Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Epsom Downs and Musselburgh on Saturday. View selections below.
Punters haven’t exactly been knocked over in the rush to back US ARMY RANGER (4.40) for the Investec Derby but the colt can vindicate Aidan O’Brien’s bullish assertion that he is Ballydoyle’s next superstar.
The colt has been on the slide following heavy rain in the Epsom area in midweek but there is no earthly reason to believe he won’t handle some ease underfoot. After all, US Army Ranger’s debut maiden win came on heavy and being a son of Galileo out of an Irish Oaks winner, he is one of the few of the 16 horses going to post guaranteed on pedigree to see out a testing 12 furlongs.
He may only have scrambled home in the Chester Vase, beating stablemate Port Douglas by a short head, but he should have learned plenty from that whizz around the Roodee.
Port Douglas, who gave ‘Ranger’ 4lb at Chester, is the obvious each-way angle at around 14/1 and stamina shouldn’t be an issue.
Dante winner Wings Of Desire has made giant strides in a very short time and the York set-piece is historically the strongest domestic Derby trial.
Andre Fabre’s Cloth Of Stars follows the same route as Pour Moi and caught the eye at the now traditional Breakfast With The Stars morning.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses has come from nowhere. Another son of Galileo, he is out of Oaks heroine Light Shift and was visually impressive when winning his maiden. This is a big step up.
Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner Moonlight Magic is also bred in the purple and Jim Bolger has been talking up his son of Cape Cross.
The opening 1m 2f handicap is a cracking betting heat with CARTAGO (2.00) getting the nod over likely favourite Poet’s World and Banish.
Cartago chased home Imperial Aviator in the London Gold Cup at Newbury on very similar ground he will encountered here and the winner heads for France tomorrow to contest their Derby. Cartago had Prince Of Arran (6th) and Soldier In Action (tailed off) behind and is well drawn near the rail.
Poet’s World also has a handy berth in stall two and this is an event Sir Michael Stoute has enjoyed great success in over the years (won it last year with Stravagante). Poet’s World is relatively inexperienced with three runs under his belt but the horse he beat at Nottingham last month, Munttahaa, hacked up six lengths at Kempton in midweek.
Banish met a useful sort when going down in a photo to Raven’s Corner at Lingfield. His three runs have come at Lingfield, however, and how he handles this switch to turf is an unknown.
The Investec ‘Dash’ is quite a rollercoaster ride for jockeys and punters, with hard luck stories abounding. DUKE OF FIRENZE (3.45) drew stall19 when he won the race in 2013 for Sir Michael Stoute and this time round he is parked next door in 20.
That rails slot is an advantage if you are able to hold a position, but it can become a poisoned chalice if the runners on the outside roll across and cause crowding.
David Griffiths has coaxed Duke Of Firenze back to fever pitch judged on his emphatic York success last month and his seven-year-old remains well handicapped.
Maljaa was no match for Sir Maximilian at Chester but should be straighter for that first outing in 204 days, while Boom The Groom should go well if stall two isn’t too much of a disadvantage.
The Investec Asset Finance Stakes over the Derby course is another enticing handicap and the ground should be perfect for HARDSTONE (5.15)
There was a little juice underfoot when he caused a 50-1 shock at Ayr’s Western meeting last September and Michael Dods’ five-year-old is only 2lb higher. Hardstone arrives on the back of a fine third to Destert Encounter and Poyle Thomas at Newmarket when the track was riding a good deal slicker.
Hardstone likes to race prominently so Graham Lee will be looking to grab a good position from which to negotiate Tattenham Corner.
Blue Surf sprang a 20-1 surprise 12 months ago and is back for another crack under the same weight.
At Musselburgh, the Edinburgh Gold Cup over 1m 4f is a tough nut to crack but southern raiders should hold sway.
YANGTZE (3.25) is stepped up in trip after his third to Primitivo at Sandown, his first handicap venture, and his earlier fifth to Imperial Aviator at Leicester has been well franked. He has drawn a perfect berth in stall three.
Roger Charlton, the trainer of Imperial Aviator, sends Blakeney Point north on the back of a Leicester success 19 days ago over Duck A L’orange. That triumph came over 1m 4f so there are no stamina concerns but stall 10 isn’t quite so compelling.
Roger Varian’s West Drive has been nudged up another 3lb following his York third and a bigger danger may lurk in Regal Monarch, a typical Mark Johnston middle-distance improver who is chasing a hat-trick following wins in slightly lesser grade at Chepstow and Ripon.
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