The Saturday Sermon on Derby Day

Good evening from the Major who writes from the dulling Worcestershire evening.  The air is chilling beautifully, the crackling ball of plasma has dipped beneath the horizon and dusk brings a calm to the soul.

The Major has been immobile this week, regular readers will have noticed the abbreviated Sermon last Saturday.  The Major suffered a sudden sporting injury and the finest medical opinions in my local surgery suggest I have torn ligaments.

Don’t rush to sympathise with me, for today I struck a minor mothership and am undeserving of your thoughts.

I cannot say I scrutinised the Oaks card with great thoughtfulness, it was just one of those days where a lack of contemplation boded well.

I had Thistle Bird in Epsoms opener, only because I have a soft spot for anything in Nathaniels colours.  Resurge was my winning selection in race two on account of Neil Callan being one of the more under rated jockeys.  Gregorian had the best Group form in the book and was my selection in the third before the fourth in which I chose Mister Music (the only leg that let me down) on account of wanting some Hughsie in my mix.  Then the Oaks, I almost took The Lark but settled on 20/1 winner Talent.  Why? Well it’s damn hard to read what these fillies are up to and I felt her listed race was open to be interpreted as better as she had fought hard for her head in it and won despite that wasted energy.  My how she repeated that tomfoolery today.

Coming down the hill towards Tattenham corner, she was on the verge of rearing, fighting viciously with Hughes.  Once he had her on the straight, he asked her to go between two tiring sorts, which seemed the wrong course to me when a simpler option lay wide.  She went through though and put the race to bed in glorious style.  It was not Hughes’ finest ride in my consideration but for a quality hard-working jockey, no other deserves to break a classic duck with two in one season more than he.  Bravo.

The Majors spoils?  Well I had each way doubles and trebles on the five selections.  The swag was enough for a holiday, not the Caribbean perhaps but maybe a weekend in a fine hotel with enough loot to satisfy some of my lascivious vices.  As I say, feel no pity for I.

The strangest part is that despite considering myself fairly level minded, after three legs, special thoughts were brewing in my mind, the opportunity of great gains lay before me.  Mister Music put pay to those.  I was lost a bit, to the point where even when Talent galloped home,  I still felt rather flat, more than I should have.  That troubled me and stayed with me, as these things will.

If it were not for the back, I would take these illicit gains and romp to Epsom tomorrow for some fun on the downs.  As it is, I shall leave those shenanigans to my good friend Mr Hadden and his merry band.  For them, I shall try to reproduce the trick but the Major is circumspect.  I am the blind squirrel and occasionally I find the odd nut.  I am the broken clock, correct twice in a day.  Past performance is not a guide to future performance.

To the sports…

Epsom Derby Day Tips

I am going to go across the Epsom card.  My principles are as follows.  You need a good jockey, for this I am going to use subjective views, my own.  You ideally also need a horse that has gone well at Epsom before where there is a significant camber.  If no Epsom form is available, I would allow Brighton, Goodwood or Bath form to correlate.  To business.

1.35 Epsom

In the opener, High Troja is current favourite.  Starting last time at 25/1 at Newbury, the horse was visually impressive but that was off an awful crawl and I am not entirely buying the form.  Plus Ed Dunlop has saddled 4 winners from 33 runners in the last two weeks, not a huge problem but not convincing either.  Plus the Newbury ground was much better than this… plenty of doubts.

Space Ship carries those Nathaniel colours as well but also has a lot of questions.  He clearly is progressing and the Chester win was fine.  He has good form tied with Telescope from last season but his win was on good to firm and Chester is a completely different proposition to Epsom.

Neil Callan is my favourite jockey in the race, I have never seen him given anything other than his best and he keeps things simple.  That said, I am struggling to find a line of form that puts St Paul de Vence in it, he would have to improve a lot from his reappearance, which is only a minor possibility in my view.

The opener is a tricky affair and I am going to chance my arm on King Muro.  Andrew Balding is a top trainer and I am sure he has not bought the horse to Epsom for a day trip.  It is in on a bottom weight of 8-2 and has the assistance of Hayley Turner for the first time in the horses career.  His only win came at Kempton in a class 6, hardly enthralling I know but last time out at Chester was interesting.  The horse was prominent and travelled well but threw an anchor out two furlongs out and the jockey was kind from there to the line.  Who knows?  The price builds in the doubts, 20/1.

2.05 Woodcote Stakes

These big early season contests for two year olds offer less evidence but we can still apply reason.

This is the type of race where you would expect to see the plethora of riches from the Hannon juvenile camp dominate but he has only won it once in fifteen years.  That said, Thunder Strike comes with obvious credentials having won two sprints very nicely, a step up of a furlong should not be a problem either.

Two reasons make me opt for Riverboat Springs though at 11/2.  Firstly, Thunder Strike only has form at Doncaster and Newbury – Two flat straight easy courses, this is a different world.  Riverboat Springs won at Bath, a swerving dipping and cambered course – That win was also on good to soft.  I also like the fact that Channon has targeted this race in recent years winning it twice in the last ten years, including the last running with Chilworth Icon.

2.40 Epsom Coronation Cup

The first of the two Group One races and the Coronation Cup renewal is a disappointment.  Only five runners, one of which looks to be a pace horse.

It is incredible to consider that Ballydoyle have such spoils that they can deploy listed winners to be a hare for their top animals to aim at.  That seems to be the lot of Chamonix.  It may also be the job of Chapter Seven who may be leading Dunaden.  This should make for an interesting early pace duel.

St Nicholas Abbey has won the last two runnings of this race and I have no clue how to oppose him.  Joshua Tree is a Grade One winner in Canada, winning their top race for the globe-trotting Ed Dunlop stable – This is tougher.  Dunlop knows Dunaden well as he was responsible for the defeat of Red Cadeaux by a shadow in the Melbourne Cup in 2011.

Since then, St Nicholas Abbey has given him a good hiding and as far as I can see another dose is due to be served up in the race that St Nick has made his own.  4/11 is not sexy I know.

The Dash

The dash is all about the draw.   It is also a punters graveyard.  In the last three years we have had winners at 33/1 and 50/1.  Kudos throughout the season of sprinting swings from one horse to another so I have less faith in the science of prediction than in other races.

Nothing I just told you is new.  The top four in the betting come from stalls 15 and upwards.   What glimpses may have the winner left though, what can we analyse that might allude to the true signal, the one horse that will cross the line mere fractions of seconds before the next?

Captain Dunne ticks a number of boxes, he is almost a stone lower than when running well in this last year  A reappearance run will have him spot on, he likes the ground and is well drawn.  A contender, no doubt and I expect the money to come flying.

It is merely in search of value that brings me to my more interesting selection.  Ballesteros is available at 22/1 and I think it dismisses his chances.  He was 4th in a Prix de l’Abbaye behind Wizz Kid but in front of Sole Power, that is well franked form, c’est vrai?  In the saddle is William Buick, a pilot who won this just five years ago.  Have a slice.

Derby Tip

I am surprised that this evening the books are out to get Dawn Approach.  At the start of this week, the colt was odds on but has drifted to 11/8 and Ladbrokes are going 7/4 in the morning for 15 minutes from 8.15… I kid you not!

Dawn Approach gave me and a few Business School pals a terrific thrill in the 2,000 Guineas.  Listening to the race on the radio and the commentators excitable description of him powering away at the bushes, well… it was better than watching it.

On what grounds do we see him beaten?  Trip is the one that is being trotted out. He has only raced over a mile and so will he get a distance 50% further.  When we don’t have the evidence to go on we look to the clues…. Breeding and Visual evidence from former races.  On breeding, the favourite is out of New Approach (who himself is a Galileo horse).  New Approach was a derby winner and sire of yesterdays Oaks winner.  The Dam, Hymn of the Dawn, gives us no clues.  She was a poor racer and kept to short distances in Ireland with Jim Bolger.

Visually, Dawn Approach hardly looks the sort to be inconvenienced by a well run mile and a half.  If anything, you could argue he will improve for the step up. His sire did.

Back for the verdict on Dawn Approach in a moment.  Ocavango was of serious interest to the Major but being drawn in stall 1 has a sobering effect as was highlighted in todays stats, it is definitely a penalty.

Battle of Marengo is unbeaten in five and out of the O’Brien camp so has to be taken seriously but it concerns me that the horse is yet to compete at the top-level.  Last years Ballydoyle derby winner Camelot had already taken in the Racing Post Trophy as a juvenile and the 1,000 guineas as a seasonal debut before the derby.  I question the strength of the O’Brien classic crop this year and will swerve this one.  If you wanted a Ballydoyle horse, I would prefer Mars who did compete in the 1,000 guineas and gets Hughsie who knows every roll of these Epsom Downs.

When the answer is right in front of you, do not be afraid.  Dawn Approach is the obvious selection and I find his case entirely compelling.  I would want 6/4 or bigger to account for the risk we are taking that he will handle the track but he is in good hands to do so (as his Sire did).  He delivered the goods in the Guineas and I am getting stuck into a follow up in the second classic he is eligible for.

4.50 Handicap

Moore riding Sirvino for David Barron catches the eye as it is a rare booking.  However, it has not been one that has reaped rewards either (no wins, three runners in last two years).  He did at least serve up a stronger performance last time out when winning at York, staying on well to score at last.

I am prepared to have a pop at another at bigger odds in 11/1 shot Scatter Dice.  My selection might be a typical Johnstone horse and if he gets in front two furlongs out may just prove hard to catch.

The other horse that caught my eye was Sheikhzayedroad who I think will enjoy this new trip.

5.25 Handicap

If you are not ahead by the time of the handicap, you need a bit of luck in this last race because it is a minefield.

I am going for Seeking Magic at 9/1 with the strong Adam Kirby in the saddle, I could tell you why but I won’t.

The each way Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Seeking Magic, Scatter Dice, King Muro, Riverboat Springs.

I hope your dinner is bought with the bountiful catch of the day and the company you keep is elegant and charismatic.

Courage, roll those dice.

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