Epsom Derby Festival | No Mystery On Oaks Day

Epsom Derby Festival

The Epsom Derby Festival holds a special place in the hearts of racing fans worldwide.

Not only does it include Britain’s richest race, but the unique test of the track is why legends are made and legacies are cemented.

Galileo, Shergar, Mill Reef, Sea The Stars, Golden Horn, and (most recently) Auguste Rodin have all conquered in the Derby itself, though the weekend kicks off with Epsom Oaks Day.

Friday’s card at Epsom looks tricky, but hopefully this article helps you decide what you are going to back.


2:00 Epsom – Teej A @ 11/2 with BetVictor (3 places) – 1pt EW

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The Woodcote Stakes is a fun race to decipher year-on-year, and the common trend that previous winners all have in common is that they had a win under their belt coming into the £75,000 six-furlong contest.

All of the last 10 winners had that in their back pocket ahead of the Woodcote, so if you are to believe that stat, that’s an instant negative towards the chances of New Charter and Megalithic.

One horse that falls in line with that stat is Teej A for Karl Burke and Clifford Lee.

It’s fair to say that the Nick Bradley Racing Syndicate likes having runners in the Woodcote Stakes; they won the race with Oscula in 2021, sent two to the race in 2022, and then had three contenders one year later.

This year, they are represented by three, though the market probably has it correct to say that Teej A is the best of the trio based on her Chester win.

That day, she travelled with plenty of zest, had to wait for room after they rounded the bend, and then kicked clear without the use of the whip from jockey Clifford Lee.

Lee’s two separate looks around inside the final half-a-furlong also suggest he had plenty of horse underneath him, and the form of the race looks fine as the fifth (Bretton Wood) ran in a hot Newmarket novice stakes on debut and the form of Rashabar’s (2nd) debut race at Newbury looks strong.

In what is a wide-open race, Teej A has strong claims.


2:35 Epsom – Orbaan @ 9/1 with Bet365 & Benacre @ 12/1 with William Hill (5 places) – 1pt EW each

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Charlie Johnston won this race last year with Austrian Theory, and Benacre can add another trophy to the cabinet under the guidance of Richard Kingscote.

The four-year-old is hard to weigh up on recent form when considering the conditions of the race as connections stepped him up to 1m2f and 1m4f last season.

Although he ran well on two of those occasions, the gelding by Australia won over seven furlongs three times as a juvenile and he ran into Shoulvebeenaring (a dual Group 1 runner-up subsequently) over seven furlongs in the Listed King Charles II Stakes last year.

He also finished fourth in the Listed Burradon Stakes over eight furlongs at Newcastle in April 2023, a race that has produced the 113-rated Dear My Friend, 113-rated Flight Plan, 108-rated Galeron, and 104-rated Oviedo.

So, based on those lines of form, a return to eight-and-a-half furlongs suits him, and his good run in a Class 2 Wolverhampton handicap in March shows his apparent ability.

However, although I like the chances of Benacre, I can’t let Orbaan go at 9/1 unbacked based on last year’s run in this very race.

Rated 97 at the time, he ran through the line to finish fourth in the 2023 renewal under James Doyle and he returns to this contest off a 12-pound lower mark.

We know he can handle a bit of dig in the ground based on his fifth in the 2022 Balmoral Handicap (good to soft) and he’s running himself into form after a good third at Ayr earlier in the month.

Off a mark of 85, his chance looks obvious.


3:45 – Mysterious Love @ 33/1 with Bet365 (4 places) – 0.5pts EW

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In the race before the Epsom Oaks (which is a watching race for me), I’m happy to have a small-stakes bet on Mysterious Love at the bottom of the market.

The four-year-old has had just one start in handicap company so far where she finished an eye-catching ninth at Windsor despite racing out the back in a slowly run contest.

Last season, she bolted up by eight lengths at Nottingham on heavy ground before running two solid races at Ascot and Sandown.

The former came in the Group 3 Valiant Stakes, a race that has seen the second, Roman Mist, win a Group 3 two starts later before finishing behind Inspiral in the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes.

As for her race at Sandown, running in-and-about the likes of Heredia, Queen For You, Potapova, Novus, Nibras Angel, and Coppice is solid form for a horse who has a rating of just 92.

Admittedly, she is due to go down three pounds after her run at Windsor, but the slightly softer conditions suit her well and her unexposed profile is worth chancing at big prices.


5:40 Epsom – Hodler @ 14/1 with William Hill – 1pt EW

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Finally, in the last race of the day, Hodler is a horse that the handicapper has given a chance to.

The five-year-old won a course and distance handicap as a three-year-old off a mark of 80 back in September 2022, though he won off a four-pound higher mark at Chester last year.

On that occasion, he beat Gorak (who was giving one pound in weight away due to Ryan Sexton’s claim) by two lengths from stall 12.

That piece of form looks rock solid as Gorak improved to a rating of 105 last season and he ran well in a Newmarket handicap on his last start off 95.

With an Epsom record of one win and one second, his mark of 81 (and Luke Catton’s five-pound claim) gives him a good chance here and he showed his well-being at Yarmouth when he finished third earlier this month.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Boyle and Catton have a 22% strike rate together from 55 runners (12 winners) alongside five seconds, five thirds, and seven fourths. To a one-pound level stake, the pair have a profitable partnership of £34.13.

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