Military Order wins impressively at Lingfield
Military Order wins impressively at Lingfield

Derby analysis: Military Order most impressive trials winner after taking Lingfield success

Military Order and Auguste Rodin are now joint 4/1 favourites for the Betfred Derby in places, but our man argues one horse is deserving of the mantle and the other isn't.

Why is Auguste Rodin joint-favourite for the Derby?

Great question. It’s difficult to remember a worse Derby favourite than Auguste Rodin.

Dewhurst ninth Snow Ridge went off 7/2 joint-favourite in North Light’s Derby in 2004, but he had at least finished second in a Guineas. Jan Vermeer was a dodgy 9/4 chance in 2010, but he had at least proved his well-being that spring with an easy Group 3 win at the Curragh. Dawn Approach had serious stamina question marks to answer in 2013 at 5/4, but he had at least won a Guineas by five lengths. There was very little substance to Bolshoi Ballet’s form when he was sent off at 11/8 in 2021, but he had at least won two Derby trials in good style.

All those mentioned above bombed out at Epsom – it’s easy to pick out dodgy Derby favourites in hindsight – but all of them had much more convincing claims than current Derby favourite Auguste Rodin.

I look at his current Derby odds – around 4/1 – with genuine astonishment. There is nothing this horse has ever done to merit such prices and the evidence is right there in the formbook.

Auguste Rodin winning at Doncaster
Auguste Rodin is remarkably still joint-favourite for the Derby

Take his best piece of form, the Group 1 Vertem Futurity win at Doncaster last September. A race run on heavy ground where the third, Holloway Boy, threw away his chance by hanging all the way home. Karl Burke’s horse was well beaten by over 12 lengths in the 2000 Guineas, still running a better race than Auguste Rodin.

Runner-up Epictetus at least won the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom, but that was a bad race and he didn’t even need to improve on his form at two. Futurity fourth Dancing Magic was beaten three lengths in the Craven. Futurity sixth Captain Wierzba has been beaten a combined 37 lengths in two starts since. Futurity eighth Stormbuster was last in the Epsom trial and last in the Dee Stakes. It was a rank bad renewal of the Futurity.

Auguste Rodin hasn’t proved he has trained on yet, but he is bred for a trip, being by Deep Impact out of the Oaks runner-up Rhododendron. Considering that breeding there has to be hope that he’ll be a better horse on much faster ground than he has encountered so far in his career, too. Two factors for loyal supporters to cling on to.

But the main reason he is Derby favourite is because of the unwavering faith of his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, who called him out as a Triple Crown hopeful at the start of the season and has reiterated his confidence in him for Epsom despite his Guineas flop.

Such an opinion from such a trainer has to be respected, of course, but at odds around the 4/1 mark there has to be a Derby bet against him for my money, as we get towards the end of trials season.

Who has been the most impressive horse from the trials so far?

Another factor that has seen Auguste Rodin remain strong at the head of the Derby betting is trials season being a bit of a washout.

Indeed, heavy rain saw the Classic Trial at Sandown abandoned, the Lingfield Derby Trial had to be switched to the all-weather and the Chester trials, the Vase and the Dee Stakes, were run on very testing conditions on the Roodee.

However, on Saturday we finally saw a real top-notch Derby candidate in Charlie Appleby's MILITARY ORDER, the horse that is now 4/1 joint-favourite for Epsom with Auguste Rodin. He landed the Fitzdares Lingfield Derby Trial, on the polytrack, seeing out the 1m4f trip out really well after being pushed all the way by runner-up Waipiro.

A son of Frankel and full-brother to Derby winner Adayar, there is no doubt in my mind he should be clear Derby favourite out on his own.

Nippy enough to take advantage of a gap up the inside rail under William Buick to move into pole position, he showed a great attitude and plenty of staying power to see off Ed Walker’s runner-up, a horse who looked a smart prospect himself after an impressive win in a Newmarket novice.

The pair pulled over four lengths clear of another fine prospect in Circle Of Fire in a good time three seconds quicker than the Oaks trial on the same card, so there is every reason to believe this was a very good renewal.

There is a precedent as the Lingfield trial has been run on the all-weather before – back in 2012 when Main Sequence beat Shantaram with the pair clear of the third following a similar kind of race. Main Sequence didn’t win the Derby at Epsom, but he ran second to a certain Camelot, and it would be no surprise if Military Order went one better.

Military Order races to Derby favouritism
FULL REPORT & REPLAY: Military Order races to Lingfield success

Like his brother, Military Order looks as though he’ll be versatile ground-wise, but if we did get ground on the fast side at Epsom it remains to be seen if Chester Vase winner Arrest will even run.

He wasn’t as impressive as Military Order in the Chester Vase, racing keenly in the early stages before dismissing a weak field easily in soft ground that looks very much to his liking. A soft ground Derby and he comes into calculations, so his sire, Frankel, looks to have a very strong Epsom hand once again whatever the weather does heading into early June.

Arrest’s Chester win was the best of the Roodee trials, San Antonio winning a weak-looking renewal of the Dee Stakes without hinting he’s a Derby horse, and the Vase winner paid a compliment to Dubai Mile who beat him in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud last October.

A good fifth in the 2000 Guineas on his reappearance, if there is a Derby winner to come from the Newmarket race it’s probably him, as he is tough, uncomplicated and another who looks versatile regarding the ground.

Sprewell was a most impressive winner of the Derby Trial Stakes over at Leopardstown, settling nicely, travelling well and showing a swift turn of foot to see off Up And Under and G1-winning yardstick Proud And Regal. He looks the best of the Irish challenge, but he has only ever raced on soft or heavy ground.

The Dante could yet have a final say. It so often does. But Military Order is the clubhouse leader now, even if the market says he’s got company in that respect.

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