The Epsom Derby: Cracksman to Shatter O’Brien’s Hopes of Dominance
So here we are then: the third and fourth classics of the UK & Ireland flat racing season are already upon us, and while the Oaks will act as a tantalising appetiser on Friday, the Derby is very much the mouth-watering main course on Saturday.
Aiden O’Brien dominated the Guineas weekend with a pair of winners in the festival’s standout races, and the Irishman will be looking to follow suit at Epsom. Can he land yet another Derby victory?
Being attached to O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard is almost considered an automatic precursor to success these days, and so it’s no wonder that Cliffs of Moher (a best price of 4/1 with SkyBet) has just about assumed favouritism with the bookmakers ahead of Cracksman, the exciting juvenile who is a general 4/1 shot across the board.
The former took down the Dee Stakes in his last start to pick up a second straight win under O’Brien’s tutelage, but it was a strangely subdued effort from the odds-on favourite: he came home just a length clear of Bay of Poets (5/1) and two ahead of Max Zorin (25/1). It was one of those performances that served up more questions than answers.
Cracksman has only ran twice in his career to date, so we can’t draw any concrete conclusions about John Gosden’s steed, but it has been a case of so far, so good. Two starts, two wins, and the last of those was an impressive enough triumph in the Class 2 Derby Trial.
Okay, so he won by a small head from Permian, but that was after a sloppy start in which he dwelt in the chasing pack for the first portion of the race. With a better ride, we can expect a more convincing performance.
Three of the last five favourites have taken the honours in the Epsom Derby, and no winner of this renewal has been priced at greater than 10/1 since the 1990s. The cream generally rises to the top here, and Cracksman may just have Cliffs of Moher’s number.
Each Way Value
A lot of money has come in for Eminent of late, but the manner in which he faded from view when well placed in the 2000 Guineas was of genuine concern.
More edifying is the form that Permian (11/1 with Boyle Sports) brings to the party. The Sheikh Al Maktoum charge hasn’t finished below third in each of this last five starts – despite being odds-against in all of them.
Intriguingly, he saved the best performance of his career for his last start: winning the Dante Stakes as a 10/1 concern ahead of the more fancied Benbatl, Forest Ranger and co. That was on good-to-soft footing, expected at Epsom this week, and so this three-year-old really does pique the interest.
Victory in the Newmarket Stakes early in May, and a close second behind Cracksman in the Derby Trial, only adds fuel to the fire. Permian is the pick of the each way value this week.
If you have any spending money left to distribute then a small stakes wager on Douglas MacArthur is worth a try at a generous 25/1 (bet365).
This Aiden O’Brien charge produced a fantastic performance to land the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes back in May as a general 7/1 hope, and that was the apex of an upward curve of form.
It was as recently as April that he was second by half-a-length to Rekindling in the Ballysax Stakes, and in his final run of 2016 he finished fourth – but was only a couple of lengths back – to Waldgeist on soft ground in the Group 1 Criterium De Saint-Cloud in France.
If Epsom is besieged by showers on Friday as has been predicted, the ground will soften up suitably to ensure that horses like Douglas MacArthur become bets of genuine value.