Anthony Van Dyck made it a profitable Derby Day for us in 2019 but this year sees a very different scenario on Epsom Downs with the racecourse set to hold both The Derby and The Oaks on the same day, all behind closed doors.
From a punting viewpoint the race being run a month later than usual is probably not that significant but the trials have been highly unusual and I personally expect that Royal Ascot, somewhat bizarrely, will offer the best clues.
Favourite English King looks a decent colt in the making and is one of the very few in the field proven over this sort of trip. He won the Lingfield Derby Trial comfortably by just under three lengths from the useful Berkshire Rocco. That level of form is probably exceeded only by Kameko at this stage and English King (with Dettori) on board is clearly a key player. But I think he looks short at around 100/30 (on the drift today having been as short as 2/1) with the ground looking certain to have more give than at Lingfield and the likelihood that several of the others have yet to be seen to their optimum.
Kameko was a good 2,000 Guineas winner and is the form pick by some way. He has plenty speed and if he has the stamina to go with it he could prove to be a real star. My view is that this trip will test him to the limit and I think that he might find, much as his paternal half-brother Roaring Lion found, that 10 furlongs is his best trip.
Vatican City ran a great race in second behind Siskin in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. He is a full brother to several high class horses, most of whom, such as Gleneagles, were best at a mile. However he is also a full brother to Taj Mahal who was successful over a mile and a half when raced in Australia and whose best form in Europe was when 4th in the French Derby. However, although he may stay, stamina is a reasonably significant doubt and he’s passed over on that basis.
The two I like most in the race are the O’Brien pair Russian Emperor and Mogul. Russian Emperor has progressed nicely. There was plenty to like about his win in the Hampton Court stakes at Royal Ascot where he stayed on doughtily to see off First Receiver by a half length. His dam won over ten furlongs and stamina looks fairly well assured. There is every chance he’ll improve again for both experience and the trip here and he rates a big danger.
But the one I’ll be backing at the prices is O’Brien’s MOGUL (currently 15/2 with Paddy Power/Betfair). The choice of stable jockey Ryan Moore, Mogul was, on the face of it, a disappointing fourth behind Pyledriver on his reappearance in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Held up, racing wide and only asked for a real effort when the race had slipped away, I think he will prove a different proposition at Epsom. He has a bit to find with Kameko on their running in the Futurity but that race, on Newcastle’s artificial surface, would have played more to Kameko’s strengths than Mogul’s. This half-brother to Japan, Secret Gesture and Sir Isaac Newton has been held in high regard by the stable and I think he will have benefited greatly from that reappearance run. I am happy to row in with him at what looks a price which I think has a bit in our favour.
Of the outsiders, Max Vega, still at 33/1, is probably the one I’d be least surprised to see run really well but MOGUL it is.