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Who can upstage market leaders? Get 2019 Epsom Derby tips for June 1

Masar crosses the line to seal Epsom Derby glory in 2018. (credit:David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images)

Our expert takes a look through the ante-post betting for this famous Classic and provides readers with his tips for Epsom on Saturday 1st June.

Few races in the entire sport of horse racing can match the history, the prestige and the magic of the Epsom Derby. A race first staged on the famous Epsom Downs in 1780 and any horse lucky enough to join legends like Ormonde, Gay Crusader, Nijinsky and Shergar on the honours boards will guarantee themselves a place in the annals of sporting history.

John Gosden has been lucky enough to lift the Derby trophy on two occasions and he will be hoping Too Darn Hot (4/1 William Hill) will be good enough to help him seal a hat-trick of Epsom triumphs. The Dewhurst winner ended last season as the highest-rated two-year-old in the land, baring an odds-on price in the betting for the 2000 Guineas for much of the off-season. Sadly, a few days before his intended reappearance in the Greenham Stakes, Too Darn Hot picked up a minor injury and was forced to miss the festivities at Newmarket.

After showing an electrifying turn of foot over seven furlongs last term, I was expecting Gosden to target the biggest races over a mile this season. Yet, the master trainer has identified the Derby as Too Darn Hot’s objective and all eyes will be on Frankie Dettori’s mount when he enters the Dante next Thursday.

Stacked up behind the market leader we find a gaggle of Ballydoyle colts. Despite not currently holding entry into the Derby, Sir Dragonet (9/2 Betfair) currently carries the shortest price of all Aidan O’Brien’s runners, having trounced his rivals in the Chester Vase on just his second career-start. 

I would be amazed if O’Brien didn’t supplement this impressive youngster into the mix and you’d be hard pushed to pick out a better-bred horse in the field. Yet, the form of that Chester trial looks decidedly poor and I doubt there have been many horses who won the Derby on their third outing on a racetrack, having been unraced as a two-year-old.

With three key Derby trials still to come, pathways to Epsom for all of Aidan O’Brien’s runners are starting to become clear. Anthony Van Dyck (12/1 Unibet) will be the first to show off his credentials as he tackles a fairly weak field in the Lingfield Trial on Saturday. That poor run at the Breeders’ Cup aside, Anthony Van Dyck enjoyed an excellent juvenile campaign and he shaped like a middles distance horse in several high-profile races.

Broome (10/1 William Hill) ended 2018 with a narrow defeat in the Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp and looked every inch a possible Derby horse when hacking up to win the Ballysax Stakes by eight lengths on his reappearance. Broome will likely lead O’Brien’s troops into the Derrinstown Stud Stakes this weekend, where he will likely be joined by Sovereign (33/1 Coral), who followed his stablemate home at Leopardstown.

Following Circus Maximus’ (20/1 Coral) attritional victory over stablemate Mohawk (33/1 Unibet) in the Dee Stakes, O’Brien stated that the team were eyeing a clash with Too Darn Hot in the Dante for former Derby favourite, Japan (7/1 Betfair). Seamie Heffernan’s mount stayed on stoutly to beat Ryan Moore’s chosen ride, Mount Everest (14/1 Unibet) in the Bereford Stakes last season. The form of any of his three juvenile races hasn’t worked out particularly well, but Japan must have improved a great deal over the winter to warrant ante-post Derby favouritism.

With all the talk surrounding Japan, Broome and Anthony Van Dyck, Cape Of Good Hope (25/1 William Hill) has been somewhat forgotten in the Derby discussion. O’Brien’s charge ventured to Epsom to win the Blue Ribband Trial, coming from off the pace to beat Cap Francais (50/1 William Hill) quite comfortably and he could be an outsider to look out for in the build-up.

Andrew Balding and King Power Racing have been flying for much of the season and  they would have been delighted to see Bangkok (14/1 Coral) book his place at Epsom by winning the Classic Trial at Sandown. Silvestre De Sousa’s mount may have won that Group Three rather comfortably, but the subsequent runs of Technician (50/1 Unibet) and Persian Moon (66/1 Betfair) have downgraded that performance significantly.

Dubai Warrior (14/1 William Hill) was handed a speculative Derby entry by John Gosden at the start of the season, having made light-work of the task at hand on his only two-year-old start at Chelmsford. Roger Varian’s Surfman (25/1 Betfair) could also make a surprise appearance in the Derby, after running away with a terrible race up at Newcastle, but I’d be surprised if either he, or Dubai Warrior, made the final cut.

Al Hilalee’s (20/1 Coral) hasty return from Dubai to take part in the 2000 Guineas didn’t work out well at all, but his pedigree points to success over trips further than a mile and he’s clearly got plenty of class. UAE Jewel and Phoenix Of Spain would not look out of place in this year’s Derby. Both would, however, need to be supplemented if connections fancy a shot at Classic glory.

Too Darn Hot is, undoubtedly, one of the finest horses in training at the moment. Yet, there are plenty of reasons to take the current ante-post favourite on. At no point last season did you think John Gosden’s colt was crying out for a test of stamina and it’s completely unknown how he will bounce back after that minor setback earlier in the season.

Of Aidan O’Brien’s runners, I think Broome and Anthony Van Dyck look best suited to a race like the Derby and either would be a worthy winner. Yet, the fact Sir Dragonet is the shortest priced of all the Ballydoyle contender after whopping a rubbish field at Chester suggests O’Brien’s current crop of Derby colts may not be as strong as they have been in previous season.

Taking everything into account, I’m prepared to take both John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien on once again in the Derby and there are two horses I feel are significantly overpriced in the current betting.

It’s clear the Derby has been the objective for LINE OF DUTY (16/1 Coral) since the Breeders’ Cup, where Charlie Appleby’s charge powered to a hugely impressive victory in the Juvenile Turf. 

Prior to that stateside outing, this son of Galileo proved he could stay further than a mile by winning the Prix de Conde at Chantilly, where the even-money favourite quickened brilliantly to beat Syrtis and Wonderment – who boosted the form of that Group Three by winning the Criterium de Saint Cloud on his following outing.

Line Of Duty has plenty of valuable experience on turning tracks and he has the requisite blend of poise and speed to take the Derby challenge in hi stride. Appleby and Godolphin have been targeting Derby success for a couple of years now and Line Of Duty has all the abilities needed to follow in the footsteps of Sheikh Mohammed’s first Epsom winner, Masar. 

The other horse who captures my imagination in the Derby is Irish raider, MADHMOON (14/1 William Hill). Veteran trainer, Kevin Prendergast stated before the Guineas that Madhmoon’s performance in that Classic would dictate whether he would head to Epsom or not. Following a fourth-place finish, Prendergast stated that it would be all systems go for the Derby and this multiple Classic winning trainer wouldn’t send Madhmoon to Epsom if he wasn’t sure he was a stayer.

Many people say the Guineas is the best Trial for the Derby. Third is the worst any future Derby horse has finished in the Guineas since Generous came fourth in 1991. Like Generous, Madhmoon finished fourth at Newmarket earlier this month, but he was drawn on the slowest section of the track and stayed on gamely to snatch a pace after being outpaced coming through the dip.

The track at Epsom should suit Madhmoon much better than the Rowley Mile. Leopardstown, like Epsom, is a turning left-handed track Prendergast’s charge showed a great liking to last season, comfortably seeing off Broome to win the Group Two Champion Juvenile Stakes back in September. Yes, Madhmoon has been defeated twice since then, but he was nabbed by a race-fit rival over seven furlongs on soft ground on his reappearance and that run in the Guineas was extremely encouraging.

Madhmoon’s sire, Dawn Approach finished last in the 2013 Derby after romping to 2000 Guineas glory. His breeding may not suggest a mile-and-a-half will come naturally, but Prendergast thinks he’ll stay and everything my eyes have told me so far agrees with Madhmoon’s iconic trainer. 

2019 Epsom Derby Tips

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Who can upstage market leaders? Get 2019 Epsom Derby tips for June 1

Our expert takes a look through the ante-post betting for this famous Classic and provides readers with his tips for Epsom on Saturday 1st June.

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