The £1.6million Investec Derby takes place this Saturday and, rather fittingly as a race that has lent its name to many a derivative over the centuries, it looks like living up to its massive billing.
To win this race, a colt needs to have speed from the gate to get into a good position, tactical speed to remain there as the field sorts itself out, balance to remain in contention as the race gets going in earnest on a sharp, twisting downhill run around Tattenham corner and the stamina to see out the mile-and-a-half trip on an uphill finish.
This is why the Derby is considered the greatest race on the planet and why it remains the number one target for trainers, owners and jockeys. News has been filtering in regarding the main candidates as 13 were left in the race with two more supplemented for £85,000 as of Tuesday.
Anthony Van Dyck
It’s well documented that Aidan O’Brien dominated the trials and that brings this top performer and Linfield Derby Trial winner right into things, but he was well beaten by the likes of Quorto and Line Of Duty as a juvenile and needs to step up significantly to win.
Andrew Balding’s star is by 2014 winner Australia so is bred for the job and is coming along very nicely following two wins this season, including one against top contender Telecaster. He was a maiden until his fourth race however and so his profile isn’t one that yells ‘Derby winner’.
A solid O’Brien candidate having taken a tried and tested route; his wins in the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial make him one of the more battle-hardened runners with neither his stamina or his quality in doubt.
He sits as the current 9/2 second-favourite for the £920,000 first prize and won’t have to improve too much to take a hand, though his being beaten as a juvenile by both Madhmoon and Royal Marine (not now involved) leaves some doubts surrounding his ability at Group 1 level.
Line Of Duty
Although currently a 50/1 shot, we cannot discount a Group 1 winner trained by last year’s winning handler Charlie Appleby for the Godolphin team.
In truth, Quorto was the trainer’s main Derby candidate before his injury so Line Of Duty is somewhat of a substitute and he was uninspiring in the Dante Stakes when only seventh recently.
Connections clearly expected more in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but it seems his forte will be middle distances making his fourth to Magna Grecia from the wrong part of the track look perfectly OK while his comfortable victory over Broome last season on only his second racecourse start now reads really well.
The current favourite at 5/2 after only two starts, Aidan O’Brien’s runner has been supplemented for £85,000 despite the Coolmore team having plenty of ammunition.
His win at Chester was great to the naked eye and he rates very highly, but this will be very different and he’ll have to encounter fast ground for the first time.
Surely a rock solid each-way option after his performance in the Dante? He followed an easy win at Newcastle with a third behind Telecaster and Too Darn Hot at York and is bound to improve again for going up to this distance with 20/1 looking very tempting.
Another supplementary entry, Telecaster won the Dante from near the front despite the scorching pace and is clearly a Group 1 horse, though despite many claiming he will come on a ton from that there is the niggling theory that he showed just about his best running on the Knavesmire and others could in fact improve past him. Currently 5/1.