ITV Racing tips: Bolshoi Ballet to reward Aidan O’Brien’s show of faith with Derby triumph?
It’s nearly time for the Epsom Derby, one of highlights of the horse racing calendar.
Epsom will have a crowd, if not in anywhere near the numbers that would congregate on the Downs in the pre-Covid era, but enough to provide an atmosphere for this unique occasion.
And there should be one million plus watching on their TVs as the best three-year-olds in Europe battle for the most coveted prize in the sport.
Not surprisingly most punters have alighted on eight-time winner Aidan O’Brien and Frankie Dettori, a two-time Derby winner who has earned the mantle of the ‘housewives favourite’, as they make their picks.
O’Brien trains the hot favourite Bolshoi Ballet, his only runner in the field, and Dettori partners John Leeper, the colt capable of delivering the most poignant winning story as he is named after the late Derby winning trainer John Dunlop and trained by his son Ed.
There are numerous other solid candidates. The 79-year-old Jim Bolger saddles Mac Swiney, the Irish 2000 Guineas winner who beat his own stablemate Poetic Flare, the 2000 Guineas winner, at the Curragh. Godolphin have three challengers and there are plenty who will fancy the William Haggas hope Mohaafeth.
If seeking better odds do not be deterred by the price. Last year the first three finishers were priced 25/1, 50/1 and 66/1. The last favourite to win was Golden Horn in 2015.
The Derby will be the climax to another five race schedule on ITV with the two Group 3 races and the Dash lending support.
It all unfolds from 13:20 on ITV and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing tips.
This could be a good opportunity for Posted to claim her first Group victory, even if her first start of the year was not particularly encouraging. She finished fifth of seven in a Group 2 at Newmarket won by Lady Bowthorpe, for which she was top rated on official figures.
But she is entitled to have needed her first start since October and now takes a drop in class into a race in which she has the joint highest rating. Three of the three-year-olds are better treated at weight-for-age, but Posted’s record against higher quality rivals can work to her advantage.
Sir Michael Stoute has turned the clock back by running his three-year-old Maximal in this Group 3 contest. He won this prize with a three-year-old in 1985, Scottish Reel, but every edition this century has gone to an older horse.
Eight of the nine runners, including last year’s winner Century Dream, will be trying to continue that run. Century Dream comes here off a dismal run in the Lockinge Stakes. Maximal, in receipt of 12lb due to his age, hopefully has a better profile.
He finished second to Dante winner and Derby candidate Hurricane Run at Newbury and was second behind French Derby contender El Drama in the Dee Stakes. He was taken off the Derby trail as a result and a step down in distance could get him back in the winners’ circle.
Aidan O’Brien threw a curve ball into the Derby mix when he announced late in the week that he would only have one runner in the race and it would be Bolshoi Ballet, the hot favourite. The news would have been a blow to those holding ante-post vouchers on High Definition who had been the winter favourite for the Classic, especially as at the weekend O’Brien had talked of potentially running as many as eight.
We have become accustomed to Ballydoyle throwing everything at the Derby, a policy which has yielded some rather unexpected, as well as expected, winners of which Serpentine is the latest. That won’t be happening this year with the decision to rely on Bolshoi Ballet interpreted as a massive vote of confidence in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner. Bolshoi Ballet won his warm-up by six lengths with Mac Swiney, who went on to win the Irish 2000 Guineas, back in fourth. His form is rock solid and he is likely to win, but his odds won’t appeal to many.
At around 9/1 Hurricane Lane looks a danger. The Godolphin colt is the only unbeaten horse in the field and he showed real battling qualities in winning the Dante Stakes, often the best Derby trial out there. At much bigger odds Adayar takes the eye. A huge horse who is not necessarily going to be suited by Epsom, he is a guaranteed stayer who could be an each way punt.
ITV Racing Schedule, Saturday, 5th June
14:00 Epsom – 1m2f handicap
14:35 Epsom – Princess Elizabeth Stakes
15:10 Epsom – Diomed Stakes
15:45 Epsom – Dash Handicap
16:30 Epsom – Derby
All odds and markets are correct as of the date of publishing.