Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bet selections on Derby day with Frankie Dettori fancied to land the big race for a third time.
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It’s a marvellous renewal of the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday with a host of horses primed and ready after various trials, but there is only one steed that dominates the betting and that is Triple Crown hopeful Saxon Warrior.
Unbeaten in four and a really impressive winner of the Qipco 2000 Guineas last time out, the son of superb Japanese sire Deep Impact comes into this with a history-making target after his genius trainer, Aidan O’Brien, declared he will be aiming to become the first horse since Nijinsky, 38 years ago, to win the three English colts’ classics; the Guineas, Derby and St Leger.
He might well have the class to pull off such an incredible feat, but the Triple Crown demands more than class. You need speed, stamina, durability and probably a bit of luck as well, and perhaps he didn’t get that when being handed the dreaded stall one on Thursday.
The good news is the ground is drying all the time and could well be ‘Good to Soft’ or better by the time they’re off for the Derby, but he still has to race half a mile further than he’s ever gone before.
He could do it, of course he could, and it would be great for racing if he did. But, on balance, I still think he’s opposable at around even-money given his stamina for the job is uncertain.
His pedigree offers mixed messages, but his dam didn’t stay and his full-sister didn’t either, and given how he cruised through the Guineas like a horse with a lot of speed the percentage call is still to take him on, even if he has drifted from 8/11 earlier in the week.
The one that I think has the class to beat him is HAZAPOUR and though the 12/1 and 14/1 has gone in recent days, he’s just big enough at 10/1 (bet365, Unibet) to get involved.
I loved his seasonal reappearance in the Derrinstown, as he beat three fit and firing Ballydoyle horses that had all had a run in the Ballysax, so to beat them pretty cosily was a tremendous effort as we all know how much O’Brien’s come on for a run.
The form was boosted by the fourth home, Platinum Warrior, too, Mick Halford’s charge landing the Gallinule last Sunday. For my money this was the strongest of the Derby trials, with five being in with a chance a furlong out in the Chester Vase while a weak Dante was won by a speed horse off a slow gallop.
Hazapour travelled very smoothly in the Derrinstown, clearly improving hugely from two to three and for the step up to 10 furlongs. His relaxed manner suggests he can take the extra two furlongs in his stride and, of course, he’s bred for it too being a nephew of 2016 winner Harzand.
By a French Derby winner out of a mare that won over 1m4f, he looks to have the perfect blend of speed and stamina and, crucially, he looks to be peaking at the right time.
The Frankie Dettori factor means he’s a bit shorter than I thought he might be, but, when you’ve got experience like that in the saddle, it’s probably worth the couple of points you lose.
Dettori was almost mugged aboard Cracksman by a slickly-ridden Salouen in the Coronation Cup on Friday, Sylvester Kirk’s horse nearly causing an almighty shock under the always-excellent Silvestre de Sousa.
It was further evidence that Kirk’s horses are in good nick, though, which is good with one of his favourite races being run on Derby day, the Investec Private Banking Handicap that opens the card at 2.00.
Kirk has had seven runners in this race in the last decade, winning with three of them (at 16/1, 10/1 and 25/1) and finishing second with one of the others. Last year’s sixth, Mister Blue Sky, won two handicaps in his next four starts, so Kirk clearly aims his best-handicapped horses at this contest.
This year he runs GEORGE and he’s worth backing at 14/1 (General).
George is 4lb out of the handicap, but he was dropped 3lb for his latest defeat on the all-weather, so it doesn’t look an impossible obstacle to overcome.
He’s been running pretty well over trips around a mile since being gelded, but the absolute key to him on Saturday is the step up in trip to 10 furlongs.
His full-brother, Unit Of Assessment, has won twice over 10 furlongs, while his half-brother, Landau, also won twice over 1m2f and is a winning hurdler as well.
The step up looks sure to unlock further improvement judging by his pedigree and running style, while he crucially has experience at the track having run second in a nursery here off a 2lb lower mark on heavy ground last October.
Finally, Caspian Prince goes for an incredible fourth Investec Corporate Banking ‘Dash’ Handicap at 3.45 after victories in the race in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
The general 9/1 is not a bad price at all, as you’d fancy him to win a Group One over this course and distance, and his mark of 106 is 1lb lower than the rating he ran off when winning last year.
He simply loves this crazy downhill sprint track and he could well do it again from stall two, but he will have to see off two fellow pacesetters in Just That Lord and Desert Law and there is a chance the trio ruin each other’s chances towards the centre of the track.
There is also plenty of pace stands’ side, historically where you want to be and perhaps even more so considering the recent rain, even if the ground is drying out.
Dark Shot has a lovely draw one away from the rail and he could well be tough to beat if he breaks on better terms than he did last year, but I’m going to take an each-way chance on SUPER JULIUS at 28/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6, Bet Victor ¼ 1,2,3,4, 25s General).
Eve Johnson Houghton’s horse is well drawn three off the stands’ rail in 17 and he’s capable of holding his position in the early stages.
All of his victories have come on sharp tracks like Chester, Wolverhampton and Brighton and he ran a good race at the latter track when a close second there off a mark of 80 on May 1.
This is obviously much tougher, but this downhill track should play to his strengths and he has a good each-way chance thanks to his draw and status as joint bottom-weight, with claimer Gabriele Malune taking off a further 5lb.
The clincher, though, is the first-time visor. It might just perk him up massively, as he responded to first-time cheekpieces by winning by over two lengths at Wolverhampton and his trainer has an excellent record when applying a visor for the first time (seven wins from 34 goes at 21 per cent).
At 28s, with Sky Bet going six places, he’s worth an each-way bet.
Posted at 1700 BST on 01/06/18.
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: +346.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).