Matt Chapman talks you through the main Derby contenders in his latest Sun Racing column
THE Derby is meant to answer questions – but often it merely raises them.
So whatever happens at Epsom this afternoon live on ITV, don't immediately make assumptions unless we see something out of the ordinary.
Take last year. Masar was a fine winner, but subsequently has not seen again. Roaring Lion came there cruising but didn't stay in third, and would later prove himself the star mile and a quarter performer.
Dee Ex Bee is now a leading contender for the Ascot Gold Cup after chasing Masar home, while fourth Saxon Warrior was the brilliant 2000 Guineas winner but was forced to run over distances that, with the benefit of hindsight, clearly stretched him.
What we all want to do is feel that feeling this afternoon that we did with Frankel. The one we felt it with Derby winner Sea the Stars.
Today, in the Investec Derby, racing fans again crave that feeling of something out of the ordinary. Bring it on.
Saxon Warrior was a strong Derby favourite, but today's renewal is wide open despite Chester winner Sir Dragonet likely to top the market after being picked or handed to Ryan Moore.
He is one of an army for Aidan O'Brien, while Dante winner Telecaster heads the home team for the outstanding Oisin Murphy.
Derby Day remains one of the world’s greatest racing occasions. It might not touch a nation like the Kentucky Derby in America, or the Melbourne Cup in Australia, but it is still considered the ultimate test of a racehorse.
A mile and a half is tough at this stage of a three-year-old’s career, and of course the ups and downs and turns of Epsom are a unique test of any beast.
Win the Derby, and you have done something few horses manage.
Here are my thoughts on the leading contenders...
- Sir Dragonet –Lightly raced but brilliant winner of the Chester Vase, where he was ridden cold from off the pace. High knee actions so fast ground a worry, but clearly talented and with Moore up has to be considered. Lack of experience a worry, although it didn't stop Commander in Chief or Lammtarra.
- Broome – Super tough colt who is improving all the time. Smashed his rivals in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown and looks sure to improve over a mile and a half. Outstanding each-way claims.
- Anthony Van Dyck – Already had eight races and was a high class juvenile finishing third in the Dewhurst behind Too Darn Hot. Went to America and was poor there from a bad draw, but returned to score snugly in the Lingfield Derby Trial proving a mile and a half holds no fears. Has strong claims but there might be one or two to improve past him.
- Telecaster – I was at Windsor when he hacked up in his maiden and he blew me away that night. On debut he chased home Bangkok in a big field and then truly came of age in the Dante, seeing off big guns like Too Darn Hot and Japan, who was hopeless in the market. He's a bit of a character but could easily win.
- Bangkok – Beat Telecaster at Doncaster, but judged on his Sandown defeat of Technician might not have improved as much as his old rival has since. That said, a mile and a half should suit and hard to fault after just five races. Held in high regard and has a chance.
- Madhmoon – I loved this horse a juvenile, where he looked a class act in two wins at Leopardstown including a defeat of Broome. As a result, it was disappointing to see him well stuffed on his debut at Leopardstown this term and when fourth in the 2000 Guineas. Stamina for this trip is hard to guage. He could be the next Roaring Lion.
- Japan – Everyone knew he wouldn't win the Dante when he drifted from 11-4 to 9-1 and he duly ran a shocker. I would expect he's better than that, but on that performance has no chance here. Might be used as a pacemaking team. The only place he looks like being big is in…Japan!
- Circus Maximus – Looked slow when scoring in the Dee Stakes at Chester and now has cheekpieces fitted. He'll stay all day, but might be livened up to set a decent gallop.
So who will win? Well I think it is wide open and a bit of a lottery, so best of luck to you all, but here is my 1-2-3:
3 .Anthony Van Dyck
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