It’s Derby day at Epsom on Saturday. The fourth Classic of the season has been an open race in recent years and we could be in for more of the same this year. The Derby is supported by a strong card of races at Epsom Downs which are being broadcast on ITV Racing. The ITV action is confined to the Surrey venue so we have just the five televised races this Saturday but what we may be short in number is more than made up for by the class of some of these contests. As usual, we have taken a look at all of the live races including the big one in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
2:00 World Pool At The tote Handicap
Class 2, 1m2f
The rest of the day at Epsom could be pretty hard going for punters with a number of vulnerable favourites but there is every chance things will start on a positive note with King Frankel winning the opener at what look like generous odds of 9/4. Mark Johnston’s three-year-old has the raw ability to make it up into a Group level performer in the not too distant future and can use that ability to carry second top weight to victory in the World Pool At The tote Handicap.
King Frankel is yet to finish outside of the top two in any of his three starts this season. Finishing second only tells a fraction of the story of his run in the London Gold Cup last time out at Newbury. He was clearly much better than the whole field save for Bay Bridge, who looks to be very good indeed. There aren’t any such dangers in the field at Epsom and King Frankel should take full advantage to help us start the day with a bank-boosting winner.
2:35 Princess Elizabeth Stakes
Group 3, 1m1½f
This is not a vintage renewal of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes. Even so, it could develop into a very watchable race with a close finish but the quality of the 10 horses in the field is not as high as previous editions. What that does is open up the betting options for punters as the race could quite easily be won by one of the horses away from the top of the market for just a little bit of improvement.
Illykato may well prove to have the improvement required to win this. Mick Channon’s three-year-old snuck a win by a nose last time out despite a fairly slow start. The way she rallied and improved to win suggests that the extra 1½f will stand her in good stead as she makes a return to Group level. 7/1 looks a price worth taking for Illykato and whilst it looks decent as an each way option, we’ll be going all in.
3:10 Cazoo Diomed Stakes
Group 3, 1m1½f
Bell Rock is a very interesting option in the Diomed Stakes. The five-year-old has been a highly consistent performer for Andrew Balding in handicaps over the last couple of seasons but his win in the Suffolk Stakes at Newmarket at the start of May means that he has to step out of handicap company. Connections have made the decision to go for this 1m1½f contest and Bell Rock should have the ability to take this step up in grade in his stride.
As amenable as Bell Rock’s handicap mark was at Newmarket, it looked for all the world to be the best performance of his career to date. If he is at his peak then even the presence of Century Dream and Maximal among other quality contenders won’t stop Bell Rock backers from collecting at the nice price of 6/1.
3:45 World Pool “Dash” Handicap
Class 2, 5f
The Derby is clearly the main event on Saturday but the Epsom Dash is every bit as popular a contest among many racing fans. The joy of this sprint handicap is that many of the same horses return year after year, giving punters time to build an attachment, something we don’t often see in Flat racing. Three-time winner of the race, Caspian Prince, is one of several returning heroes for this year’s renewal and he will get a fair amount of support even if more out of hope than expectation, with the 12-year-old veteran a general 12/1 shot.
A couple of horses from the top of the weights top the betting and you can make a pretty strong case for Sunday Sovereign and Stone Of Destiny but the fact that the shortest price available is 8/1 shows how unpredictable the Dash is. The best price around could be the 12/1 generally available on Ornate. David Griffiths’ eight-year-old has incredible raw speed and gets up to that top speed out of the stalls quicker than most. Getting out ahead as early as possible is important against 19 rivals and that could give Ornate the edge here at a very nice price.
4:30 Cazoo Derby
Group 1, 1m4f
And so we arrive at the big one, for many the grandest race in all of UK racing. Last year’s Derby was one of the strangest renewals of recent years and not just because of events off the track. Serpentine’s remarkably aggressive win took everybody by surprise but the 25/1 shot was by no means the first shock winner. The average starting price of the last four winners is 19/1 which is huge for a contest of this nature. What’s more, by the look of the 2021 Derby we could be in for another betting upset.
Bolshoi Ballet, the bookies’ favourite, is the sole Ballydoyle representative in the Derby. He has turned in a couple of taking performances already this season but there isn’t anything in his form that marks him out as a horse who should be 5/4 for the Derby. He may turn out to be better than the rest but his price is just too short and the likes of John Leeper (7/1), Mac Swiney (15/2) and Hurricane Lane (8/1) are all going to take some beating.
If there is to be another betting surprise though, it could be provided by Southern Lights who makes plenty of each way appeal at odds of 20/1 that appeal on more than just the trend of the average price. He ran well on his sole outing as a two-year-old and then got off the mark in a big field maiden in April of this year. His run was better at Leopardstown last time out than the result suggests as he found himself boxed in a couple of times. With the benefit of a clearer passage at Epsom, he could be a serious contender in the closing stages to claim at least a place.