Value Bet Special: The Derby
With the latest confirmations in and the trials done and dusted, Ben Linfoot seeks out the antepost value in the Investec Derby.
bet365 Classic Trial, Sandown, April 25
1st - Western Hymn (John Gosden)
This trial had a real purple patch in the late 1970s/early 80s when Troy, Henbit and Shergar all took in the Sandown contest on the road to Epsom glory, but the race has not produced a Derby winner since Benny The Dip in 1997. He was trained by John Gosden who also took Western Hymn to Sandown to win this year's trial, the son of High Chaparral registering an unimpressive length-and-three-quarters success in soft ground. Visually he looked awkward and though his earlier form was boosted by Snow Sky (see below), top prices of 14/1 make zero appeal. The form of this race is well below the required standard to win a Derby and Western Hymn, despite being sired by a Derby winner, could be a doubtful stayer (his dam, Blue Rhapsody, and half-sister, Blue Nova, were both unraced beyond a mile).
QIPCO 2000 Guineas, Newmarket, May 3
3rd - Australia (Aidan O'Brien), 8th - Kingston Hill (Roger Varian)
The 2000 Guineas, along with the Dante, has been the best recent trial for the Derby in the last decade. Sir Percy (2006), New Approach (2008), Sea The Stars (2009) and Camelot (2012) all ran in the Guineas before winning at Epsom, with the first two mentioned proving that defeat on the Rowley Mile is no barrier to Derby success. Australia ran a good Derby trial in the 2000 Guineas, finishing powerfully on the stands' side to take third - effectively winning his side though the winner Night Of Thunder drifted over from the far side to finish upsides passing the post. There is little doubt that this race represents the best form going into the Derby, and, if ever there was a horse bred to win at Epsom, then Australia is that horse (by Derby winner Galileo, out of Oaks winner Ouija Board). However, odds-on quotes are easily passed over at this stage. If you really fancy him, wait until the bookies are fighting for your hard earned on the morning of the race as he's likely to be a bigger price then than he is now. Kingston Hill found things happening all too quickly in the Guineas, but trainer Roger Varian issued a positive bulletin about the son of Mastercraftsman at Chester, saying that 'we still might have a serious middle-distance horse on our hands.' He might have, but it's a huge leap of faith to think he could win a Derby on the back of his Guineas run and he may turn out to be best at ten furlongs. I couldn't entertain backing him at his current odds.
MBNA Chester Vase, Chester, May 8
1st - Orchestra (Aidan O'Brien)
Aidan O'Brien's record in the Derby with his Chester Vase winners demands respect. Soldier Of Fortune was fifth at Epsom after winning the Vase, Golden Sword filled the same position, Treasure Beach was runner-up to Pour Moi and last year Ruler Of The World went and won the big one. This year's Chester Vase was run on soft ground and against a moderate field Orchestra looked sure to win decisively, but he idled in the closing stages and just held on by a nose from the fast-finishing Romsdal. The positives were that he handled the track well and travelled like a good horse throughout before he hung slightly right in the straight. My gut feeling as he crossed the line was that he wouldn't be winning the Derby and upon reflection I feel the same, though I wouldn't bet against him making the top five like all of O'Brien's previous Chester Vase winners. With that in mind the 16/1 might appeal to some each-way punters, but I'm not convinced enough by his win prospects to consider him as a bet.
betfred.com Derby Trial, Lingfield, May 10
1st - Snow Sky (Sir Michael Stoute)
Like the Sandown Classic Trial, this race has been relying on former glories and you have to go back to 1998 when High-Rise won the Derby for the last Lingfield winner to triumph at Epsom. He was the eighth horse to do the Lingfield-Epsom double and Main Sequence has gone closest since, winning the trial before finishing second to Camelot in the Classic itself. Snow Sky did it well at Lingfield, but connections were hardly falling over themselves to commit him to the Derby afterwards and though he has now been confirmed for Epsom prices around the 20/1 mark aren't big enough to spark interest. Sir Michael Stoute has a fantastic record in the Derby but he usually uses Chester or York for his Classic prospects and, rightly or wrongly, Snow Sky would've commanded more respect had he turned up in the Dante.
Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes, Leopardstown, May 11
1st - Fascinating Rock (Dermot Weld), 2nd - Ebanoran (demoted, John Oxx), 3rd - Geoffrey Chaucer (Aidan O'Brien)
The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial produced three Epsom heroes in a row at the turn of the century - Sinndar (2000), Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002), but can boast none since. Dylan Thomas and Fame And Glory went close, though, and despite its demotion to a Group 3 contest from a Group 2 this year it still commands plenty of respect as a trial for Epsom. This year's race had an unsatisfactory result as first-past-the-post Ebanoran was demoted to second with Fascinating Rock benefitting in the stewards room and Geoffrey Chaucer finishing third. The antepost market for the Derby has Geoffrey Chaucer at 12/1, Fascinating Rock at 14s and Ebanoran at 20s and, forgetting Australia's ridiculously short price for a minute, it's the one thing I think the market has got wrong. Geoffrey Chaucer carried a 3lb penalty and admittedly suffered most from the interference, but it's doubtful he would've won the race without being hampered and why Ebanoran is almost twice the price is a mystery. Ebanoran's dam, Ebadiyla, was sixth in the Oaks before winning the Irish Oaks on her next start and she's a half-sister to Ascot Gold Cup winners Enzeli and Estimate and has produced many a stayer herself. Ebanoran, therefore, looks sure to thrive over a mile-and-a-half and the turn of foot he showed to move from fourth to first in a flash at Leopardstown was impressive, even though the stewards weren't quite so happy with the course he took while displaying such speed. John Oxx has a tremendous record when he brings horses over to the UK and the fact he has already been confirmed for Epsom is significant. Out of the Derrinstown trio, Ebanoran is the one most likely to progress again for another two furlongs in the Derby and at 20/1 he rates a value bet.
Betfred Dante Stakes, York, May 15
2nd Arod (Peter Chapple-Hyam), 3rd True Story (Saeed bin Suroor)
As mentioned earlier the Dante Stakes has had a fine record in the Derby in the last ten years with North Light, Motivator, Authorized and Workforce all graduating from the York trial at Epsom. For Arod and True Story fans, Workforce's reverse on the Knavesmire offers some hope, though both will have to step up markedly on these efforts if they are going to have a say in the Classic. True Story came into the Dante a hot 8/13 favourite after blitzing his rivals in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket, but he never looked happy at York and was niggled from an early stage. He was hampered by the winner in the final furlong, forcing Kieren Fallon to switch him towards the stands' side, but, even so, he didn't look like winning at any stage. Pushed out from 11/2 to 16/1 on the back of his effort at York, if you can forgive him his Dante run that's a huge price. My gut feeling, though, is that he was overrated following his victory at HQ and he just struggled against higher-class rivals at York. If that's the case, he's got no chance in the Derby. Arod has more appealing claims, as he at least stayed on from the rear and finished his race as if an extra two furlongs will suit.
Australia is a worthy favourite for the Investec Derby, but odds-on quotes about a horse that finished third in the Guineas and is unraced beyond a mile are crazy. Of course he is expected to thrive at Epsom over a mile-and-a-half given he is by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, but to be backing a horse at 4/6 for the Derby I would've expected him to win the Guineas by five lengths! Another reason he is so short, other than his superior breeding and good run at Newmarket, is that the trials have for one reason or another been unsatisfactory. However, despite being settled in the stewards' room the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial was a good race and I wouldn't bet against Ireland's finest coming from that contest rather than the Guineas. And after watching the replay several times I cannot fathom why EBANORAN is the outsider of the Derrinstown three for Epsom. Okay, the stewards probably made the right decision in demoting him on the day, but he showed tenacity, courage and a fair bit of talent aswell as the greenness that cost him the race. That was just his third start and Oxx looks to be improving him to perfection, with the step up in trip to 1m4f likely to see him reach another level. At 20/1, he rates a fair bet for Oxx and the Aga Khan, who teamed up with Sinndar 14 years ago - a horse that won the Derrinstown en route to his success at Epsom.
Ben Linfoot's Value Bet Aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK. Running total: +262.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).