Epsom may only host relatively few race meetings over the course of the year but among that number is arguably the biggest race in the world. An international audience will tune in on TV to watch the 2022 Epsom Derby, the race after which so many others take their name, while the racecourse and surrounding public downland will be packed with thousands of racegoers desperate to catch a glimpse of the best three-year-olds around.
As feature races go, they don’t get better than the Derby but it is not alone in being a high-quality race at Epsom on Saturday. We have already seen the Oaks and its excellent supporting card on Friday but now it is time for the big day. There is lots to get excited about among the rest of Saturday’s card and all of the best races will be broadcast by ITV Racing and, as ever, are covered in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips. We’ve only got the five live televised races this time out but it really is a case of quality not quantity and hopefully we can bag some winners.
2:00 Cazoo Handicap
Class 2, 1m2f
When Sweeping won at Catterick last season, there was a concern that he would find his new handicap mark of 95 too challenging to win again. That proved to be the case as he was not a factor in either of his subsequent starts. The challenge was even more difficult given that Sweeping was gelded in between those two runs but having had a good winter to get stronger he looked an even better prospect on his first outing as a three-year-old last month.
A run over 8½f at Wolverhampton showed that this horse almost certainly has the stamina for even further, so the step up to 1m2f makes a lot of sense. His front-running style nearly got the job done on the all-weather and it was only the performance of a potentially very, very good horse, Yonafis, that stopped Sweeping from winning. With Hollie Doyle on board, the gelding can build on that run to win the opener on Derby day at a really nice price of 12/1.
2:35 Princess Elizabeth Stakes
Group 3, 1m½f
When you see a top class two-year-old make steady progression through their juvenile season it can be easy to forget that such progression is far from guaranteed. Majestic Glory is a good reminder of this. When she won the Sweet Solera Stakes in stunning fashion last year, Andrew Balding’s filly looked destined to be a serious contender in the 1,000 Guineas. Subsequent regression through the autumn dashed the Guineas dreams but there is still hope that she can be a Group level winner.
A first run as a three-year-old in April at Newbury showed connections that they were right to believe that Majestic Glory would be best suited to around the 1m mark. She ran well for third place that day at Newbury over 7f and should be supported to take a big step forward over the 1m½f trip of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes. There are more fancied prospects in the field such as Bashkirova, Potapova and Mrs Fitzherbert but Majestic Glory’s price is the most appealing of the lot at the double-digit odds of 10/1.
3:10 Cazoo Diomed Stakes
Group 3, 1m½f
A small but select field is ready to contest the Cazoo Diomed Stakes, named after the first horse to win the Derby. There is quality throughout the field but you’d have to think that this is a good chance for even money favourite Modern News to compete a hat-trick of wins after going in at Newbury and Windsor. He will certainly be very well supported here and the field is 7/2 bar.
Modern News’ steady progression was checked after his trip to the UAE earlier in the year. A seventh-place finish in the season-opening Lincoln was as good as he could have done given he was not at the races at Doncaster but he got right back to his best after that. It was no coincidence that Modern News’ form improved for the return of William Buick on board and this fruitful partnership can earn more success on Saturday.
3:45 Simpex Express ‘Dash’ Handicap
Class 2, 5f
We have a typically wide-open renewal of the Simpex Express ‘Dash’ Handicap ahead this year. Just one of the last 10 renewals went the way of the bookies’ favourite while the average price of those 10 winners is almost 19/1. Sunday Sovereign isn’t quite that big but you’ll find 11/1 about the Tim Easterby inmate and that looks a price worth snapping up. Certainly we think 13/2 favourite Fine Wine is more like cheap plonk at the prices and should be opposed.
Sunday Sovereign looked as though he totally lost his way a couple of times during last season. However, he showed a remarkable ability to rediscover his form with a couple of decent runs building towards a handicap victory at Chester in August. His runs at Chester and York this season suggest he is building up a head of steam once again and after going down by just a neck in a similar handicap he can go one better at Epsom at a really nice price.
4:30 Cazoo Derby
Group 1, 1m4f
For the first time in the history of the Derby, the race will be run in honour of one person. The legendary Lester Piggott, the greatest jockey of all time and nine-time Derby winner has that honour after his passing earlier in the week and there will be a moment of silence at Epsom for the Long Fellow. Piggott’s success meant he usually got to have the pick of the horses for the biggest races and there is little doubt that, given the choice, he would be on Desert Crown for the 2022 Derby.
As a five-time winner of the Derby himself, legendary trainer Sir Michael Stoute knows just how to prepare a horse for the test at Epsom. Oftentimes, Sir Michael has left his horses with a bit of room to improve for their Derby trial run. There is no reason to suggest he did anything differently with Desert Crown ahead of the Dante Stakes at York, which means there is probably more to come from him, a scary proposition for his rivals. The son of Nathaniel won the Dante with real ease, finishing more than four lengths clear. That race remains the main trial for the Derby and Desert Crown can enhance that reputation once more with a huge win.