Matt Brocklebank
Ancient Wisdom had Deira Mile, Dancing Gemini and Diego Velazquez behind at Doncaster

Which horses will be suited by soft ground at Epsom on Betfred Derby day?

After another deluge of rain on Sunday morning (7.6mm), Epsom is officially described as 'Soft, Good to Soft in places' ahead of the 2024 Betfred Derby, and there are further showers anticipated just about every day as low pressure weather systems are likely to dominate through to next Saturday.

So who are the winners and losers if there's cut in the ground for the premier Classic?

Those who will love it...

Roger Teal winning the Betfred Derby would be some story and probably take some topping for the neutral observer. And connections must be getting a little bit excited about Dancing Gemini's claims with rain a welcome addition to the melting pot. Granted, he's not yet tested beyond the bare mile, but he's a son of Derby-winner Camelot, out of a Derby-winner Australia mare in Lady Adelaide, so the trip could unlock all sort of further improvement on paper.

Dancing Gemini's recent French Guineas second on a soft Longchamp track was packed with promise but he was readily put in his place by Ancient Wisdom on Heavy ground in last year's Group 1 Futurity Trophy at Doncaster, so what to make of Charlie Appleby's colt?

Dubawi has yet to sire a Classic winner at Epsom but that looks a stone-cold anomaly to me and this horse - who connections admitted was behind one or two of their other Derby projects work-wise in the spring - should really love a soft-ground test over 12 furlongs.

Whether Epsom will be his bag is another matter, but confidence behind Ancient Wisdom seems to be growing and it's not hard to see why now we know his Dante conqueror won't be in attendance.

Ancient Wisdom wins the Futurity Trophy
Ancient Wisdom had Deira Mile, Dancing Gemini and Diego Velazquez behind at Doncaster

Los Angeles is one of just two unbeaten colts in the Derby at this stage and he's a Group 1 winner already too so what's not to like? His top-class triumph in France last season was achieved on Very Soft ground at Saint-Cloud and he should be perfectly at home the more rain they get this week, which arguably means we should be marking up his 10-furlong comeback win on Good ground at Leopardstown.

If it wasn't for City Of Troy (more on him below), you'd imagine Los Angeles might be a very popular clear favourite.

Dallas Star is the forgotten horse at 40/1 but it wouldn't be a surprise if he came back onto the radar for punters given he was so convincing on Heavy ground in Leopardstown's Ballysax in early-April.

That represented a massive jump up from his juvenile form so he has to prove it wasn't just a flash in the pan against ring-rusty rivals, but he looks a very stout stayer - one for the St Leger even later in the year - so a greater emphasis on stamina should certainly play to his strengths at Epsom.

Los Angeles (second right) comes out on top at Leopardstown
Los Angeles (second right) comes out on top at Leopardstown

Those who could be at a disadvantage...

After City Of Troy won the Dewhurst in October, Aidan O'Brien is on record stating that he'd have "absolutely hated" the soft ground so it's hard to imagine connections can put a positive spin on the grim-looking weather forecast heading into Derby weekend.

Placing literal physical stature to one side, he didn't look half the horse he did at two when making his seasonal debut in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and, from where I'm standing, the rapid rebuild - achieved so remarkably by Auguste Rodin in last year's Epsom Classic - seems a very tall order with this son of Justify.

Ambiente Friendly is by Gleneagles and has already won on Soft ground on his Leicester debut last year, but I'd still be a little fearful about him seeing out the Derby distance if it became a proper slog.

He got away with the keen-going tendencies on Good going in the Lingfield trial but Epsom takes no prisoners in that regard when there's rain around and I'm finding it hard to see how he reverses last year's Autumn Stakes form with impressive winner Ancient Wisdom.

Ralph Beckett's three-year-olds have sprung to life after a fairly sluggish few weeks at the start of the season and the promising Macduff would appear to be crying out for the Derby trip on the back of his comeback second to now-sidelined Arabian Crown in the Sandown trial.

Unfortunately, he was kept to better ground throughout his two-year-old season and connection have hinted he probably wouldn't want the mud to be flying to be seen at his very best.

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Who might improve for it?

Diego Velazquez is a very hard horse to weigh up with a Soft Derby in mind as his only complete no-show came on heavy going in the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. Were underfoot conditions to blame? Chances are they were not, given he's a Frankel half-brother to the likes of Point Lonsdale and Broome, who have won on all types of ground.

More to the point, Diego Velazquez made a promising start to his three-year-old campaign when fourth in the French Guineas (Soft) and he could find significant further progress for the move up to a mile and a half.

There always seems to be one and this year it was Deira Mile who filled the role of 'Gallops Morning Eyecatcher'.

To be fair to those who have backed Owen Burrows' colt from 66/1 into a general 33s since Tuesday, the recent Windsor winner did seem to come around Tattenham Corner particularly stylishly and pulled nicely clear of his lead horse in the straight.

When it comes to Soft or Heavy ground, he's 0-2, with the Windsor win achieved on officially Good to Firm, but he was beaten less than three lengths by Ancient Wisdom when pitched into the Futurity as an 85-rated 50/1 shot and clearly coped well with conditions on the day at Doncaster. He's got to go down as another possible improver upped to 12 furlongs on an easy surface.

Another morning galloper at Epsom the other day, Richard Hannon's Voyage is a 25/1 shot for the Derby on the back of one competitive outing in a Newbury novice in April. There are mixed messages from the bare form, with the third and fourth well beaten since but the fifth and sixth going on to win races, although Voyage looked different class on the day.

The ground was Good to Soft (Timeform agreed with the official line) at Newbury but Voyage is closely related to a heavy-ground winner and while sire Golden Horn won most of his big races - including the Derby - on Good to Firm, the vast majority of his progeny love getting their toe in. With that in mind, he's another outsider who is likely to shorten a fraction if anything as the rain continues this week.

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