Smooth Dante winner Golden Horn will be supplemented for the Epsom Derby and on the evidence of his York win, he's the one they all have to beat.
After several inconclusive results we finally got a Derby trial worth its salt when GOLDEN HORN proved too good for stablemate Jack Hobbs and Elm Park on the Knavesmire, and the John Gosden-trained Dante winner is now a firm favourite for the Epsom Classic on June 6.
Prior to the race, Jack Hobbs had been favourite almost by default after no clear Derby contender had emerged from the 2000 Guineas, while very few of Aidan O’Brien’s contenders had enhanced their claims. The master of Ballydoyle has had a stranglehold on the race, winning it for the last three years and five times in total, but neither John F Kennedy and Ol’ Man River, his main hopes at the start of the season, will be making an appearance after disappointing in the Dante. With his 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles keeping down the mile route, his best chance looks to be Chester Vase winner Hans Holbein, although I’d be surprised if he was good enough.
Jack Hobbs, who had been as short as 4/1 before the Dante on the back of an effortless Sandown handicap win, now looks the main threat to Golden Horn. He has two and three quarter lengths to find on their York running, but he was staying on well at the end of the race, having taken his time to get past Elm Park, who tired late on and is entitled to come on for the race. However, Workforce is the only horse beaten in the Dante to ever win the Derby and they will do well to turn the tables on the winner.
The result left the Derby ante post market in a hopelessly confused state as Golden Horn wasn’t even entered for the Classic with his owner-breeder, Anthony Oppenheimer, far from convinced he’d stay the mile and a half at Epsom. The Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby), which is run over two furlongs shorter, was his target and he wasn’t in a hurry to change his mind, saying immediately afterwards: “I think the French Derby looks more attractive in some ways. It’s a difficult decision. I don’t think many members of the family stayed more than ten furlongs.”
Since then he’s come out to say the colt would be supplemented for Epsom at a cost of £75,000 and that is absolutely the right decision. While there is no guarantee he will stay – there seldom is and there were similar doubts over recent winners Camelot and Australia – his sire Cape Cross produced two of the best Epsom winners of recent times in Sea The Stars and Ouija Board, and there are plenty of middle distance performers on the dam’s side. Every bit as pertinently, the way he finished off the York race, having settled beautifully, gives him every chance of staying and as a well-balanced horse he should handle the Epsom cambers.
Whatever wins the Derby will have to show improved form and, having posted a high-class trial performance, with the likelihood of better to come after just three starts, there is none better placed than Golden Horn. He settles well, possesses a lovely turn of foot and brings an unbeaten record into the race. The only other runner that can boast the latter is Dermot Weld’s Zawraq and there are even bigger concerns over his stamina – his sire Shamardal simply doesn’t produce 1m4f performers and his best son to date Mukhadram raced over that trip just the once, when outstayed in the King George.
The idiosyncrasies of Epsom lead may people to think there’s a lot of luck involved, but recent results suggest otherwise. The best horse in the line-up invariably wins and Golden Horn is that horse. Sadly the 5/2 quotes ‘with a run’ are history and were being asked to take just 2/1. Given I’m struggling to come up with a leftfield alternative at bigger odds, he simply has to be the recommendation. The only caveat being if the ground were to ride very soft, in which case I’d want a saver on Elm Park.
Golden Horn @ 2/1 bet365 (saver on Elm Park if the ground is “soft”)