning his trade, he is young and inexperienced and unfortunately races like it.
Epsom is not the best track to learn your trade in the heat of Derby battle so the more professional Golden Horn can settle the 2015 Derby with his potent turn of foot.