Juvenile horses; fitsome and bolshy as teenagers, prone to extravagant changes in mood, crises of confidence, physical eruptions and burgeonings. Above all horrendously frustrating to have any kind of investment in. Needless to say some horses, like some teenagers have everything you could ever dream of right there in their first flush of youth. These are the dreamboats and teen queens of each year’s classic generation.
At this early stage of the season all the punter has to help eke out his opinion on a race is one or two bits of form, stable gossip and the obligatory ‘glowing’ gallop report. We’ll need to plot a path clear of the whirlpools of hype that threaten to capsize our bets before they even reach the stalls. Saturday brings the Derby, my second favourite race of the flat season so we’ll set our sextants, attune our bullshit detectors and cut merrily into the swell.
Aidan O’Brien likes to take a banjo to many of the big races but he completely failed to hit the cow’s arse in last year’s Derby despite fielding six likely candidates. Again this year he goes in mob handed but the varied fates of the boy from Ballydoyle’s entries in recent days and weeks have caused ructions in the betting market. St Nicholas Abbey injured, Cape Blanco going to France, Jan Vermeer winning impressively in Ireland. All were right at the top of the betting and for the Derby this has particular significance.
Not once in the last ten years has the winner gone off at greater than 7/1 or from outside the first four in the betting. Of course trends are often liable to subverted in some daring new fashion but some, like the denim hot pant are never going to be away for too long. With a trend like the former it pays to wait until the day of the race but three that I like most from the first six (to allow for a bit of market movement at the time of posting are:
Jan Vermeer – A wide margin group 1 winner in France at 2 and won an average race well on his only other start this season. If he wasn’t a Ballydoyle horse he wouldn’t be 2/1 but being Johnny Murtagh’s ride of choice is a feather in his cap. The only one of the leading contenders to have form over another horse in the top half of the betting (Midas Touch) and will take all the beating.
Bullet Train – Trainer Henry Cecil's haggard yet elfin features make him look like racing's answer to Keith Richards though in truth his rollercoaster ride of a career has more in common with Johnny Cash. His own Father Time taught us last year that simply having a fantastic name is no guarantee of heroism but Bullet Train may yet live up to his mighty moniker and make Epsom the latest stop on Cecil's railroad to redemption. The horse lying second had a fatal injury when he won his trial at Lingfield but he had them strung out and struggling well before then and could out stay the opposition tomorrow.
Rewilding – Won nicely at Goodwood on his only British start and supplemented for this race at a cost of £75,000. Stable jock Frankie Dettori is up top for this and has been banging in the winners at a phenomenal rate in the last fortnight. Has plenty of scope to improve.
CONCLUSION: Bullet Train will be the one they have to pass but Jan Vermeer should take this from Rewilding to end O’Brien’s Derby drought.
- Jan Vermeer
- Bullet Train