11:19am Wednesday 4th June 2014
By Paul Darville
This weekend plays host to the Epsom Derby festival where 120,000 race-goers attend Epsom Downs on the first Saturday of June in an official and unofficial capacity to watch what is widely regarded as the finest flat race in the United Kingdom.
Epsom can be a difficult racecard to judge for the gambler as it isn’t always certain which horses will handle Tattenham Corner as well as the other undulating features of the Downs.
The Derby Festival begins on the Friday with Ladies Day, where the Oaks is competed for by the best three-year-old fillies over the same one mile four furlong distance as the Derby is ran the next day.
This year’s Oaks has two horses competing for favouritism with the John Gosden-trained Taghrooda and Aidan O’Brien-trained Marvellous both around the 3/1 mark.
Marvellous is a recent addition to the market after taking victory in the Irish 1,000 Guineas under in-form jockey Ryan Moore, who will likely concede the ride to the trainers son, Joseph.
Taghrooda has been at the head of the market since a big victory in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket in early May.
Packed: Punters at last year's meeting
However, no favourite has won the Oaks since Sariska in 2009. With the last former winners returning at odds of 12/1, 20/1, 20/1 and last year’s victor Talent was also 20/1.
To look at a few outsiders, I would take a look at Aidan O'Brien's second string, Palace. Palace has weakened in the betting since the Irish 1000 Guineas which was won by Marvellous, but the horse is yet to run on ground better than Soft, and the jockey booking of Ryan Moore can only add to the chances.
Roger Varian's horse Anipa was a solid winner of the Cheshire Oaks last time, and although this is a big step up, the horse is one of the few to have raced over the Oaks distance, and has won on good ground should the track continue to dry out.
On the Saturday, in the race prior to the Derby comes the Epsom Dash. This race is shorter than any other of the two-day festival and is the fastest five furlong course in the world as the horses deal with the straight course at Epsom that is in use once a year just for this race. This race takes under a minute to complete and is in view from the Hill.
Moving onto the Derby, there was a 'Breakfast with the stars' morning on the Downs on May 29 where horses, trainers and jockeys alike visited the racecourse to get a run on the surface.
The big news from this event was trainer Aidan O’Brien stating that he would prefer his big hope Australia to not have to contend with softer ground.
Beaten favourite: Dawn Approach was the punters' choice last year, but he was beaten into final place on a disappointing outing
Australia is a horse that has been bred from two past Epsom heroes in Galileo and Ouija Board, so his pedigree would suggest he will handle the variations of Epsom and O’Brien has proclaimed the horse as one of his best ever, though in fairness, he does that every year.
The horse has weakened in the market since his comments on Thursday and is now 11/10 but remains a heavy favourite for success on in the Classic.
Aidan O’Brien’s posse for this race is completed by Geoffrey Chaucer, Orchestra and Kingfisher. Geoffrey Chaucer is currently second favourite for the race after taking an eased down third in the Derrinstown Derby Trial, but Orchestra is the horse that would interest me for each-way value if the ride is taken up by Epsom expert Ryan Moore as it was in the Chester Vase, which last year produced 2013 Derby winner, Ruler of the World, which was also ridden by Moore.
Other horses that are in consideration for the Derby are Dermot Weld-trained Fascinating Rock who took victory in the Derrinstown trial, but the trainer would prefer much softer ground. Dante second and third Arod and Godolphin-trained True Story are also interesting, and their form has been franked by Dante winner The Grey Gatsby winning the Prix de Jockey Club in France on Sunday.
Watching brief: The Queen looks on
Kingston Hill is of big interest, the horse may not have stuck out in the fast-run 2000 Guineas and doesn’t have a big-name Trainer, but Roger Varian is destined for the top and Kingston Hill is more than capable of causing a surprise and although he would enjoy the softened ground, he is not a horse that is too dependent on ground.
Prior to the Derby comes the Epsom dash. This race is shorter than any other of the two-day festival and is the fastest five furlong course in the world as the horses deal with the straight yet undulating course at Epsom.
This race takes under a minute to complete and it’s entirety is in clear view from the Hill.
The record time was set at 53.69 seconds by Stone of Folca in 2012 and the horse is 16/1 to repeat the triumph again this year.
Last year’s second placed horse Smoothtalkinrascal is 10/1 in his attempt to go one better. Caspian Prince is the current favourite.
Epsom Oaks – Palace – 25/1 e/w, Anipa 25/1 e/w
Epsom Dash – Smoothtalkinrascal – 10/1 e/w, Monsieur Joe 16/1 e/w
Epsom Derby – Kingston Hill – 12/1 e/w. Orchestra – 16/1 e/w.
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