What are the best bets at Epsom on Saturday?
The Derby is the premier Classic but nobody seems to have a clue who will win it in a wide-open year. Perhaps our racing expert can shine some light on matters and the remaining six races, some of which should come with a punters’ wealth warning?!
14:00 Investec Private Banking Stakes (Handicap), 1m2f18y
Sir Michael Stoute’s Poet’s Word could turn out to be better than a handicapper in time and the horse he comfortably beat in a Nottingham maiden last time franked the form when hacking up by six lengths on his next start. But bookmakers are no taking no chances in chalking him up at just 9/4 for a race chock-full of progressive three-year-olds and he won’t be carrying my money.
One that will is the Charlie Fellowes-trained PRINCE OF ARRAN at bet365’s 12/1. I fancied him rotten for a Newbury handicap last time and it was disappointing to see him finish only sixth after a far from easy passage through the race. His trainer took the blame for that defeat saying he’d got he tactics all wrong and reckoned he would have finished second to the smart winner Imperial Aviator if ridden more positively. Reported to be working well at home since and with some all-important course form under his belt (he was just touched off in a maiden here last July), the gelding can take advantage of what is potentially a generous mark of 84.
14:35 Princess Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored By Investec) (Fillies Group 3), 1m114y
A shockingly poor turnout for this Group 3 with none of the British-trained runners boasting winning form at this level and the only course winner amongst them, Epsom Icon, rated just 97 and with something to prove after three modest efforts this season. Not that Alain de Royer-Dupre will be complaining as his SAYANA has been gifted an opportunity to extend her winning run to four. Out of a dam who has already produced a couple of Group 1 winners in Siyouma and Siyouni, the sky’s the limit for the daughter of Galileo and she really ought to justify odds-on favouritism (4/6 best with Hills).
15:10 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup (Sponsored By Investec) (Group 1), 1m4f10y
Punters are faced with another odds-on shot here, though there is a little even money available (Paddy Power will accommodate you at that price) for Roger Varian’s POSTPONED, who has gone from strength to strength since landing the King George at Ascot last July (on soft), adding a couple of Group 2 races and a further Group 1 at Meydan to his burgeoning CV. That’s the best form on offer here and puts him nicely clear on the ratings over main market rival Found, who is a consistent sort at this level but is coming off an odds-on defeat at the Curragh last time and wants quicker ground ideally.
In which case, a bigger threat to the favourite may come from last season’s St Leger winner Simple Verse, who would have needed her comeback second at Newmarket, where she was giving weight away all round, and showed she is equally effective with cut in the ground when getting the better of Journey on Champions Day at Ascot. With eight runners set to go to post, she is arguably an each-way bet to nothing at bet365’s 4/1 (even money a place), but I still expect the Varian horse to prove too classy.
15:45 Investec Corporate Banking ‘Dash’ (Heritage Handicap), 5f
Paul Midgley supplied the first two home – Desert Law and MONSIEUR JOE – 12 months ago and, with the North Yorkshire stable finding some form of late, there is every reason to think they can again be involved at the finish. Monsieur Joe is preferred of that pair as he has done little wrong in two stars this season, whereas Desert Law has hardly been sighted in his three runs, and ground conditions are more in his favour. It was too quick for him in a Group 3 at Deauville last time, though he was still only beaten less than five lengths and the stable wasn’t in such good form then. Now back in handicap company and with his British record in such races standing at an impressive six wins from 18 starts (33%) for a £1 level-stakes profit of £45.00, he is crying out to be backed each-way at Paddy Power’s 18/1. Have a saver on stablemate Desert Law if you must – he’s 16/1 with the same firm – as he could well bounce back to his best here.
Of the rest, you have to respect recent York winner Duke Of Firenze under a 4lb penalty, especially as he won the 2013 renewal (stone last in 2015, though). He’s drawn 20 (of 20) and a high draw is usually best on the 5f track here, though plenty of low-drawn horses have run well in this – Desert Law exited from stall one last year – so it’s probably best to not get too hung up over the draw.
16:30 Investec Corporate Banking ‘Dash’ (Heritage Handicap), 1m4f10y
This is the most wide-open Derby I can remember and after a process of elimination I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of runners; the Godolphin pair of MOONLIGHT MAGIC and Cloth Of Stars, with the main bet going on the former Jim Bolger-trained horse at bet365’s 14/1 for the reasons given here.
17:15 Investec Asset Finance Stakes (Handicap), 1m4f10y
A devilishly hard handicap to solve and it’s fair to say that any of the 18 runners can win it. Given that scenario, I’d rather have a stab on one at a big price than side with one of the favourites, and the Brian Meehan-trained SENRIMA looks worth chancing each-way at bet365’s 16/1, with four places up for grabs.
While he hasn’t been seen out since finishing down the field at Goodwood last August, he showed progressive form in three previous runs, winning twice at Newbury (over this trip) and Haydock, despite looking green and not appreciating the fast ground – he has a bit of knee action so today’s conditions should be perfect. With just four runs under his belt and another year on his back to strengthen up, he should be capable of better still and his current mark of 88 looks workable. Furthermore, his stable has a fair record at this track – 5-29 (17%) since 2012 for a £1 level-stakes profit of £21.50 – and sent out Smuggler’s Moon to win Friday’s Listed contest at 14/1. There’s plenty to like then!
17:50 Investec Asset Management Stakes (Handicap), 6f
As with the previous race, I’m going to take a flyer on one at a big price, with William Haggas’ VALLEY OF FIRE the most tempting at 25/1 with bet365. His 2016 form figures of 000 don’t inspire much confidence but he ran far better over 7f at Chester just seven days ago, where he had every chance over one furlong out before weakening in the last 100 yards, suggesting he will be suited by today’s drop in trip. A winner over 6f on his racecourse debut at York back in July 2014, he has largely been competing in big-field handicaps since and has seen his mark tumble to a career-low of 89. He will surely take advantage sooner rather than later and given his stable’s excellent record with four-year-old runners in sprint handicaps at this track – 11-37 (30%) since 2012 with nearly half placed for betting purposes – that could well be today.
Fancy some free bets? Back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the five races shown live on Channel 4 (2.00, 2.35, 3.10, 3.45 & 4.30) with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50 per customer per race) on the next race shown live on Channel 4.