Early look at 2015 Derby contenders reveals a familiar trend

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It’s becoming a somewhat regular sight on the first Saturday in June at Epsom, but Aidan O’Brien’s Derby dominance in recent years shows no sign of slowing up.

We may be a mere 10 months away from the next renewal, but the master of Ballydoyle already has a number of candidates lining up to represent him in the 1m4f showpiece in 2015.

The juveniles are gradually announcing themselves on the equine scene, and we look at a trio of the early contenders from both sides of the Irish Sea.

Highland Reel – 8/1

Like O’Brien, Galileo is becoming something of a Derby mainstay. Having won it himself in 2001 the now 16-year-old has sired the last two victors in the race. Could Highland Reel make it a hat-trick?

It’s tricky to say, but he has certainly done nothing wrong. A victory in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood was altogether impressive, following up a 12-length demolition at Galway.

He is a worthy antepost favourite at 8/1 on what he has achieved to date, but stats do look against him.

After the victory on the Sussex downs, all the talk was of the sheer speed the colt possessed, with a drop back to 6f mooted. It would take extreme versatility to cope with the differences in trip, with only two horses winning the Derby having previously run of that short a distance in the last 20 years.

John F Kennedy – 16/1

Such was the hype behind this colt that prices were available on him winning the Classic before he had even stepped foot on a racecourse.  It’s easy to see why looking at his breeding.

Yet another Galileo colt, this time out of Champion 2-year-old filly Rumplestiltskin, the O’Brien-trained bay was certainly bred for success.

Things didn’t go right on debut, getting worked up beforehand before plugging on for second. But it was his second race that he announced himself to the world.

Held up at the back of the field by Joseph O’Brien, he showed a nice turn of foot to run out an easy hands and heels winner over the Curragh’s mile course.

Bigger tests will come, but he looks to be something worth considering in long-term plans, especially at an industry leading price at Ladbrokes.

Nafaqa – 33/1

One of the few early fancies not trained in Ireland, Barry Hills’ colt was pitched in at the deep end on debut withthe small matter of the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot his first appearance.

Things didn’t get off to the best start, completely missing the kick and giving up half a dozen lengths. That didn’t stop the son of 2006 Derby winner Sir Percy, making up the ground to finish a more than respectable fourth.

He got off the mark next time out in a Maiden at Newbury, with the third that day subsequently going on to land a decent novices event at Newmarket.

At the prices, the Sheikh Hamdam al Maktoum-owned juvenile is perhaps the most tempting in what is a tricky early market. Expect there to be plenty of movers and shakers in the coming months.

All Odds and Markets correct as of the date of publishing

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.