ITV Racing Tips: Stone Age has the tools to become ninth O’Brien Derby winner
There is only one show in town this weekend. It’s time for the greatest Flat race, the Derby at Epsom.
This year it carries particular poignancy coming in the same week that Lester Piggott, the record nine-time winner of the race, passed away.
While the Queen will be absent, despite extra events being arranged to mark her Diamond Jubilee, ‘The Long Fellow’ and those great horses he rode, like Sir Ivor, Nijinsky, Roberto and The Minstrel, will be very present with the words ‘in memory of Lester Piggott’ part of the race title this year.
His achievements at Epsom are unlikely to be matched, especially given the sport’s three dominant big race jockeys Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore have only won it twice and William Buick once.
They will be hoping to add to their tally, yet the favourite Desert Crown will be ridden by a relative rookie in Richard Kingscote, whose opportunities in the Epsom Classic have been few and far between.
Desert Crown owes his prominence in the market to the fact he is from the stable of master trainer Sir Michael Stoute.
Both Ballydoyle and Godolphin are represented too with Stone Age the best fancied of Aidan O’Brien’s team and the supplemented Nations Pride heading the Charlie Appleby candidates.
All the focus will be on Epsom with ITV showing five races, including two Group 3 races and the Dash, but the Derby and its build-up will dominate the show.
Coverage begins on ITV from 12:40 and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing Tips.
There are a bunch of pretty well-matched fillies in this race. Not many are necessarily on the improve as much as Mrs Fitzherbert who could give apprentice George Rooke his biggest success.
Rooke steered the Hughie Morrison-trained filly to a Listed win at Goodwood last time and has kept the mount despite not being able to use his 3lb claim. The pair got up late to catch Bashkirova last time and over this slightly longer trip there is every likelihood they can do it again.
Nothing like the Derby but a thrilling spectacle in its own right, in which a field of 20 thunder down the five-furlong Epsom straight. It will be over in a flash.
A good draw can be key with those breaking nearest the stand rail often prevailing, but it can be overcome. Being trained locally used to be a key factor, although that advantage has virtually been eradicated due to the demise of Epsom as a training centre.
There is a chance for that to change this year with Live In The Dream who is trained a short walk away by Adam West. The three-year-old has been in sparkling form this year and after wins at Sandown and Chester, he can bring up the hat-trick here.
If we follow the narrative set out for this year’s Derby, Desert Crown will win the Epsom Classic to usher one of the sport’s most successful trainer’s Sir Michael Stoute back into the famous winner’s circle.
Stoute has won all the British Classics and the Derby five times but the last of those came 12 years ago with Workforce. He hasn’t been away but there is a perception that he is on a bit of a revival, underlined by a hatful of recent successes.
Desert Crown is one of the least experienced horses in the field, landing the Dante Stakes on only his second start. More improvement is needed and expected but at his odds it may pay to look for better value elsewhere as winning the Derby is rarely straightforward.
Four of the last five winners, Adayar, Serpentine, Anthony Van Dyck and Wings Of Eagles, were not first choice for their stables, in some cases not even second choice. Given this is still very early in these three-year-olds careers, there could be value to be found among the Ballydoyle and Godolphin teams.
Unusually Aidan O’Brien has not won a single European Classic this year but if there is one that takes precedence it is the Derby and in Stone Age he could claim his ninth victory.
The colt showed nothing to write home about last season and didn’t lose his maiden status until March but he has won both his starts from the front with ease and has enough experience not to be fazed by the unique Epsom track. Sandown Classic Trial winner Westover could be the best each way hope.
ITV Racing Schedule, Saturday 4th June
14:00 Epsom – 1m2f Handicap
14:35 Epsom – Princess Elizabeth Stakes
15:10 Epsom – Diomed Stakes
15:45 Epsom – Dash Handicap
16:30 Epsom – Derby
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing