Matt Brocklebank takes an early look at the Investec Derby at Epsom in June and recommends each-way bets at 14/1 and 25/1.
Recommended bets: Investec Derby
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Bookmakers reacted to the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown by pushing THE PENTAGON out to a general 14/1 for the Investec Derby and that generosity is something on which it could be worth trying to capitalise.
In short, Aidan O’Brien’s horses are just about all needing a run.
It’s not something new, and it’s obviously not applying to every single horse in the yard – after all, he still managed a one-two-three in the Leopardstown Group Three, despite the Ryan Moore-ridden favourite finishing eight and a half lengths off the runner-up.
But we see it year-in, year-out with the star Ballydoyle runners, and in the past week or so alone the likes of Butterscotch, U S Navy Flag, I Can Fly and Magical have all shaped like badly in need of a spin to blow away the winter cobwebs.
Looking at Newmarket’s Craven Meeting identifies several more, with Van Beethoven, Kew Gardens, Deauville and Dramatically giving off the distinct impression they have much more to offer in 2018 following their introductory outings for the campaign.
Last year's Ballysax saw Capri – the St Leger winner and O'Brien’s standout three-year-old colt of 2017 – finish a well-beaten fourth and it's clear that we can forgive The Pentagon what at first glance appeared a relatively lifeless effort.
In addition to a lack of race-fitness, the Leopardstown ground was as bad as it gets and it’s worth recalling The Pentagon's most visually impressive display came when scorching to an eight and a half-length maiden win on good to firm going at the Curragh last July.
He had been beaten on soft first time out, and went on to land the Group Three Tyros Stakes on a sound surface, before performing admirably in third behind Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion in the Racing Post Trophy.
Again, conditions probably weren’t ideal for him on Town Moor, but O'Brien revealed post-race that The Pentagon had been held up in his work going to Doncaster, something which clearly explains the absence of three months prior to that top-class assignment.
So in the circumstances he did extremely well and there's hope he can reverse form with his much-vaunted stablemate if they clash again at Epsom come June 2.
As you'd expect, his pedigree is littered with middle-distance quality and the son of Galileo promises to go from strength to strength as he moves up in distance this year.
Having been around 8/1 for the Derby heading into the new season, the decision to push him out to almost double that price is contrary to what we know about O’Brien's three-year-olds, and how they are campaigned.
With improvement bound to be forthcoming, he looks the standout bet in the current market.
The Qipco 2000 Guineas may act as one of the first most significant Derby trials and it'll be fascinating to see if Saxon Warrior heads that way, especially with Gustav Klimt looking so impressive on his comeback.
Aside from that pair, the Guineas might not throw up many Derby candidates as Roaring Lion, Expert Eye and Elarqam all seem unlikely to be tried over a mile and a half as early as this June, though connections of the latter could clearly be tempted despite breeding that doesn't exactly scream 12 furlongs.
GHAIYYATH is expected to swerve the Guineas but he’s one of the more appealing candidates entered in the Betfred Dante at York and the Dubawi colt could develop into a serious middle-distance three-year-old.
He was quite keen to get on with things last year but Charlie Appleby fitted him with a hood after letting down favourite-backers on his Doncaster debut, and he subsequently won his next two starts.
He overcame a troubled passage to land the Group Three Autumn Stakes at Newmarket in October in good style and is reported to have wintered well in Dubai, so well in fact that Appleby is hoping he can run him without the headgear this season.
Ghaiyyath has a fantastic Classic pedigree and it seems only a matter of time before the hugely talented Appleby opens his account in the big one at Epsom, and in all likelihood it'll be a son of Dubawi that steps up to the mark.