ITV Racing tips: Zeyaadah can put Roger Varian and Jim Crowley on the Oaks winners roster
We have reached one of the high points of the summer racing calendar, Derby weekend at Epsom, two days of quality racing climaxing in the running of Britain’s most historic horse race, the Derby.
Staged last year in July owing to the pandemic, it is back in its rightful June slot though crowd numbers are still heavily restricted for what traditionally is one of the best attended meetings of the year.
On the eve of the colt’s Classic, Epsom hosts the Oaks, for three-year-old fillies, and the Coronation Cup in which some of the best older middle distance horses compete over the Derby course.
The Oaks looks wide open and the Coronation Cup, with an odds-on favourite, less so. There are also two £50,000 handicaps and a conditions race, in a five race package which will form the ITV coverage.
It all unfolds from 13:30pm on ITV and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing tips.
William Haggas could have a big couple of days ahead of him. Not only does he have designs on winning the Derby with Mohaafeth but will hope to strike 24 hours earlier at Epsom in the Coronation Cup and can start his assault with the lightly raced Irish Admiral in this handicap.
The gelding, who is a new recruit to the stable this year, followed up an easy win at Wolverhampton in April by finishing third in a handicap at York last month. On only his fourth career start he travelled really strongly to make ground from the rear of the field to join the principles but then couldn’t finish off his challenge over 1m2f, taking third place.
He is back down in trip for this extended mile with Tom Marquand back in the saddle. This could be the next step to better things.
This is a moment of truth for Al Aasy, a so-called ‘Group 1 winner in waiting’. He had been identified as William Haggas’s likely Derby challenger 12 months ago but disappointed in his trial, finishing fifth behind Mishriff at Newmarket.
Then still a maiden, he got off the mark next time by 10 lengths and won the Bahrain Trophy, a recognised St Leger trial. But he wasn’t seen after July when he finished last in the Gordon Stakes.
He has looked a different proposition this season, winning two Group 3 races on the bridle, and is an odds-on favourite for this despite the presence of Group 1 winners like Mogul. This is his Derby. With only six runners there is limited scope for each way pickings but Albaflora, supplemented for the race, looks capable of outrunning her double digit odds.
A 14-runner field and an Aidan O’Brien-trained favourite who has been easy to back lately suggests this could be a more open edition of the fillies’ Classic. O’Brien still has a very good chance in a race he has won five times in the last ten years, with 1000 Guineas fourth Santa Barbara and Musidora Stakes winner Snowfall at the top of the betting, not forgetting the well back Divinely, but there are plenty of alternatives among the rest of the field.
If he fails to win it will be the first year since 2013 that neither the Ballydoyle trainer nor John Gosden, who has no runner, has not won the Oaks. Saffron Beach, runner-up in the 1000 Guineas, and Dubai Fountain, comfortable winner of the Cheshire Oaks, will have their supporters. But there is every reason to think Zeyaadah, who was second to Dubai Fountain, could be the one to be on.
The Roger Varian-trained filly won all three starts last year and was very unlucky not to remain unbeaten. Jim Crowley found himself trapped behind a wall of horses at a vital time. Dubai Fountain, under jockey Franny Norton who has no peers around Chester, had already gone clear and Zeyaadah could only cut the leeway to a length after she got clear. Zeyaadah was also conceding 3lb to the winner and has scope to improve plenty for the run.
ITV Racing Schedule, Friday, 4th June
14:00 Epsom – Woodcote Stakes
14:35 Epsom – 1m½ handicap
15:10 Epsom – Coronation Cup
15:45 Epsom – 1m2f handicap
16:30 Epsom – Oaks
All odds and markets are correct as of the date of publishing.