Epsom Derby Festival | Star performance in the Derby

Epsom Derby

We started day one of the Epsom Derby Festival in good form yesterday thanks to Teej A in the opener.

The subsequent fancies failed to pick up money, so let’s hope the Derby Day selections can bring us back up into a profitable weekend.


1:25 Epsom – Whiskey Pete @ 12/1 with William Hill – 1pt EW

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Kicking things off in the opener, Whiskey Pete is a really interesting runner for Ralph Beckett, a stable that is hitting good form.

The three-year-old by Night Of Thunder cost 180,000gns at the 2023 breeze-up sales and from his five career runs, he was favourite four times, two of those when odds-on.

The time he wasn’t an SP favourite came on debut at Newmarket, and that race is arguably his best piece of form.

He finished second to Aablan at Newmarket, now rated 102 having won a Group 3 on his next start, while Magsood finished third that day who won easily at Beverly on his next start.

Furthermore, Bellum Justum – the Listed Blue Riband Trial winner – was fifth that day, though that probably wasn’t his true running.

Since then, Whiskey Pete has probably disappointed his connections due to expectations and his price tag, and he even didn’t complete his final start on his first start of the season.

That was also his first try at 12 furlongs, and while it’s not great that he did pull up, I’m sure that was a blip.

Due to his pedigree, it’s good to see connections keeping him to this trip as he is a half to the 110-rated Candleford and useful Atty Persse, both of which won 1m4f Royal Ascot handicaps.

All in all, Whiskey Pete could have a few pounds hidden up his sleeve off 89 today.


2:00 Epsom – Breege @ 7/1 with William Hill (3 places) – 1pt EW

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In the second race of the day, Breege has a good chance to break her losing run in the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes.

Since her debut success at Wetherby in May 2022, she’s 0 from 11 runs which is a worry, but her form looks strong in this type of company.

In the 2022 Group 3 Keeneland Stakes, she was third to the subsequent Group 1 winner Lezoo and then finished six lengths behind Blue Rose Cen in the 2022 Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac.

Having run in the Irish 1000 Guineas first-time-out, she gave three pounds away to Coppice when second to her in last year’s Sandringham Stakes, form that looks good as the winner was fifth to Nashwa and fourth to Inspiral in two subsequent Group 1 runs.

As for her last run, she was on the wrong side of the track at Goodwood when third in the Listed Conqueror Fillies’ Stakes, and she’s likely to come on for that run.

The slight give in the ground should cause no issues having placed on soft before, though if the track dries out she’ll also handle that.


2:35 Epsom – Royal Scotsman @ 13/2 with William Hill (3 places) – 1pt EW

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I almost left this race alone, but by a process of elimination, Royal Scotsman jumps out as one to chance in the Group 3 Diomed Stakes.

Yes, last season dropped away quality-wise after his third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but pieces of his form look attractive in this company.

Starting with his run in the British 2000 Guineas, he finished ahead of Charyn (placed in this year’s Lockinge Stakes), Noble Style (third to Shaquille in the Carnarvon Stakes), Galeron (fifth in the Irish 200 Guineas), and Indestructible (fifth in the St James’s Palace Stakes).

Furthermore, his disappointment in the Irish 2000 Guineas came as such a shock to his connections that they sent him for x-rays subsequently. He was also sent off the 6/4 favourite for his stint at the Curragh, a race that included Paddington, Charyn, and Galeron.

After a pipe-opener in the Lockinge Stakes, the jury is still out as to whether he retains his ability, but Saturday is his best chance to show us all what he is made of, and the slightly softer conditions will suit him.


3:45 Epsom – Dream Composer @ 10/1 with Bet365 (4 places) – 1pt EW

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The Epsom Dash is one of my favourite handicaps of the whole year across both the Flat and National Hunt codes.

This is potentially due to my Tony Carroll-tinted glasses as he won this race in 2014 with the legend Caspian Prince, so it’s a shame that the main man doesn’t have a runner this year.

As for this year, Dream Composer looks well-treated on last season’s form.

The six-year-old is one of James Evans’ top horses in the yard and although his last Flat winner came 73 days ago, he’s only had 22 runners in that time, so the sample size on which to base the stable form off is small.

His current rating of 89 is seven pounds below his last winning mark, and although he’s now a six-year-old, there’s reason to suggest he’s up to 100% fitness now.

Throughout his career, he takes a few runs to warm up at the start of the season, though he also runs fairly well towards the beginning of the season as five of his eight wins have come in May or June.

As for last year, he won at Sandown over five furlongs where he beat Korker who then bolted up in a Class 2 conditions stakes, finished second to Emaraaty Ana in a Listed race, and then won a Class 2 handicap at Ascot.

Three runs later, Dream Composer ran off the same mark (96) and was third in the Shergar Cup Dash. Rogue Lightening, the winner, finished fifth to Highfield Princess in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye subsequently.

Joe Leavy keeps the ride, so he takes a valuable five pounds off, and the strike rate between Leavy and Evans is 22%. They also have 11 seconds, four thirds, and seven fourths together.


4:30 Epsom – Dallas Star @ 40/1 with William Hill (0.5pt EW) & Ancient Wisdom @ 6/1 with William Hill (1pt EW)

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It’s not usually my MO to put up one in early-season Group 1s, especially in Classics when we’re all unsure if certain horses have trained on, but one who has is Dallas Star and he looks overpriced to me.

Admittedly, his profile isn’t one of a typical Derby winner, but this year’s Derby doesn’t have its usual quality and he made a good impression when he won the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes in April.

Yes, the Aidan O’Brien runners needed their first runs of the season, but Dallas Star was also having his first run of the season and he beat Illinois and The Euphrates by five-and-a-quarter and three lengths respectively.

Since then, Illinois was sent off a well-backed 6/4 to beat Ambiente Friendly in the Listed Lingfield Derby Trial (beaten by four-and-a-half lengths) and The Euphrates was eight-and-a-half lengths back in fourth.

Furthermore, Deepone finished a 10-and-three-quarter-lengths fourth in the Ballysax Stakes which looks like a solid benchmark of form as he won a Group 2 on his final start of last season. He also finished fourth to Capulet (Dee Stakes winner) and Diego Velazquez (French 2000 Guineas fourth) in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes.

He has to improve a little bit, but the extra distance and softer ground will help him do that.

However, I’ll also have something on Ancient Wisdom as he is another that’ll like the softer conditions.

Firstly, his form when behind Rosallion in the Listed Pat Eddery Stakes is rock solid and he was also ahead of Devil’s Point, Diego Velazquez, and Dancing Gemini in the Group 1 Futurity Trophy Stakes.

He’ll come on for his run in the Group 2 Dante Stakes, so his chance looks good.


5:50 Epsom – Flaming Rib @ 11/1 with BetVictor (5 places) – 1pt EW

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In the finale of the Epsom Derby Weekend, I’m taking a chance on Flaming Rib, though his price allows me to do just that.

The five-year-old comes into this race on the back of a 92-day break, and while this would usually put me off, some of his best runs have come when he was a fresh horse.

He swooped up £190,000 in the Dukhan Sprint in 2023 after a 140-day break, he finished fourth in the 2023 Group 1 Sprint Cup Stakes after a 56-day break, and he travelled strongly in a Class 2 handicap at Lingfield in March 2024 after a 188-day break before he was stopped in his tracks due to a lack of room.

As for the ground, he’s won on soft, good to soft, good, and good to firm, so he’s pretty versatile and his mark of 104 is workable.

If connections have made the conscious decision to target this race in order to have a winner in a decent handicap on Derby Day (which I’m hoping is what has occurred), then he has a good chance here.

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