The resumption of racing in the UK means we’re finally on track for the most prestigious race of the flat calendar.
The Epsom Derby market has really taken shape following the 2000 Guineas and a host of impressive trial performances.
Here we take a look at some of the main contenders in what is already shaping up to be an open-looking contest.
It certainly looks an intriguing prospect for horse racing bets like ante-post, especially given we’re now under a month away from this year’s renewal.
Kameko impressed with 2000 Guineas triumph
The obvious place to start is with current favourite Kameko after his success in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
It’s going to be hard for connections to by-pass a tilt at the Derby given the way he came through strongly to dish out a first defeat to star juvenile Pinatubo.
Highly-rated as a two-year-old, Pinatuba could only manage third behind second-placed Wichita for Aiden O’Brien and winner Kameko for Andrew Balding and champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
The big question now is if Kameko, the clear 4/1 Derby favourite, can step up in trip again. He travelled well in the Guineas and was doing his best work at the end of the race. He also chalked up a track-record time of 1m 34.72s, beating Mister Bailey’s previous record from 1992.
The initial step up to a mile has clearly brought the best out in him but the extra distance for the Derby remains an unknown.
Despite that, it’s hard not to like his chances when you also throw in his win in the Vertem Futurity Stakes at Newcastle where he held off the challenge of some other potential Derby rivals.
English King puts himself in the picture
The Ed Walker-trained English King powered his way into the Derby picture with an eye-catching victory in the Betsafe Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield.
The son of Camelot sauntered home to bag the win in a race that produced last year’s Derby victor Anthony Van Dyck. He also posted an impressive time on the clock as he took the record held by High-Rise since 1998.
High-Rise went on to win the Derby that year and English King is now a clear 5/1 second-favourite, backed in from 66/1, to do the same.
Those doubting English King’s Derby credentials will probably look to the breeding on his Dam’s side or his two-year-old ratings. Add to that he may not have beaten much at Lingfield and his price perhaps looks a little too short at present.
Did Military March show enough in the Guineas?
Military March should only improve for the 1m 4f Derby trip come the big day.
He is bred for this contest being the son of 2008 Derby winner New Approach. His Dam, Punctilious came third in the Oaks and also lists a Ribblesdale win and a second in the Irish Oaks among her honours.
The Godolphin horse is best-priced at 7/1 following his fourth in the 2000 Guineas behind Kameko.
It was hard not to be a little underwhelmed by his run at Newmarket, where those with an eye on the Derby would have wanted him to be running on a just little stronger.
That said, given the quick going wouldn’t have helped bring stamina into play, there were still plenty of positives to take.
Mogul a strong contender if preparations go to plan
Mogul is a 9/1 shot for Aiden O’Brien and there is a lot to like about this son of Galileo.
He has been running over a mile ever since his debut and is likely to relish a step up to further. He came second to Jim Bolger’s Geometrical when first seen last season but went on to record two good wins on the back of that.
He was defeated by Kameko in the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes on the all-weather at Newcastle when last in action but is a horse that should improve plenty this term.
It might be foolish to overlook Mogul given Ballydoyle’s dominance in recent seasons, but a lot could now come down to how much time his trainer has for preparations.
He’s a big, powerful sort that will need a run, maybe two, to get him spot on for a crack at the Derby. Those runs will tell us plenty.
Innisfree open to improvement for the Master of Ballydoyle
Another O’Brien-trainer contender that looks overpriced is Innisfree at around 20/1.
He stayed on well in the Vertem Futurity Stakes without getting to subsequent 2000 Guineas conqueror Kameko and is another likely improver.
The son of Galileo had stable-mate Mogal in-behind and the extra distance could see him reverse form for Kameko.
Before that, there was a lot to like about the way he battled to victory over Shekhem at Leopardstown in unsuitable heavy conditions over a mile. That maturity for a two-year-old could stand him in good stead here. He is likely to head to the Derby without a prep run but he could prove a big player.
First Receiver an interesting outsider
While it’s always good to look at the market principles, it’s intriguing to spot a bigger-priced contender that could spring a surprise.
There was a move in the market for First Receiver after the son of New Approach bolted up in the Royal colours at Kempton at the start of the month.
He’s also trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who went close for The Queen with Carlton House in 2011, and the same connections will hope First Receiver can continue to head in the right direction. He can still be backed at 33s.