Alex Hammond: Choose Chaucer
Well, it’s not often that the Met Office issue a weather warning ahead of the Derby, but that’s what we may well have to contend with this year.
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A yellow warning apparently means there could be thunder, lightning and/or flash floods which isn’t what you need to hear ahead of one of the most important flat races on the calendar.
Neither is it something Aidan O’Brien will be keen on hearing ahead of Australia’s bid to live up to all of the hype.
Aidan has spelt it out that this colt is a good-moving individual who appreciates better ground and as a result he has been on the slide in the betting this week.
As a classic, the Guineas looks to be the best trial and, as the old saying goes, ‘Fourth in the Guineas, First in the Derby!’ Well, okay, he doesn’t quite fit into that category having finished third in the Newmarket race, but he stayed on well there in the style of a horse that will appreciate this step up in trip.
He has a Classic pedigree being by Derby winner Galileo out of an Oaks winner in Ouija Board and it could be that he drifts to an attractive price on the day. While the ground worries me, I have huge respect for the horse but won’t be backing him at the current price (6/4).
His stablemate Geoffrey Chaucer is a horse I like and he has the benefit of Ryan Moore in the saddle who won this with O’Brien last year with Ruler of the World.
He ran his trial in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown which turned out to be a controversial contest with Ebanoran (John Oxx) first past the post ahead of Fascinating Rock (Dermot Weld) only for the result to be reversed in the stewards' room. Geoffrey Chaucer was inconvenienced in third too.
All three colts come into the race with chances and there is certainly more to this race than a short-priced favourite.
Kingston Hill also ran in the Guineas where he finished eighth. He won the Racing Post Trophy on soft so there aren’t any concerns over ground conditions for him. I thought this colt looked great each-way value when I tipped him up last week when he was 12/1 with Sky Bet but sadly that price isn’t around anymore so I hope you got on!
Kieren Fallon is enjoying a resurgence and he has been booked to ride Saeed bin Suroor’s Dante third True Story.
The York race form didn’t inspire many race readers at first glance, but the subsequent win in the French Derby by winner The Grey Gatsby there have give the form some substance. True Story looked disappointing initially with the immediate comments suggesting he will improve for a step up to a mile and a half and he would enjoy better ground. Well, he has got one of those but whether the ground will be decent enough for him remains to be seen.
Arod was second in the Dante and similar comments apply to him. His connections have been looking nervously at the weather and it could be that the ground has gone against him too. He is trained by a man who is well capable of readying one for a specific target though - Peter Chapple-Hyam saddled both Dr. Devious and Authorized to win the Derby and he is the master of getting one spot-on for the big day.
John Gosden’s Western Hymn is unbeaten in three winning the Classic Trial Sandown on his latest start, but as I mentioned last week he doesn’t look the most straightforward. His trainer also took the decision this week to supplement Romsdal for the race at a cost of £75,000.
That’s a huge commitment to make, but it’s not like his owner Princess Haya of Jordan is short of a few quid. Despite that I don’t suppose he will want to waste his owner’s money and this horse deserves his place in the line-up having finished a nose second to Orchestra in the Chester Vase. Romsdal has a lovely pedigree and this trip looks spot on so there could be more to come.
Orchestra is another who should have improved for that experience and he’s in top hands.
There is more Chester form on offer from the Aidan O’Brien stable as Dee Stakes winner Kingfisher also takes his chance.
I gave Andrew Balding’s Impulsive Moment a positive mention last week after his staying on second to Western Hymn in the Classic Trial at Sandown and despite him being a huge price he will certainly cope with conditions.
Another horse at a big price that won’t be hindered by the ground is Charlie Appleby’s Pinzolo. He will also appreciate the step up to a mile and a half.
So, it’s an open Derby with most of the runners having solid claims. Conditions will play a big part and they may not suit the favourite. The Irish look to hold a strong hand, but Roger Varian’s challenger Kingston Hill has a good chance of keeping the prize at home and I can’t see him finishing out of the three. I like Fascinating Rock and Geoffrey Chaucer too and it’s with the last-named that I’ll go with here.Looking at some of the other action and the Coronation Cup has attracted some top class horses including Cirrus des Aigles who looks as good as ever this year at the age of eight. This could turn out to be the sort of race that you have to scrap looking for value and go with the obvious choice.
He comes into this race having claimed the valuable scalps of Treve in the Prix Ganay and a good field in the Prix D’Ispahan including Olympic Glory. There are a couple of concerns, namely the proximity of his recent run and the fact he has never run at Epsom before.
Flintshire is also trained in France, by Andre Fabre. He is a totally different proposition than his compatriot as this will be just his seventh start and he has just the one win at Group One level in last summer’s Grand Prix de Paris. He has apparently taken a while to come to hand this season though and it could be that he isn’t as sharp as the favourite.
Talent certainly handles this course and distance having won the Oaks here last year for Ralph Beckett. She also ran a big race in the Leger and conditions are perfect for her seasonal reappearance. She gets a 3lb weight allowance from the boys and has gone well fresh in the past.
I’m going with Cirrus Des Aigles in the hope he can give his supporters another great day.
The Dash is also on Saturday and has attracted the speedballs over Epsom’s flying five furlongs. A full field of 20 have been declared for the race which looks red hot.
Caspian Prince is Sky Bet’s early market leader, but only just. He acts well over this course and distance as his win at this track in April proved. He’s super fast and if he gets away on terms has a great chance.
Smoothtalkinrascal is trained by David O’Meara, who has his team in good form. He was only beaten a neck in this last year and was perhaps a bit unlucky but he is higher in the weights this time round. Steps carries top weight for Roger Varian having picked up a penalty for winning a Listed race at Haydock last weekend.
Even Stevens comes out of stall 20 and has loads of speed so he has a chance of bouncing back to form off his more lenient handicap mark on the turf. Eton Rifles is drawn on the low side of the middle for Stuart Williams and Andrea Atzeni. His trainer has a good record in this race. He’s a solid Listed performer but may be better at 6f.
Lochsong’s final foal, Swan Song, has a good-looking draw in 15 but has to bounce back from a moderate effort behind Steps at Haydock last time out.
Despite his rising handicap mark I’m going to go with Smoothtalkinrascal from his good draw in 18. O’Meara is operating at a 47% strike rate this month and is a talented handler who keeps getting more out of his horses.