WHOSE the Derby daddy? Today we found out in an Epsom battle of the super sires.
Yes people, it’s the first Saturday in June which can only mean one thing: time to go Classic crazy with the greatest Flat race of them all in the Group 1 Cazoo Derby live on the main ITV network.
Crowds might be limited, but fascinating contenders are in abundance. And that’s even after Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien stunned the racing world on Wednesday when he revealed a possible team of six had been whittled down to the hot favourite Bolshoi Ballet.
Ryan Moore’s mount is by the much-heralded Galileo, who himself was the Derby hero in 2001.
However, waiting for Bolshoi Ballet are a trio of Frankel offspring in Hurricane Lane, John Leeper and Mohaafeth.
Now Frankel, who was an absolute monster when landing a 2000 Guineas, never ran in the Derby. But to many he’s the greatest Flat horse of all time.
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Galileo v Frankel is like Joe Frazier v Muhammad Ali, Roger Federer v Nadal or John McEnroe v Bjorn Borg!
What’s more, there is a joker Derby sire in the pack as well, with another former winner, the 2008 victor New Approach, the old man of Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney.
The Derby daddy supremo may well prove key to finding the winner.
So who do I fancy?
Well, it’s fairly obvious Bolshoi Ballet has a huge chance of scoring after landing the Ballysax/Derrinstown double at Leopardstown, and he was a very impressive scorer last time.
He’s bred to stay, but his price is short for what he’s actually achieved.
Incidentally, seven favourites or joint-favourites have obliged in the Derby this century.
Also on Bolshoi Ballet’s side is that O’Brien is the most successful trainer in the history of the event with eight wins. As well as Galileo in 2001, he has taken the prize thanks to High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler of The Wold (2013), Australia (2014), Wings of Eagles (2017), Anthony Van Dyck (2019) and Serpentine (2020).
And added to all that Bolshoi Ballet has a fine draw in stall nine which is close to perfect.
Starting stalls were first used for the 1967 Derby. Since then, stall 10 has been the most successful draw with 10 winners, most recently Masar in 2018. Stall five is the second-most successful with six winners, followed by stall nine with five.
It’s been twenty five years since William Haggas won the Derby with Shaamit, and he fields the speedball Mohaafeth, an effortless five-length winner of a listed race at Newmarket last time. Admittedly, that performance was more about style than substance, but if Mohaafeth stays he’s a player.
Hurricane Lane, for Godolphin, put himself firmly in the picture by taking some notable scalps in the Dante Stakes at York, and stayed on so well that it’s hard to imagine the Derby trip will pose any problems. He’s unbeaten.
Mac Swiney has excellent credentials having scoped dirty behind Bolshoi Ballet in the Derrinstown. His best form so far is at a mile in the mud, but his sire made the same step up when winning this race in 2008, and it’s folly to question the merits of a Jim Bolger Classic winner.
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Third Realm a Nottingham maiden on his return in April, and took a big step forward when landing the Lingfield Derby Trial last time, impressing with how well he handled the downhill run into the straight. That augurs well for his chances of handling Tattenham Corner.
Of the others, Youth Spirit is a lively outsider for the massively enthusiastic Green Team Racing run by Ahmad Alshaikh.
But for me the Derby bet each-way is John Leeper, trained by Ed Dunlop and named after the handler’s father who banged in Derby winners Shirley Heights and Erhaab.
John Leeper is ridden by worldy Frankie Dettori, and as well as having Frankel as his dad has a mum of class in Snow Fairy, an Oaks winner for the same connections.
I suspect my selection will massively step up for a longer trip. He was a real eye catcher on debut at Doncaster and then hacked up at Newcastle before his last win at Newmarket. All those runs suggested he wanted a mile and a half, and form lines through Tasman Bay would make you think that while his last run was hard to equate he’s not beaten just trees.
Get that flying dismount ready Frankie – you might need to leap from the Leeper.
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