HORSE RACING: With leading pundit Charlie McCann. This week the former Talksport tipster majors on the Derby and picks out potential winners at Epsom, Lingfield, Mussleburgh and Worcester.
The Epsom Derby remains the most prestigious flat-race in the world with its cambers and undulations making it a unique test for the twelve 3-y-o colts who will set out just after 4 o’clock this afternoon.
Throughout the winter the Derby had appeared a one horse race with last year’s Racing Post Trophy winner St Nicholas Abbey a very short-priced favourite. The news coming out of Ballydoyle during the spring was that he was something special and compared favourably with the other previous greats from the yard, but he failed to recapture his brilliance in the StanJames.com 2000 Guineas and it was confirmed earlier in the week that he would miss today’s race.
Aidan O’Brien will still saddle the favourite with Jan Vermeer the sole Group 1 winner in the race 2/1 following his excellent reappearance when he gave weight and a beating to his six rivals in the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh. Jockey Johnny Murtagh will be looking for his 4th win in the race and whilst the colt may lack the class that, it would appear, exudes from St Nicholas Abbey every morning on the gallops in Tipperary Jan Vermeer has the best form in the book and deserves his place at the head of the market.
That said there are many in the yard who feel Midas Touch will be the one to give O’Brien a third Derby following his win in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown although it must be said that Jan Vermeer already holds a couple of verdicts over the son of 2001 winner Galileo.
Sir Michael Stoute has suggested in the run up to the race that he would have preferred to have given Workforce (4.00) another race given the colt has only raced twice in his life. It is possible that this inexperience will count against him but I was most taken with his run in at York behind Cape Blanco (runs in Sunday’s French Derby) and he can give Stoute a third win in the race.
The Epsom card opens with a competitive 10f handicap; Verdant (1.40) let his many supporters down from a poor draw at Newbury last time but Stoute has saddled the winner of this event in three of the last six years and he is taken to get Derby Day off to a flier for the Workforce connections.
Reggane (2.40) looked to be crying out for a return to a mile when she ran at Lingfield on her reappearance and her second to Ghanaati in last season’s Coronation Cup is the best form on offer.
Harris Tweed (3.10) looked a non-stayer at a mile-and-a-half at Newmarket last time, but the track at Musselburgh ought to suit and he looks to have a decent draw in stall eleven. The progressive Corsica has taken a big hike in the weights for his recent hat-trick of wins, but the grey filly Bebopalula is suggested as the danger in a cracking contest.
Prince Des Marais ran a stinker at Stratford last time and may have seen the race coming too soon after his excellent effort at Worcester previously. He has been freshened up but preference is for the Philip Hobbs-trained Loita Hills in Worcester’s 5.10.
Highland Knight (8.20) ran a great race behind talking horse Man Of Action at Newmarket last weekend and ought to go one better in tonight’s Lingfield finale although the draw could have been kinder to Andrew Balding’s runner. The return to a mile ought to suit and he merits this weekend’s nap.