It being Oaks and Derby weekend at Epsom I am going up nice and early with my thoughts as I am here, there, and everywhere as you might expect; as a Brucey bonus we have the Prix du Jockey Club Sunday as well.
To give it its full name the Investec Derby Festival starts on Friday 1st June with the Oaks taking centre stage. My ante-post punt Sarrocchi is not going to be lining-up, she does have a number of entries later in the season mind you so keep your eyes open for her. They line-up at 4.30 and it is a fairly open affair truth be told. Ballydoyle had a hatful of entries and I am not convinced even they know which their best filly is! Five remain in the shape of Magic Wand, Forever Together, Bye Bye Baby, Flattering and I Can Fly with Magical being the big name filly missing. I am taking them on anyway with the Charlie Appleby trained Godolphin filly Wild Illusion. I talked about her a lot in the build-up to the Guineas, finished fourth, saying that I thought she’d be better over further and how her French Oaks, Prix de Diane, target made a lot of sense. Well after the Guineas I am not surprised she comes for this as she has to be the form pick and has a big chance on pedigree. Another plus I think is the soft ground is very much in her favour. I got on at 4-1 Tuesday lunchtime. Big race jockey William Buick said earlier this week “She’s very stoutly bred on the dam’s side and, being by Dubawi, and has a great pedigree. You would like to think the distance won’t inconvenience her. She seems straightforward and ticks a lot of boxes.”
I have backed Aurum in both his starts to date and he goes for the Listed Investec Surrey Stakes at 5.15. The colt won on debut on the good-soft ground at Newmarket so the rain that’s been around doesn’t concern me. He just lost out over seven at HQ again last time in a Listed heat won by Purser and looks a nice type. Still open to plenty of improvement I would advise you to grab the 11-4. The main danger, everyone else seems to think, is Kings Shield dropping into calmer waters having gone in the G.1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains last time but for me, he is far to short a price. He was held in the Esher Cup before that and the form of his Kempton all-weather win in April doesn’t amount to much to my eyes; I am not convinced by him.
Earlier on the Friday card Cracksman is long odds-on for the Group One Investec Coronation Cup and it is a no bet heat for me.
Saturday is the day for the big race, arguably the biggest of them all, the Epsom Derby due off at 4.30. I am sitting on a ticket about Saxon Warrior for the Investec Derby at 7-2 and I am very happy with that thank you very much. None of the main dangers have shown enough to cause me any sleepless nights since the 2,000 Guineas. "Ryan will be back on Saxon Warrior on Saturday and everything is fine with the horse. He's pleasing everyone with what he's doing and everyone seems very happy," O'Brien said on Tuesday afternoon. Anything can happen, and stall one is far from a positive, but the colt looks as close to a good thing as you can get in this race. My St Leger ante-post punt Kew Gardens runs and is an each-way possibility as is another Dirty Dozen member Masar who was, of course, my 2,000 Guineas punt when third. Young Rascal could improve off teh back of only 3 runs but will need to have improved a lump again having won the G.3 Chester Vase last time. I have talked about Roaring Lion and that habit of leaning to the left under pressure and even though it’s left-handed here that worries me whilst Hazapour has a bit of form on soft but needs to improve a fair few pounds on his Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial victory. Delano Roosevelt was second in that race and has a habit of running into a place, was second to the selection in the Beresford Stakes last year, and could well place-up again.
Across the Channel on Sunday at Chantilly, they go in the Group One Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at 3.15 our time. Two members of the Dirty Dozen Key Victory and Ghaiyyath were both entered by Charlie Appleby and the one that will run is Key Victory. Unbeaten in two runs having won a seven-furlong maiden at HQ at two he came out following a winter break and won the Listed Havana Gold Newmarket Stakes (tipped on here) over 1m2f at Newmarket earlier this month, was supplemented by Godolphin for this after that win. This 1m2½f should suit perfectly, the draw in seven is fine, and my only concern is he hasn’t run on slower than good going and soft is very likely to be in the ground description on Sunday. 5-1 NRNB with Paddy Power has tempted me in on Thursday afternoon. Rostropovich has to be feared going over for ‘the lads’ from Ballydoyle but his form is far from spectacular.
What a great weekend of racing to enjoy and hopefully four winners!