BestofBets Derby Preview

Saturday June 4, Epsom Downs

Jonathan Doidge

  1. Changingoftheguard (Aidan O’Brien/Wayne Lordan) Best price 8/1 (several firms)

Failed to win as a juvenile but is 2-2 this season. Made all to win a Dundalk maiden in April (10.5f, AW), before Ryan Moore rode them all to sleep in the Group 3 Chester Vase (12.5f, soft) at Chester last month. 

Won that race easily but hard to know how strong the form is until we see him run in this. The fact that Ryan Moore looks elsewhere suggests Aidan O’Brien has other, stronger, contenders.

  1. Desert Crown (Sir Michael Stoute/Richard Kingscote) Best price 15/8 Sky Bet

His name may not have been on the Derby-winning roll of honour for over a decade but Sir Michael Stoute knows very well how to prepare the winner of the Blue Riband, given a horse with the right capabilities.

He looks to have one here, for this son of Nathaniel is the BHA top-rated here, having being given a mark of 117 after making it 2-2 career wins with a comfortable success of more than 3l in York’s Dante Stakes last month.

Stoute, in fact, defied history when producing the track record-breaking Workforce to win this race in 2010, also becoming the first horse to lose in the Dante before going on the win the Derby.

The maestro trainer, who also famously saddled the brilliant but ill-fated Shergar to win the 1981 renewal, is so good at getting improvement out of his charges when stepped up to this trip.

Desert Crown comes into this with the best single piece of form to his name and the likelihood that he will be better still now upped to 1m4f and there is no wonder he is the pre-race favourite. Richard Kingscote has never won the Blue Riband but he has all the skills if this is the right horse. He certainly looks very much the one to beat.

  1. El Habeeb (J S Moore/J F Egan) Best price 250/1 (bet365; William Hill)

The rank outsider of the 17 runners and after an 8l defeat on debut in a Newmarket Listed event last month, it would be one of the greatest shocks in sporting history if he proved good enough.


  1. Glory Daze (A Oliver/Ronan Whelan) Best price 150/1 (Betfair; Paddy Power)

Has an improving profile. Didn’t win in three starts as a juvenile. Got off the mark in a Curragh maiden (1m2f, good to yielding). Bettered that in last month’s Group 3 Derby Trial at Leopardstown. He was second there but, while he should improve again for this step up to 1m4f, he has more than 5l to find with the winner that day, Stone Age, who reopposes.

  1. Grand Alliance (Charlie Fellowes/Daniel Tudhope) Best price 100/1 (several firms)

Off the mark at the third attempt in a Chelmsford novice event (1m2f, AW) in February. Added a Class 3 Doncaster handicap to his CV in March. Comes here off the back of a close second in the Listed Cazoo Blue Riband Trial (1m2f, good) at this track in April. Was runner-up to Nahanni there, who is a quarter of the price, having won by just half-a-length. Has improved with every run and, although it isn’t easy to see him doing so sufficiently to win this, he does look overpriced by comparison to some of the field.

  1. Hoo Ya Mal (Andrew Balding/David Probert) Best price 200/1 (Paddy Power; Betfair)

Off the mark at the second attempt in a York maiden (7f, good to firm) last August. Was nosed out of it into second place next time in Doncaster’s Listed Flying Scotsman Stakes (7f, good to firm).

Comfortably held on his reappearance in the Group 3 Craven Stakes (1m, good) at Newmarket in April. No better in a Listed contest back there (1m2f, good) last time. Unlikely to be involved at the business end.

  1. Masekela (Andew Balding/Jason Watson) Best price 66/1 (Ladbrokes; William Hill; bet365)

Debut Goodwood winner (6f, soft) 13-months ago. Ran a cracker to be a very close second to Native Trail in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket’s July meeting, before winning the Listed Denford Stakes at Newbury (7f, good) a month later.

Beaten comfortably in the Group 2 Royal Lodge on his final start at two and was then too keen on his reappearance in Newmarket’s Listed Field Stakes (1m1f, good) in April.

Dam won over this trip in France, so possible that he may improve significantly for the step up but he looks more exposed than several others.

  1. Nahanni (Charlie Appleby/Adam Kirby) Best price 25/1 (bet365)

The same trainer/jockey combination that won this last year with Adayar.

Nahanni has been unbeaten since a narrow defeat on his debut at Kempton in January. Put that right when back over that C&D next time, before showing marked improvement to win easily by 9l under a penalty at Leicester (1m4f, good to soft; first-time blinkers) in April.

Didn’t need to be as good to beat the reopposing Grand Alliance half-a-length in Epsom’s Blue Riband Trial (1m2f, good) at this track when last seen, just over six weeks ago.

Just a 6lb official rise for that leaves him with plenty to find but his trainer has improved both Masar and last year’s winner Adayar (both 16/1 chances) to win this, after having apparently taken a slight backward step in their run immediately prior to arriving at Epsom. Not written off.

  1. Nations Pride (Charlie Appleby/William Buick) Best price 7/1 (freely available)

Like his stable companion Nahanni, Nations Pride was beaten on debut, in his case at Yarmouth (7f, good to soft) last September.

Since then, he has won 4-4, the last three of those over 1m2f. Easy 7l winner of the Listed Newmarket Stakes (good) on the Rowley Mile when last seen in April (the reopposing Hoo Ya Mal finished second). 

After that race, his jockey William Buick said he thinks he will stay but his pedigree suggests he will have stamina to prove over this trip. Even so, the market has him down as the pick of the Appleby-trained trio. Potential but has that nagging stamina doubt to satisfy.

  1. Piz Badile (Donnacha O’Brien/Frankie Dettori) Best price 10/1 (freely available)

Debut winner at Killarney (1m, yielding) last July. Only other juvenile run saw him unlucky to be bumped in the closing stages of the Group 3 Eyrefield Stakes (1m1f, good), when a close second. 

Looked a stayer in the making that day and that theory was backed up with a tenacious win in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes (1m2f, good) at Leopardstown, when the front pair were over 3l clear.

That was a marked improvement and this Ulysses colt looks to have the potential to do even better now going up to 1m4f (dam won at 10.5f; sire stayed 1m4f). Interesting, under one of the best big race jockeys of all time.

  1. Royal Patronage (Charlie & Mark Johnston/Jason Hart) Best price 33/1 (freely available)

Won both the Group 3 Acomb Stakes at York and the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes (1m, good to firm) at Newmarket last season, before finishing last in the Group 1 Futurity (1m, soft) at Doncaster.

33/1 and finished over 6l eighth in the 2,000 Guineas on his reappearance. Looked far more at home when stepped up to 10.5f in the Dante last month, when he sweated up beforehand and finished over 3l behind Derby favourite Desert Crown. 

More exposed than many of these and not sure he has the improvement in him that his York conqueror may find here.

  1. Sonny Liston (Charles Hills/Tom Marquand) Best price 40/1 (freely available)

Surprised a few people with an easy Sandown win on debut (7f, good) last July, when he went off at 18/1. Has improved since but not as quickly as the major players in this field.

Last seen finishing 2½l third behind Star Of India in the Listed Dee Stakes (1m2½f, good to soft). Clearly needs the sort of significant improvement for this step up in trip than we have not yet seen from him. Will also have a fairly significant question to answer regarding stamina.

  1. Star Of India (Aidan O’Brien/Seamie Heffernan) Best price 16/1 (several firms)

Another improver. Won a Leopardstown maiden going away on debut (7f, good) last October. 

Down the field in the Group 3 Craven Stakes (1m, good) on his reappearance at Newmarket. Received a great ride from Ryan Moore when kicked clear to win the Listed Dee Stakes at Chester last month (1m2½f, good to soft). 

Moore prefers Stone Age in this race but that is not to say that Star Of India can’t spring a surprise. Not ruled out. 

  1. Stone Age (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore) Best price 4/1 (freely available)

One of those Ballydoyle inmates who arrives having been given plenty of experience as a juvenile. 

Interestingly, he was unable to win in five starts at two but he did finish a close second in the Group 2 Champions Juvenile Stakes (1m, good) at Leopardstown last September and second in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud (1m2f, very soft) on his final juvenile start.

Returned to make all for an easy, confidence-boosting success in a 1m2f Navan maiden (good) in March. Announced himself as a serious Derby contender when making virtually all and dotting up in the Group 3 Leopardstown Derby Trial (1m2f, good) last month.

That was an impressive effort and has persuaded his jockey of that day, Ryan Moore, to retain the ride for a tilt at the big one. Serious player.

  1. Walk Of Stars (Charlie Appleby/James Doyle) Best price 18/1 (several firms)

Beaten on debut at Newmarket (1m, soft) last October and was put away for the winter after making all to win a Nottingham maiden (1m½f, soft) the following month.

Reappeared when beating his only serious challenger, stablemate Hafit, in a Newbury conditions event (1m2f, good) in April. That was a marked improvement but he couldn’t better than when upped to 1m3½f in Lingfield’s Listed Derby Trial last month.

Not written off, especially under the brilliant James Doyle but you have to question whether he has as much potential improvement in him as several of his opponents.

  1. Westover (Ralph Beckett/Rob Hornby) Best price 22/1 (freely available)

Debut winner of a Sandown maiden (1m, good to soft) in August 2021, before finishing second in both a Newbury conditions event and Pontefract’s Listed Silver Tankard Stakes, both over the same trip, before the season was out.

Stepped up on that juvenile form on his reappearance, when showing a good attitude to win the Group 3 Sandown Classic Trial (1m2f, good) in a tight finish. That was a significant improvement by this son of Frankel.

Brother to two winners over 1m4f and he could find more now up again in trip. Makes more each-way appeal than some here.

  1. West Wind Blows (Simon & Ed Crisford/Jack Mitchell) Best priced 34/1 Betfair

2-2 so far. 10-1 and won a Newcastle maiden (1m2f, AW) in a hood on his debut right at the end of 2021. 

Made a big step up on that when, under a penalty, he reappeared to make all in a Nottingham maiden (1m2f, good) last month, winning by 5l. 

Clearly still fits the ‘could be anything’ category but it is also a huge ask to win a Derby on the back of two runs that have not been in pattern company.


Aside from the fact that no favourite has won the Derby since Golden Horn in 2015, everything points to a win for DESERT CROWN. His profile is one of a totally unexposed colt who has won one of the Derby’s premier trials in good style. If he shows similar improvement here he will be very difficult to beat.

However, he is a skinny enough price, especially when Ryan Moore has picked Stone Age out of the strong Ballydoyle hand for the contest and he is more than twice the price. 

Some of those recent winners’ SPs have been 40/1, 25/1 and 16/1 twice, so before you put a line through runners of that price, have a think about who might be able to take a big step up on previous form. 

For me, that could be Piz Badile, who is an each-way price at around 10/1, has a great big race pilot up. He already has strong form to his name and the potential for quite a bit better now stepping up to 1m4f.

And for those who fancy a pot shot at bigger prices, he will need to make a big step up on what we’ve seen but Nahanni represents a previous winning trainer/jockey combination and has some all-important winning course form to his name. He could put in a big performance at 25/1.

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