Value Bet special: The Derby
Our Value Bet tipster Ben Linfoot goes through the trials for the Epsom Derby and sides with the Dante winner at 20/1.
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Dawn Approach looked very good in the Guineas. Comfortable chasing the pace set by stablemate Leitir Mor, he made his move towards the front two furlongs out and stretched away from his rivals on the rising ground. In the style of a Derby winner? Possibly. He had five lengths to spare over Glory Awaits at the line and he only looked to be going further clear at the business end. Visually, he looks like he'll get further. His pedigree also suggests he'll get further. But a mile-and-a-half? We won't know until he struts his stuff at Epsom on June 1. He is clearly the class act in the race and Camelot and Sea The Stars have completed the 2000 Guineas-Derby double in recent years, while Sir Percy and DA's old man New Approach bounced back from Guineas defeat by scoring at Epsom. I don't think you can crab his form despite the proximity of Glory Awaits in the Guineas, and, for me, it's just a matter of if he stays and whether you're happy betting at even money that he does.
On the same day Dawn Approach was flying to Guineas glory on the Rowley Mile, 333 miles away in the western suburbs of Paris a colt named Ocovango enhanced his own claims for Epsom with a cosy success in the Prix Greffulhe. Jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot made all on the son of Monsun but trainer Andre Fabre, who won the Greffulhe with his 2011 Derby winner Pour Moi, insists he's adaptable tactics-wise, saying, 'I just didn't want it to turn into a normal French race where they went no gallop.' That's fair enough, and while Ocovango didn't display a rapid turn of foot like Pour Moi did in his trial, he was impressive in a different way and any unbeaten Fabre-trained colt should be treated with the utmost respect. The fancy prices have gone since he has been confirmed for the race but 8/1 still looks reasonably fair.
Aidan O'Brien unleashed four potential Derby horses in four successive days from May 9-12 and the two Chester winners, Ruler Of The World and Magician, were the most impressive to the naked eye. Ruler Of The World wore first-time cheekpieces for his Chester Vase assignment and he quickened clear in the straight in impressive fashion. But what did he beat? Mister Impatience was a six-length second on the Roodee and that horse has already been out since, when fourth of fifth in a Listed contest at Newmarket and beaten over seven lengths by the winner Hoarding. Ruling out the Ruler on such a form line would be foolish, as he had any amount in hand over the Mark Johnston-trained horse at Chester. But when you consider he was unraced at two and only just got the better of a 25/1 chance in a 10-furlong maiden at the Curragh in April, you do wonder about his place in the Ballydoyle pecking order and if he has the necessary class to prevail in a race like the Derby. At 8/1 he makes little appeal.
So, the Magician. Visually impressive, yes, and the horse in second Contributor had looked a fairly useful tool when winning at Newbury on his previous start. But, it niggles that he was well beaten on debut and he was fading pretty quickly in the Killavullan Stakes last back-end even before he was squeezed for room. Clearly he's improved from two to three and for the step up in distance, but the vibes are Coolmore think he's a 10-furlong horse anyway, for now at least, and a tilt at the French Derby looks more likely than an Epsom Derby challenge. Taking that into account, the 16/1 isn't tempting enough.
The weakest trial we've seen came at Lingfield. Hot favourite Greatwood was withdrawn before the start due to heavy rain turning the ground soft and it left Nevis with an easy task against three inferior rivals. Ryan Moore kept it simple on the 4/9 favourite by racing prominently and he put the race to bed inside the final furlong, going clear by nine lengths at the line. He was beaten over 13 lengths by Dawn Approach in the Vincent O'Brien Stakes as a two-year-old, though, and he'll have done well at Epsom if he gets that close to him again. At 33/1 the possible fifth-string for O'Brien is passed over.
To the Aidan O'Brien big gun, Battle Of Marengo, the undoubted number one in the aforementioned Ballydoyle pecking order. Third on debut at Leopardstown last August, the son of Galileo is unbeaten in six starts since and the way he's been campaigned suggests he's been O'Brien's number one Derby hope for some time. Beresford Stakes-Ballysax Stakes-Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. He's won them all with little fuss, his toughest assignment coming in the Derrinstown last time when he had to make his own running from a long way out and such experiences will stand him in good stead. He's not a particularly flashy horse and his latest success could be described as workmanlike, but his form is rock solid. Take the Dante for instance - the winner Libertarian was well beaten by Sugar Boy in the Sandown Trial and Sugar Boy was brushed aside by Battle Of Marengo in the Ballysax. Also, Dante runner-up Trading Leather was comfortably beaten by Battle Of Marengo in a Listed race at Leopardstown last September. O'Brien will fire plenty of bullets at Epsom, but Battle Of Marengo looks his first string and prices around 9/2 are perfectly understandable.
The Dante Stakes is often the most significant trial for the Derby with Epsom winners North Light, Motivator, Authorized and Workforce taking in the York race in the last 10 years. Why then, we should be asking ourselves, is Libertarian 20/1 for the Derby after winning the Dante in good style? Well, his previous fourth at Sandown partly explains the quote as he looked a million miles away from winning a Derby that day. But, you have to come to the conclusion that his unfashionable connections are the major reason why his odds are so big. Make no mistake, if this son of New Approach was trained by Aidan O'Brien and wore the dark blue silks of John Magnier I'm certain he would be a single-figure price. And the more I watch the Dante replay the more I'm convinced he is the value play in the Derby. You don't often see horses that are rousted along early win at York and three were travelling better than him going inside the final quarter mile, but he was well on top at the line with good horses beaten in behind. As usual, it was the strongest trial. His suitability for Epsom will be raised as he's a big, imposing colt and you would want him to travel better in the Derby. It's a fair point but he clearly has an engine and in a year when the hot favourite hasn't run over further than a mile I want a horse that may expose any weaknesses in the stamina department. At 20/1, Libertarian is that horse.
Telescope heads the best of the rest. The form of his debut win at Newmarket is working out really well and his work at home continues to raise the pulse of gallop watchers. He could be a very, very exciting colt as quotes of 7/1 for the Derby after just one maiden win suggest. Inexperience, obviously, could be his main disadvantage in the Derby and although Sir Michael Stoute has won a Classic with a once-raced maiden winner before this would be an altogether more impressive training feat. He looks very classy and there's no doubt he could win, but at 7/1 I can't back him for the Derby especially after his recent setback that saw him miss the Dante.
The top two in the market deserve their place at the head of the betting and Dawn Approach is the most likely winner if he stays. There are several reasons to believe he will but the fact is we just don't know and at even money it's quite easy to rule him out from a value perspective. Battle Of Marengo is the rock solid one as he's already seen out 10 furlongs twice with the impression being another two furlongs will be well within his compass. He'll be Aidan O'Brien's number one hope but I just felt a little underwhelmed by his Derrinstown win and 9/2 looks nothing more than about right. Ocovango, too, deserves respect but at 8/1 we've missed the boat with him while Telescope cannot be backed at 7s at this stage despite his obvious potential. So, though it's a fairly obvious value pick it's time to get involved with Dante winner LIBERTARIAN who looks worth an each-way investment at 20/1. He had excuses for his Sandown fourth when carried left away from the action by Woodstock and he made up for that in some style in the Dante. He beat five horses rated over 100 on the Knavesmire so it was yet again the strongest trial and with the hot-favourite Dawn Approach yet to prove his stamina, Libertarian's engine could be a defining asset.
Selection: 1pt e.w Libertarian in the Derby at 20/1
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: +245.06pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current). The column is +112.75pts to recommended stakes in 2013.