Epsom Derby Betting Tips 2012

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A lot of people think Camelot is home and hosed in the Derby already. I am not one of them. When unearthing Epsom tips for the 2012 renewal (run on Saturday, June 2), I prefer to look for some each-way value.

I do not fancy going odds-on about a horse that has never gone beyond a mile and of course the Derby is an extra four furlongs. Certainly Camelot is bred for the trip but in terms of dominance over his peer group he is certainly no Frankel, yet the odds suggest he is.

After winning the Racing Post Trophy as a two-year-old, Camelot showed a good attitude to land the 2000 Guineas (1m) narrowly on his first start at three. He sat out the back early on under trainer’s son Joseph O’Brien and was staying on. It was a good trial for Epsom, if a Classic can be construed a trial for another Classic. He beat French Fifteen at Newmarket by a fairly narrow margin and it looked in some doubt that he would get there for a while.

Interestingly the second-favourite for Epsom is Bonfire. He too has some form with French Fifteen, albeit from last year. He was deemed very unlucky not to beat French Fifteen in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint Cloud on “very soft” ground. That race was over a mile and Bonfire was staying on. His jockey Jimmy Fortune, who perhaps should be known ironically as ‘smiler’, took some serious flak for his perceived ill-judged ride.

While I am prepared to concede that this way of linking Camelot’s form to that of Bonfire is slightly tenuous, given we are comparing races of last year with this, it does demonstrate that Bonfire has a better chance against Camelot than current Derby betting odds suggest. It puts Bonfire on a par with the favourite. To bolster this argument, the Dante Stakes at York is traditionally the most reliable Derby trial of them all. The reason for this is that it is over ten furlongs and being two and a half weeks before the big race itself can be used to tee-up a horse for the one that matters. Who won the Dante on his one and only start this season? Bonfire.

Trainer Andrew Balding’s stable jockey, the aforementioned Jimmy Fortune, made up for any supposed error of judgement in France with a fine ride in the Dante. A strong ride was not required to get the horse to win because, as the racecourse commentator Mark Johnson might nauseatingly pronounce in a pseudo deep voice with American accent, Bonfire was possibly “much the best.” My heart sinks when I hear Johnson at the microphone but obviously not quite as low as when that cartoon character Derek Thomson attempts to call a race, and to think he gets paid for it. Thomson is often described as a ‘consummate professional’. I never realised the definition of that phrase was clueless, pig ignorant, bland and shallow. My dictionary must be out of date.

Enough already, back to the Dante: Fortune nursed Bonfire home with great confidence. He did the minimum required to prevail and that thoughtful ride may pay dividends come the Blue Riband. Certainly the horse has plenty of improvement to find and should be a very tough nut to crack. It must still rankle Fortune that he has been jocked off some high profile mounts in his time and then was unceremoniously sacked by John Gosden. This may be his final chance to stick the proverbial two fingers up at his detractors and temporarily banish that festering cloud that resides above his head.

One big challenger to Camelot may be a stable mate. It is a common enough feature to see trainer Aidan O’Brien beat one of his own hotpots with a second or third string. The examples over the years are too numerous to list, but this year’s 1000 Guineas when Homecoming Queen (25/1) had red-hot favourite and stablemate Maybe well behind, is just the most recent example.

So we come to my each-way selection and tip for the Epsom Derby 2012, and that is Camelot’s stablemate ASTROLOGY. When we first published this tipping article on May 18 he was at 20/1 and we strongly advised backing him. Now, with final small field of nine runners lining up for the race today, he is best priced around 7/1. You have not missed the boat as that still represents great each-way value, especially with the best jockey in the field (I would argue in the world) on board, Ryan Moore.

This 400,000gns yearling is by sire of the decade Galileo. So Astrology is beautifully bred and while he beat absolutely nothing when winning the Dee Stakes at Chester, boy did he beat rubbish well. It was soft ground over 1m2f, so there is no chance of Astrology failing to stay the 1m4f Epsom trip. Let’s just hope he stays it quickly! He has a low, good-ground action, so can be expected to be even better on a faster surface. While it is not his fault the opposition was feeble, he disposed of them readily. When he crossed the line he was still travelling so well and that was on a day when horses in all races were coming home dog tired.

It was a performance that filled the eye more than it filled the form book. Ryan Moore’s instructions at Epsom will surely be to make the pace, in the absence of any other runner going off too fast. Astrology may just play the ‘catch me if you can’ tactics and there is every possibility that they can’t. It will certainly find out the non-stayers and with a tiny question mark over Bonfire’s stamina then this would be a sound tactical move. Surely the last thing team Ballydoyle want is a muddling pace.

It is significant that he is the only stablemate allowed to take his chance against Camelot, his more high-profile peer. Ballydoyle has a history of running a handful of runners at Epsom Downs when it suits them. They are not afraid to chuck them all in the melting pot and as the astute trainer has said: “They are all bred for Epsom.” This time they stick with just the select two. Their other three possible runners were all removed at the final declaration stage.

If Astrology does win we will be writing our next tipping piece on a shiny new yacht called ‘betting.me’, moored in a quiet bay off our private island in the Bahamas.

David Lanigan has only been training since 2007 but has already made a big impression. His CV is gold plated and boasts five years as assistant to Henry Cecil. He must have made an impression as his Derby horse Main Sequence is owned by the Niarchos family. This horse is unbeaten in four starts and the form is progressive. The third horse, Cavaleiro, was a full seven lengths behind when he won his latest start, The Lingfield Derby Trial. With the Derby field cutting up, and hardly looking vintage, Main Sequence may have a big part to play for the Lambourn trainer.

Another who has attracted each-way money in recent days is Thought Worthy. He has had just the three runs and looks likely to appreciate the extra two furlongs. However there is nothing in the form book to suggest he can actually win this, even with normal improvement. That said, there is a significant lack of strength in the Epsom line-up and John Gosden is a trainer who does tend to know the merits of his horses nowadays.

So to summarise the Epsom Derby tips: Take Astrology to beat Bonfire with the red-hot favourite Camelot third.

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