Steve Hughes looks forward to Derby day at Epsom and sticks with the main meeting for all of his selections today.
After a high class Oaks yesterday, with a top quality winner, we are set for another above average classic with a host of promising horse lining up for the 2014 Investec Derby. All eyes will be on Australia, by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, but strictly on racecourse evidence he looks short enough on what he has achieved to date. I therefore have two selections against the field at bigger odds, plus selections from three other races on the Epsom card.
1.35 Epsom: Black Shadow
Although he lacks the experience of some of his rivals, Black Shadow has shown plenty of promise in his three races to date and in a race which is overloaded with front runners, has already proven his stamina over further than this 10f trip, which could be important in a strongly run contest.
Black Shadow himself made all to win a Goodwood maiden (11f) last time out, but those tactics were employed purely because he was the best horse in the race and he proved perfectly adept at being held up at Windsor on his first start of 2014 where he was unlucky not to win having been carried very wide in the closing stages when he was making the best of his challenge. The winner of that contest Honor Bound went on to win the Oaks Trial at Lingfield, before competing in the classic itself yesterday.
Both of his two runs this season have come on soft going, so the fact that further showers are expected later this morning at Epsom should take the sting out of the ground that had been drying over the past couple of days. A handy low draw will assist Tom Queally to get a decent position in behind the leaders and with so many front-runners involved a decent gallop looks assured to enable Black Shadow to utilise his stamina.
2.40 Epsom: Battalion
Although he flopped spectacularly on fast ground at Newbury last time, it is interesting that William Haggas keeps the faith with Battalion to the extent that he sends his colt into Group 1 company for the first time.
The 4yo has come a long way in a short space of time having only won for the first time in a small field maiden at Ripon last August. However he had already shown conspicuous promise prior to that on faster ground before that first victory in good-to-soft conditions. He them produced an awesome performance in a class 2 handicap at Yarmouth the following month on similar ground which suggested strongly he would be up to Group level this season. Whilst he was beaten into third at listed race level on his final start, perhaps the heavy going was too much for him at that stage.
However he was every bit as impressive when again making all at Ripon on his return in another class 2 handicap on good-to-soft from a mark of 102, ensuring class 1 races were now his only option. The hope has to be for rain this morning (the more the better) but at his current insultingly large odds, he looks worth a small each-way investment given only Ambivalent is likely to harry him for the early lead and as that mare has slight stamina doubts, it may be that Silvestre de Sousa can dictate the pace on his own terms to at least give Battalion a decent shout of a place.
4.00 Epsom: Orchestra & Kingston Hill
Although Australia could easily turn out to be as good as he has apparently been hyped to be, he is short enough based on current form and therefore I am looking to oppose him with two horses who have the proven stamina and ability respectively to find glory here.
Marginal preference is for Orchestra, who is following a similar path to his stablemate Ruler of the World onto Epsom victory, in that he has been kept away from the Group 1 races until now and won the Chester Vase last month as his prep race for today. That means him comes into this race as the only winner over this 12f trip and although he only scrambled home in the end ahead of Romsdal, he was value for far more on the day. It is interesting that connections have supplemented Romsdal to the tune of £75k to run today, which perhaps puts a higher tariff to that form.
Kingston Hill has proven to be a high class colt so far. A rare first time out winner for Roger Varian at Newbury last autumn, he made short work of Group 3 opposition at Newmarket and just two weeks later stormed home clear of Johann Strauss in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. Although only eighth in the 2000 Guineas, he will be much more suited by the extra distance and the likely slower ground today and he has the scope to improve from his already top class form to date.
Epsom 4.50: Stomachion
This is not the strongest of 0-100 handicaps and the potentially well drawn Stomachion looks well placed to follow up a battling win at Newmarket last week.
Michael Stoute’s gelding looked very ordinary in three maiden runs last summer, but improved dramatically when sent handicapping, winning in successive weeks at Salisbury (10f) and Yarmouth (11f). Both of those wins came on very soft ground, so he won’t mind at all if there is plenty of rain this morning.
After a solid enough comeback run at Thirsk when fourth over today’s 12f trip, he showed his versatility when successfully stepping back to 10f on fast ground at Newmarket. He was not particularly impressive that day, but ground it out up the final hill, despite drifting to his left under pressure. The slower ground and extra 2f ought to elicit further improvement today and a 5lb rise may not be enough to stop him. The fact he has a low draw means if he does hang to his left again he will have the rail to help him.
1pt win – Black Shadow – 1.35 Epsom (15/2 Sporting Bet, BetVictor)
1pt each-way – Battalion – 2.40 Epsom (33/1 general)
0.5pts each-way – Orchestra – 4.00 Epsom (16/1 general)
0.5pts each-way – Kingston Hill – 4.00 Epsom (9/1 Sporting Bet, Stan James)
1pt win – Stomachion – 4.50 Epsom (4/1 Sporting Bet)