This is the first of a new antepost series I’m going to be producing for the flat season, and I’m starting with the most prestigious of them all, The Epsom Derby. With 100,000 crammed onto the Downs, it really is some sight.
Now it’s obvious Aidan O’Brien is going to have a strong hand here. He’s got the current fav in Churchill, and if he wins the Guineas he’s clearly going to shorten to a very short price. However, we don’t know whether he’ll get the trip, and I think he will stick to a mile in all honesty where he will clean up. Two more Ballydoyle colts towards the top of the market are Sir John Lavery and Cliffs of Moher. You’d think one of them would start off in the Lingfield trial, and the other at Chester. It’s no surprise that they were both beaten on debut, as practically all of Aidan’s are, but improved significantly next time out. Again no surprise given the trainer. Sir John Lavery won on soft to heavy ground at Gowran, beating Haripour by 7 lengths with Auckland an extra 1 3/4 lengths back. Now that form hasn’t exactly worked out too well, with Haripour an 11 3/4 length 5th to Inshayable last week and Auckland a further 10 lengths back. But Sir John Lavery could hardly have been more impressive when winning his maiden, and could have won by as far as he liked. Cliffs of Moher won his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths from Orderofthegarter at Leopardstown in October. That form has obviously worked out incredibly well, with Orderofthegarter having won twice this season already, firstly his maiden by 11 lengths before following up in the Leopardstown 2000 Guineas trial. Judged on that form, Cliffs of Moher must be an absolute machine, and would be my pick of the Ballydoyle bunch at this stage.
However, I’m going across the Channel and into France for my pick. I’m putting my faith in master trainer Andre Fabre and his Waldgeist. Despite having been French champion trainer 24 times, including 21 consecutive titles between 1987 and 2007, it took him until 2011 with Pour Moi to finally achieve his lifelong ambition to train the winner of the Epsom Derby. And I think he’s got a top colt to try and repeat the trick with this year.
Waldgeist was a late 2yo, only making his debut in September, where the son of Galileo readily justified his odds of 30/100, winning by 2 lengths with the minimum of fuss. He was then beaten by the much more experienced Frankuus in a Group 3 next time, but Fabre showed the regard he holds him in by upping him into Group 1 company (Criterium de Saint-Cloud) on the back of that. He was ridden patiently by Boudot that day (unlike when beaten by Frankuus) and allowed to settle, and when asked to go he delivered plenty. He picked up in tremendous style and won with plenty in hand. Ballydoyle’s Capri and Douglas Macarthur were well beaten in behind. There’s a link to that win here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A58DL0bmFhM
Straight after winning that, Fabre nominated both the English and Irish derbies as his initial targets, and at this early stage, Waldgeist is my pick.
Selection: Waldgeist 20/1 (Paddy Power/Betfair)