Will it be a classic Classic? The Epsom Derby Weekend preview

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Classic action is coming thick and fast as the flat season really hits top gear. Epsom is the venue on Saturday for the race ever flat jockey and trainer wants on their CV, the Derby! It may be a totally different type of race in every aspect bar none but the Derby seems to hold the same gravitas to flat jockeys as the “Grand National” has for their jump counterparts.

The quality action at the infamous undulating Surrey track starts on Friday with two mouth-watering Group Ones to feast on before the main event on Saturday.

Epsom Oaks

The Group One contest for three-year-old fillies over one mile four furlongs has attracted a field of nine quality fillies, with the only major absentee being Magical. Aidan O’Brien is responsible for five of the runners(Magic Wand, Forever Together, Bye Bye Baby, Flattering, and I Can Fly) with the home team represented by Wild Illusion, Give And Take, Perfect Clarity and Ejtyah.

Wild Illusion
Dubawi ex Rumh
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Owner: Godolphin

Those in attendance at Yarmouth last August had to be impressed when Wild Illusion won on debut by an ever-increasing two and a half lengths. Although what is surprising is that the second horse that day Give and Take who has since won the Musidora now re-opposes in the Epsom Oaks.

On her third and final start last season, Wild Illusion won the Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly when sporting first-time blinkers. These blinkers were replaced by cheek-pieces for her seasonal debut in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, where she finished a very creditable fourth behind shock winner Billesdon Brook.

The form of the 1000 Guineas already has a strong look to it with the runner-up Laurnes winning the Group One Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp last Sunday. However there are question marks about her stamina over this markedly longer trip and with the predicted softer going likely to fully test this stamina, I would be happy to take her on.

Magic Wand
Galileo ex Prudenzia
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Owner: Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Mrs John Magnier & M J Jooste

This thrice raced daughter of Galileo broke her maiden in typical Aidan O’Brien, two educational runs in good maidens at Leopardstown and then a trip to Chester to lose the maiden tag in the Listed Chesire Oaks.

Fillies just seem to improve with each run for Aidan with a perfect example being Magic Wand’s half-sister Chicquita, who also broke her maiden for Aidan but this time in the Irish Oaks. The extra furlong at Epsom will really suit Magic Wand and a very strong showing can be expected.

Perfect Clarity
Nathaniel ex Clarietta
Trainer: Clive Cox
Owner: Dr Bridget Drew & Mr David J Keast

The lightly raced and unbeaten Nathaniel filly has only graced the racecourse on two occasions prior to the Oaks. She made her debut in a Nottingham maiden when winning well as a well-supported second favourite.

Clive Cox then put the filly away for the season with a three-year-old campaign to the fore of his mind and his patience was rewarded when she won the Oaks trial at Lingfield in taking fashion. The stoutly bred filly is very much the dark horse in the race and it would be no surprise to see her maintain her unbeaten status.

Selection: Magic Wand    Outsider: Perfect Clarity

Coronation Cup

This Group One contest is run over the same distance as the Derby and has been won by some fantastic horses in recent times. Aidan O’Brien has won six of the last ten renewals of the race, with St Nicholas Abbey responsible for three of these. The last three winners of the race have all been five-year-olds which may help find this year’s winner.

Cracksman
Frankel ex Rhadegunda
Trainer: John Gosden
Owner: Mr A E Oppenheimer

Cracksman was a brilliant winner of last season’s Champion Stakes at Ascot and returned to action this season with an impressive victory in France in the Prix Ganay. The son of Frankel was placed in two Derby’s last year and will be looking to have a very productive four-year-old campaign.

Hawkbill
Kitten’s Joy ex Trensa
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Owner: Godolphin

The 2016 Eclipse winner has already had a great 2018 in Dubai. He won a Group Two and then beat Poet’s Word by three lengths in the Dubai Sheema Classic. The consistent group performer seems the most likely candidate to test hot-favourite Cracksman.

Others to note in the race are the Aidan O’Brien trained Idaho who is a full brother to last year’s winner Highland Reel and the German runner Windstoss. A dual Group One winner in his homeland, the Markus Klug trained representative is likely to be competing for place money.

Selection: Cracksman    Outsider: Idaho

The Derby

This is the race that defines the classic generation, a true test of speed, stamina, balance and temperament. The race is steeped in history going back all the way to 1780, with the most recent renewal going the way of 40/1 shot Wings of Eagles.

Who’ll win this year is obvious question amongst racegoers so we asked RaceBets brand ambassador Luke Harvey to give us the winner.

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Diomed Stakes

The Diomed Stakes has a really open look to it this year, in truth, none of the right runners could be ruled out with any great conviction. David Simcock’s Arod looks likely to start favourite for this Group Three contest on the back of a listed victory at Windsor. Arod has very solid course form with a fourth-place finish in the Derby behind Australia and a previous victory in the Diomed Stakes in 2015 the result of his only two visits to the course.

True Valour also runs in this for Qatar Racing and the Kodiac colt just may be the surprise package. After taking four runs to win his maiden, Johnny Murtagh’s inmate finished third in a listed race at Epsom and rounded off the season with two very good runs in Group Two affairs. A pipe-opener at Leopardstown a little over two weeks ago should have left True Valour cherry-ripe for the Diomed Stakes.

As I said a case could be made for all the runners with the good yard sticks Breton Rock and Sovereign Debt sure to run their races. Simon Crisford will also be hoping his progressive Century Dream can land the spoils.

Selection: Arod    Outsider: True Valour

Epsom Dash

This five-furlong contest for speed junkies is in truth a bit of a lottery, so I’m just going to put one horse for it and hope he gets the breaks, that horse is Boom The Groom.

Tony Carroll’s seven-year-old hasn’t won a race in 652 days but don’t let that put you off the Kodiac gelding as he is a victim of his own consistency. He finished sixth in the race last season beaten less than a length and a half, off a mark of 104.

Boom The Groom is now running off 93 which would have been higher had he not been squeezed out last time out over course and distance to finish a running on fourth. Everything now looks in place for a big run in the Epsom Dash.

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