IT’S not every season you get a Derby and Oaks run on the same day. What a weekend of racing we have in store.
Epsom’s card is nothing short of special and here’s all you need with an in-depth preview of Saturday’s action. Callum Jamieson gets stuck in.
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Race 1 – 1.50 Investec Woodcote EBF Stakes
The opener has only attracted a field of five and it looks a bit of a trappy race to get us underway.
It wouldn’t be a surprise for any of these to end up the winner. Although debutant Calcutta Cup is hard to make a case for for obvious reasons.
That said, he must have showed a fair amount at home to be thrown in the deep end at a tricky track on his very first racecourse outing.
It’s not a race I have a strong opinion on, but Mark Johnston has a good record in the Woodcote and his MUTAZAWWED has solid claims here.
His debut run at Newcastle was nothing to be sniffed at and he improved last time to win a muddling race at Lingfield.
He’ll surely be ridden positively again here and in a small field could dictate. He gets a tentative vote.
Charlie Appleby’s Modern News will be popular despite his backward step at Royal Ascot. After winning on debut at Newmarket he struggled stepped up in trip in the Chesham and it’s hard to see why he’s favourite here.
It wasn’t the trip that had him beat at the Royal Meeting and he needs to kick on again. That said, Pinatubo won this race last year and it may explain the thinking and price for some.
Debut winner Twaasol clearly has some talent. He won first time up at Windsor at 16-1.
That clearly wasn’t expected and the race didn’t appear the strongest. He was raw though and a further step forwards gives him a big shout.
Karl Burke’s Inhaler should not be ruled out completely either. He struggled to give weight to a smart Johnston horse at Newcastle last time but ran well enough.
TENTATIVE NOD: Mutazawwed
Race 2 – 2.25 Investec Surrey Stakes (Listed Race)
It’s hard to look past SAFE VOYAGE here, he looks rock solid for the John Quinn team and is plenty better than a Listed horse on his day.
His form represents that – with Group wins and Group 1 places to his name. He carries no penalty for those, and if the rain does arrive with any significance he will be very hard to beat.
That said, he does a lot of his winning at Haydock and Epsom is a completely different test. He has won at Galway though, and looks far from a one-trick pony.
I’d be sweet on Daarik here, but he still needs to prove he is as capable on turf – something he has far from done so far.
He looked sure to kick on in a big way as a four-year-old when he returned at Newcastle when a well-punted winner off the back of a long break.
Connections have stuck with him for a reason, but the turf question is just too big to ignore and I couldn’t trust him with my cash. He’s a huge danger if he does finally take to the grass though.
Shine So Bright has the scalps of Laurens and Space Traveller to his name but is far too inconsistent. He can be skipped over.
Oh This Us is as likeable a horse as they come and tight tracks are his thing. His second to Zaaki in the Diomed Stakes a couple of years back is solid form and he’s a player in this.
The booking of Ryan Moore signifies intent and he’ll be finishing better than most. There is good pace in this race despite the small field.
Vale Of Kent is a cliff horse for a few and will be one hoping the rain doesn’t come. He’s the pace angle with William Muir’s Jack’s Point.
I’d have Vale Of Kent in plenty shorter than he currently is and would not put anyone off backing him.
SELECTION: Safe Voyage
DANGER: Vale Of Kent
Race 3 – 3.00 Investec Handicap
A ten furlong handicap next up and red-hot favourite Desert Icon was always going to be short after his demolition job at Newmarket last weekend.
A gelding op and a long-break have seemingly improved the horse no end, but it’s a quick turnaround and he carries a 6lbs penalty.
This is tougher and he got the ran of the race at Newmarket. He has a huge shout here, but is short enough considering.
Caradoc is also fancied in the betting for Ed Walker. He returns off a long break and took a run to get going last season.
He could well prove himself a stakes performer given time this year, but I prefer others in this given the market.
David O’Meara’s Tinandali is a fascinating runner. He ran with credit when second to a course specialist at Ayr. That was off a long break and his first run since being gelded. He’s entitled to come on again and this ex-Irish horse was only lightly-tried for Dermot Weld. Keep an eye on him in the betting.
But it strikes me as a race to take a couple of each-way swings at with horses at decent prices.
John Best’s PLANTADREAM is the first of those I can take a flyer on. His Lingfield win two starts back was a massive run and he was chucked up 14lbs for that.
He was only midfield in the Silver Hunt Cup but I’m willing to give him another chance at big odds. The step up in trip is likely to help rather than hinder.
The other dart goes to Mick Channon’s CERTAIN LAD who returns after a spell racing in Dubai.
There should be more to come this season and he’ll likely be seen in stakes company sooner, rather than later and a mark of 104 could yet prove workable given his three-year-old form. Soft ground would go against him, though.
EACH-WAY STABS: Certain Lad & Plantadream
Race 4 – 3.40 Investec Oaks (Group 1) (Fillies)
The first big one of the afternoon next up and it’s the Investec Oaks. The top three-year-old fillies over the twists and turns of Epsom’s famous mile-and-a-half course.
And on paper it looks a straight shootout between the two big guns, Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden.
The market has it spot on in my book – Love at around 5-4 is hard to argue with and Ribblesdale winner Frankly Darling, who has a little more to prove, at around 2-1.
Love was mightily impressive in the 1000 Guineas and the step up in trip by half-a-mile should prove little bother, she’s by Galileo after all, and may even improve for it.
I think she will win this and is your typically straightforward, but always improving horse from the O’Brien yard. Keep an eye on the weather, though.
Her last two defeats at two, both came on ground with soft or yearning in the description.
I couldn’t be backing her at the odds however, and I’m also happy to let Frankly Darling go off at around 2-1.
She is less exposed and therefore less experienced – you can take it as a positive or a negative. But, she does need to improve on her Ascot win. That win would not be good enough to win this Classic.
Thankfully we got the eight runners across the declaration line – it brings you each-way punters into play.
And again the market has the obvious one tied up in the betting. Ennistymon was a big eye-catcher from the rear in the Ribblesdale and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that she reverses the form with the winner.
I would not put anyone off backing her each-way. That was only her third outing and there could yet be more to come. Seamie Heffernan rides.
Roger Varian runs two – Gold Wand and Queen Daenerys. Both need to show a lot more if they are to get involved.
If you want one at bigger odds, take a flyer on Bharani Star. She wasn’t disgraced in the Ribblesdale and improved plenty there. She may well be the type to improve with racing and in better company.
EACH-WAY PICK: Ennistymon
Race 5 – 4.15 Princess Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored By Investec) (Group 3)
Another small field, and another tricky heat for punters.
But the more exposed runners look vulnerable to me. Cloak Of Spirits is interesting, but she failed to kick on from her Guineas second.
She never looked comfortable at Ascot, for whatever reason. She raced keenly and emptied early. She has a bit to prove after that, and Epsom is not a track you want to go into with question marks over your head.
I’ll take her on here, but with the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that she could bounce back to the levels of her second to Love. And that would make her the likeliest winner.
Charlie Appleby’s Summer Romance was well held in the Guineas. She looks a two-year-old and not a three-year-old to me.
So I want to chance either John Gosden’s LOVE AND THUNDER or Roger Varian’s Fooraat. And at the prices there is only one winner.
The latter was mightily impressive at Chelmsford last time out and certainly achieved more there than Love And Thunder did when winning at Newbury.
But Gosden’s Love And Thunder is in the right hands and the betting angle is fascinating. The Newmarket trainer is spoilt for riches with his three-year-old fillies and the team will have a good handle on just how good this horse is. At the odds, she has to be the bet, with bundles of potential.
SELECTION: Love And Thunder
Race 6 – 4.55 Investec Derby (Group 1)
So on to the main event, and it truly is a Derby like no other year.
The trials have been moved around, form is up in the air and travel restrictions have caused headaches aplenty.
So where do we start? Well the favourite, English King is the obvious place.
He could well win this, and his Lingfield Derby Trial win was the standout ‘trial’ on paper. The experience of Frankie Dettori is a big boost to the Ed Walker team.
I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the noise around his draw in stall one, but he is too short for me. He has only had three runs and Epsom and the Derby is a test like no other.
I would be all over Kameko, I just have a lingering doubt about his stamina. On paper, it’s doubtful he stays and connections have been far from reassuring.
The Guineas has to be the best piece of form in the race, and is often regarded as the best trial for this race. If he stays, I think he’ll win, but it is a if and we can pass.
It looks a Derby to chance a couple at decent odds – there is bound to be some big improvers lurking in the field.
And one I want to be with each-way is MOHICAN HEIGHTS from the David Simcock yard.
He put up a big performance on his first start at three in the King Edward at Ascot. He settled and raced well and the step up in trip was clearly no issue. In fact, he finished like a train and might have got even closer to the winner had he been closer turning in. He’s a player in this.
If you like his chances you have to fancy Pyledriver too. And I wouldn’t put anyone off siding with him each-way.
He’s been nibbled at in the last week and is still backable each-way for trainer William Muir. He’d be half the price if he hailed from a fancy Newmarket stable. But, he is half the price of Mohican Heights.
Mogul was fourth in that race from Ascot and looked like he’d had a good few carrots in his winter off. He shaped well enough but clearly needed it.
Ryan Moore is booked and confidence is clearly plenty higher this time around. I wouldn’t be backing him at around 5-1, though. No thanks.
Stablemate Russian Emperor was a Royal Ascot winner, but wouldn’t be a Derby winner in my book.
He saw off First Receiver by half a length there and Sir Michael Stoute didn’t even bother with an entry for that horse.
But it would be lazy to go off just that line. That race suited him down to the ground and the strong pace set it up for the closers. Whether that’s Derby form is questionable, but he did run in the Derrinstown the week before and O’Brien can run his better colts there.
I’d have him closer to a double figure price though and again I want one at bigger odds.
Take it away HIGHLAND CHIEF – and the first runner in a Derby for a joint-licensed team. Paul and Oliver Cole to be precise.
Now this horse may have only won a handicap at Ascot, but he did plenty right there off top weight.
The time was encouraging and as a ‘trial’ he ticked plenty of boxes and clearly stays better than many expected.
The draw has been a bit unkind in stall 13, but he can hopefully tuck-in and be ridden cool by Ben Curtis. The fancier prices have gone, but for a juvenile that chased home Pinatubo last year, he looks sure to be kick on in a big way this year.
EACH-WAY STABS: Highland Chief & Mohican Heights
Race 7 – 5.35 Investec Zebra Handicap
Corozan Espinado unsurprisingly goes well here for trainer Simon Dow who operates across the road and is on a decent enough mark following a string of quieter runs on the all weather.
He won this very race off 3lbs lower last year and his current mark doesn’t look impossible to overcome. The draw is a slight worry in 12.
If you fancy that horse you have to also like HATEYA who just gets the nod here at the odds.
He was second in this in 2019 and is drawn better in stall five. He went down a short head and is a few points bigger in the betting despite being better off in the weights.
Magical Wish should not be ruled out. A return to his Lingfield effort gives him a big shout. Thore Hammer Hansen takes off five pounds.
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