Mark Your Card: Derby Day at Epsom

Our racing expert Mark Hobbs give you a steer ahead of another busy day of racing. Even the Queen – and former Big Brother contestants – are down the bookies today.

Chantelle Houghton arrives at the course this morning.
Chantelle Houghton arrives at the course this morning.
Image: Pa

THE LATE DOUBTS over the participation of antepost favourite Carlton House have added more drama to what is arguably the world’s most famous and storied horse race.

While previously his Dante performance had been taking enough to see the Queen’s colt backed in towards even money, a late injury scare means he’s now as long as 5/2 with the bookmakers.

Clearly the scare was far from ideal, but it is unlikely that Michael Stoute and his team would let a horse with such a potential line-up if they felt he would be unable to do himself justice. Consequently fans of Carlton House may reap the rewards of being able to avail of the improved odds.

The colt was arguably a very poor price early in the week, but the subsequent drift has allowed him to stabilise at something a little more realistic of his chance. The Dante Stakes has traditionally been the strongest Derby trial, and his performance in coming to beat Aidan O’ Brien’s Seville off a moderate pace was eye-catching. With only three race course appearances to date improvement is almost certain to come.

The only nagging doubt lies in the pace of that last run. The dawdle they went at meant that Seville was a lot more prominent than this trainer and jockey would have liked, and he became a target for the favourite to aim at in the closing stages having kicked for home early.

Today’s race is almost certainly guaranteed to be ran at a good gallop, and it is impossible to predict how who that will suit more of the pair.

Aidan O’ Brien appeared like he was set to dominate the Derby after winning back-to-back renewals in 2001 and 2002, and it surely causes the champion-trainer occasional crises of confidence that he has not added to that since.  As well as Seville, he runs the Derrinstown winner Recital, Memphis Tennessee and Chester victor Treasure Beach.

Recital’s chances were improved when Kieran Fallon controversially decided to ride him in the Classic despite appearing to have been booked for fellow Epsom hopeful Native Khan – that decision was this morning stopped. The son of Montjeu showed a very powerful turn of foot when winning his trial race; but also suggested he wasn’t the most straightforward when hanging badly once hitting the front. His trainer blamed inexperience and a strong headwind, and the experience he garnered on the occasion could stand him well here.

Andre Fabre bids to improve France’s poor record in the race with the Coolmore owned Pour Moi, who took a Group Two in Saint-Cloud in good style. He is a difficult one to judge, but he appears held on form with Recital on a line through Bubble Chic.

Of the remainder Native Khan appeals as the best of the outsiders having ran a fine third in the 2000 Guineas. He is far from certain to enjoy the step-up in trip on breeding, but it would be no surprise to see him run a good race – even if he doesn’t seem classy enough to win it outright.

Bets of the Day

Carlton House is undoubtedly a top-class performer and his trainer has an enviable record in the race, but on this occasion he may be worth taking on. While he has eased out to a reasonable price, the fact remains that his build-up has been less than ideal and he may not be quite fully wound up following a few easy days during the week.

Consequently, it may pay to look at the two fancied O’Brien horses. Recital looked like the real deal in the Derrinstown despite his quirks, and if his stamina lasts out a little longer - without jockey Fallon - then his finishing kick could be enough to see off his rivals with a late run.

Seville didn’t quite get the race conditions he wanted in the Dante, but even still he performed with great credit and on the bare form of the race alone he wouldn’t be a forlorn hope to reverse placings with Stoute’s horse. But keeping in mind that O’Brien’s three-year-olds have needed the run in most cases this term, he may well show a great deal of improvement today. Critics may point to his high head carriage as a source of worry, but everything he has done to date suggests he will relish this test of stamina.

Recital, 1 point win @ 9/2

Seville, 1 point win @ 7/1

Fallon banned from riding in Derby

About the author:

Mark Hobbs

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