It’s rare that a race as prestigious as the Derby (4.00pm, Epsom, Saturday) revolves around one horse, but that’s the case this year with the unbeaten Dawn Approach (6/5) in the field.
The son of New Approach looked better than ever when drawing clear inside the final furlong to win the 2,000 Guineas by five lengths at Newmarket four weeks ago and, if he stays the extra half a mile at Epsom, the result of the Derby looks a foregone conclusion.
Those seeking to oppose him will point to the fact that his dam, Hymn Of The Dawn, is by the high-class US sprinter Phone Trick, so he is not guaranteed to stay the mile and a half of the Derby trip. Indeed, even his trainer Jim Bolger has voiced his concern that his pedigree, if taken at face value, suggests he won’t get a mile and a half.
On the other hand, dosage aficionados will be keen to point out that Dawn Approach has a Dosage Index of 1.67 and a Centre of Distribution of 0.38 or, in plain English, a just about perfect mix of speed and stamina when compared with Derby winners of the last 40 years. He’s already rated 132 by Timeform, 2lb higher than last year’s impressive Derby winner Camelot, so he has an awful lot going for him.
Even after the withdrawal of Magician, Aidan O’Brien still saddles five Derby entries, of which Battle Of Marengo (11/2) looks the pick and is shortest of his quintet in the Derby betting.
The Galileo colt has won five of his six career starts, including the Leopardstown Derby Trial over a mile and a quarter earlier this month. He may improve again for the step up to a mile and a half. However, he also steps up to Group 1 company for the first time and may just be found wanting at the highest level.
It would be folly to dismiss any of Aidan O’Brien’s other runners completely out of hand, but riding arrangements suggest that Battle Of Marengo is the stable first string. Mars (14/1) has 8¾ lengths to find with Dawn Approach on their running in the 2,000 Guineas, though he is lightly raced and may well have benefited from that experience. Chester winner Ruler Of The World (10/1) probably needs to improve significantly on what he’s achieved so far to figure but could be better than the bare form suggests. O’Brien’s unfancied pair Festive Cheer (50/1) and Flying The Flag (150/1) look totally outclassed, but remember O’Brien has had a 100/1 runner-up in this race with At First Sight in 2010.
Ocovango (8/1), trained in France by Andre Fabre, is unbeaten in three career starts, including the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud on his reappearance four weeks ago. He may lack the Group 1 winning form of Dawn Approach, but he has plenty of stamina in his pedigree and the chances are we are yet to see the best of him. Andre Fabre won the Derby as recently as 2011, with Pour Moi, so he clearly knows what’s required to win the premier Classic. On the downside, Ocovango will be ridden by 20-year-old jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who has never ridden around Epsom.
Chopin (10/1), trained in Germany by Andreas Wohler, has no problems on that score. He will be ridden by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani’s retained jockey, Jamie Spencer, who’s already two from two around Epsom this season. From a form perspective, Chopin was impressive enough when winning the Grosser Ehrmann Cup at Krefeld on his reappearance last month, but is rated 10lb inferior to Dawn Approach according to the BHA and may be flying a little high. Nevertheless, he has the distinction of being the first German-trained runner in the 223-year history of the Derby.
Newmarket trainer James Tate has a 50% record with his runners on Epsom Downs over the last five seasons and, at a huge price, Mirsaale (100/1) has a chance of improving that record still further. The son of Sir Percy has plenty of stamina on both sides of his pedigree, being out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, and appeared to appreciate the step up to middle distances when winning the Derby Trial, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Epsom in April.
Admittedly, the second and third in that race both finished last on their next start, but a line through the fourth, Mister Impatience, suggests he has a better chance than Chester Vase winner Ruler Of The World, who is a fraction of his price. Indeed, Mirsaale is the only horse in the field to have experienced the idiosyncrasies of Epsom, which should enable him to hold a position, and he could run much better than his odds suggest.
Derby Tips Conclusion and Betting Advice
The last 100/1 winner of the Derby was Aboyeur, who was controversially awarded the race following the disqualification of 6/4 favourite Craganour in 1913, the same year that suffragette Emily Davison was struck by King George V’s horse, Anmer. However, Mirsaale is such a ludicrous price that our preview’s betting tips advice is to have a sporting each-way bet on James Tate’s charge at 100/1 with Bet365, Ladbrokes or William Hill.