Preview: Epsom Derby

Sam King takes a look at the Epsom Derby.

Epsom Racecourse
Epsom Racecourse Picture: Getty Images

Miracles are tough to come by in any walk of life, but the Epsom Derby has thrown up its fair share of miraculous performances over the years whether that be by horse, trainer or jockey. This year's renewal certainly has the potential to produce one in some way or another, albeit it's tricky to nail down one standout equine contender amongst the sixteen declarations.

As so often is the case in British Classics, there's only one real place to start. With Aidan O'Brien.

There's a small sense of déjà vu in the air entering this year's Derby, as City Of Troy attempts to do what his stablemate Auguste Rodin did after trailing home last in the 2000 Guineas twelve months ago. Much like it did last season with Auguste Rodin, this year's renewal seems to revolve around City Of Troy as the champion juvenile of 2023 embarks on a revival mission after completely fluffing his lines when odds-on for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on his reappearance.

Nobody could fault his spectacular juvenile campaign but once again we find ourselves in a position where an Aidan O'Brien-trained three-year-old tops the Epsom Derby betting on the back of a complete no-show in the opening Classic of the season.

You certainly couldn't discount the master of Ballydoyle from pulling it off once more and whilst plenty of supporters will keep the faith (they may well be rewarded), surely at the current prices and with the added known factor he'll be coming out of stall one, it's safer to hunt elsewhere.

You don't have to look far from City Of Troy for a suitable alternative with his main market rival Los Angeles stabled in the same block. A tenacious winner of the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud on his second outing last season, he returned with a snug victory in the Group 3 Derby Trial Stakes at Leopardstown in May, shaping as though the step up to a mile-and-a-half would really suit this straightforward son of Camelot. Any ease in the ground shouldn't pose a problem given his two-year-old top-level success came on heavy and with further improvement on the cards on this fourth career outing, he needs to be taken extremely seriously.

Charlie Appleby has his string in top form (10-25, 40% for the last fourteen days) and his Dante Stakes runner-up Ancient Wisdom looks to lead the home team charge. Having landed the Group 1 Futurity Trophy on heavy ground at Doncaster on his final start as a two-year-old, any further rain around the Epsom area would surely enhance his claims, while the step up to a mile-and-a-half also provides an angle for further improvement.

Ambiente Friendly has been subject to a controversial jockey change in the lead-up to the Epsom showpiece, but putting that aside, his claims are there for all to see. It was tough not to be impressed by the way James Fanshawe's son of Gleneagles put distance between himself and his rivals when upped in trip in the Lingfield Derby Trial three weeks ago, and with winning form over just half a furlong short of the Derby distance, it's easy to see why he's towards the top of many shortlists.

Of those at slightly bigger prices, Dancing Gemini makes plenty of appeal now stepping up to middle distances. A son of Camelot out of an Australia mare, there's no doubt he's bred for the job, and he seemed a touch unlucky not to land the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Longchamp on his seasonal return. Stall fifteen wouldn't be viewed as a positive but Dylan Browne McMonagle will likely ride him patiently and Roger Teal's charge should be doing his best work at the finish. Ralph Beckett is yet to land an Epsom Derby but there is a case to be made for Macduff after chasing home the stricken Arabian Crown in the Group 3 bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown in April.

There didn't appear to be much fluke about Dallas Star's shock 50/1 victory in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown in April and should conditions become testing, he would be another to enter calculations at a juicy each-way price.

In summary, this completely revolves around City Of Troy and although the market may provide clues about what is expected from the Ballydoyle colt closer to kick-off, his straightforward stablemate Los Angeles looks like the far more solid option. Unbeaten in three outings to date, he looks sure to appreciate stepping up to a mile and a half and has the better draw of the pair being berthed in stall four.

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