Given the Epsom Derby’s billing in some quarters as the world’s greatest flat contest, providing an ultimate test of speed and stamina for three-year-old horses over an undulating Epsom track, winning the race obviously gives a level of prestige unmatched by many others in the annual horse racing calendar.
From a breeding perspective, a Derby victory is one of the biggest honours a horse can have on their CV, with the likes of Galileo, Sea The Stars and New Approach all winners this century to have gone on to sire other classy runners.
Looking back over the last 14 years, these are some of the more reliable statistics that have proved common among Derby winners. As a result, two horses stand out as profitable bets for Epsom:
All of the last 14 Derby winners had run no more than five times previously
Having suitable experience of the racecourse is necessary for a horse to shake off any greenness ahead of the Derby, but run too much and a horse will be too exposed in terms of their untapped potential.
Four of this year’s 16 Derby entrants have potentially had too many races to peak in the Derby. These are Humphrey Bogart (8 races), Shogun (8), Cloth Of Stars (6) and Port Douglas (6).
13 of the last 14 winners had already tasted victory in Group company
2010 Derby winner Workforce was the only winner in this time that hadn’t previously triumphed at Group level, but he did look unfortunate to finish second in the respected Dante trial, when hanging badly and having his bit go through his mouth.
This rules out a number of the Derby entrants with Across The Stars, Biodynamic, Idaho, 2,000 Guineas runner-up Massaat and the well-fancied Ulysses all having failed to win at any level above maiden company.
Furthermore, Algometer’s best win was in Listed class and Red Vernon has landed a handicap, so they are discounted.
All of the last 10 winners had won at least 50% of their career starts
It is not massively unusual for a Derby winner to have needed their two-year-old debut to adjust to the demands of racing, finishing among the places in eye-catching fashion. However, the majority pick up the winning habit quickly.
Of the remaining five horses to have passed the opening two trends, Deauville is the only one to falter here, having triumphed on two of his five starts to date. He arrives at Epsom on the back of three straight defeats, although this includes two runner-up results in Group class.
Nine of the last 14 winners had run over at least 1m2f before, but just one had experience of the Derby distance of 1m4f
Logic would dictate that a horse proven to see out the Derby distance would be a positive, but instead, it is those whose stamina is slightly more unknown that have performed best.
This rules out Aidan O’Brien first string US Army Ranger, who may have won both his career starts to date, but the latter was in the Chester Vase over 1m4f.
Half of the last 10 Derby winners were unbeaten as three-year-olds and nine of these hadn’t finished worse than second in the same season
Moonlight Magic fails to adhere to this trend after getting bogged down by the heavy ground at Leopardstown on his seasonal reappearance when only fifth in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes.
That contest was won by Dermot Weld’s Harzand and Irish trainers have been responsible for half of the last 10 Derby winners. The only other horse to adhere to the five previous statistics is Dante winner Wings Of Desire.
This column pulled out Wings Of Desire as the most likely Dante winner ahead of that race and the Dante has produced three Derby winners in the past decade, making it the most successful trial.
Given that all of the last 14 Derby victors had additionally been sent off at odds no bigger than 7/1, this also favours Wings Of Desire.
Frankie Dettori’s mount is 4/1 in the Derby betting, with Harzand an attractive each-way price of 16/1, especially if it rains at Epsom and the ground is described as soft. However, his future looks to lie over longer distances and Harzand could prove an interesting challenger for the St Leger later in the season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.