The Epsom Derby meeting covers June 4th & 5th in 2021, with the Cazoo Derby & Cazoo Oaks being the premier races of the meeting. Here are my top 5 leading contenders for each race with my recommended bet exclusively for beth.bet subscribers.
Epsom Oaks – 1m4f Prize Money £212,662, Group 1 3-y-o fillies only
Friday 4th June
The Epsom Oaks is the biggest fillies Group 1 race in the summer calendar, and an extremely prestigious prize run over the Derby trip of 1m4f. At this stage there are nineteen contenders entered, with the market headed by Aidan O’Brien’s highly regarded 3-y-o ‘Santa Barbara’.
Aidan O’Brien has a typically strong hand with his three-year-old’s, and this filly made a very impressive debut as a juvenile back in September 2020 at the Curragh, sprinting clear of an eighteen runner field over the mile trip. She returned from 218 days off to be sent off a warm 5/2jf for the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in May but could only finish fourth there behind stable mate ‘Mother Earth’. If you watch that race back again, she tracked the leaders on the far side of the track but became rather unbalanced in the dip before running on strongly in the final furlong. She very much shaped as though this step up to 1m4f would suit as her breeding suggests, and significantly there has been hefty market support in the last few weeks in the ante-post lists. Now only a top offer of 15/8 favourite with Bet365, and there is little doubt that all the value has gone now at that very short price.
Aidan O’Brien has a typically strong hand at this stage, currently training the first two in the market. Snowfall returned from 215 days off the track to spring a surprise in the Musidora Stakes at York in May. However, that 14/1 shock did look rather flattering, gifted a soft early lead/setting a slow pace under Ryan Moore and very much seen to maximum effect. She is currently 4/1 for the Cazoo Oaks and makes absolutely no appeal at all at that price. Indeed, with her stamina doubtful for 1m4f, I will be looking to oppose her win and place on the day.
Roger Varian has made a blistering start to the turf season with his strike rate well over 20% in the last few weeks. This progressive filly made a very promising return, despite being beaten when finishing third behind Snowfall in the Musidora at York. The bare facts do not tell the tale as she was beaten over four lengths there, rearing, leaving the stalls and then pulling hard under Andrea Atzeni (still reefing and tugging as the field turned for home), understandably getting tired as the final furlong approached. She will need to drop the bit in the early stages to see out the 1m4f trip at Epsom, but in this big field with a strong pace certain, it could really suit her, and I expect her to reverse that form here under different circumstances.
Roger Varian has a second string currently entered in the Epsom Oaks this year, who has leading claims of her own. This chestnut filly has won three of her four career starts, losing her unbeaten record after 186 days off when finishing second behind ‘Dubai Fountain’ in the Cheshire Oaks at Chester in May. She doesn’t look entirely straight forward in the preliminaries (wearing a hood for her journey to post and then ridden with extreme waiting tactics by Jim Crowley). Despite that, the 3-y-o eventually ran on strongly to finish a one length second behind the winner, and many will fancy her to reverse the form at Epsom. However, I have my doubts as to the merits of that form of that race and would be surprised if either her or ‘Dubai Fountain’ are good enough on the day.
Mark Johnston has not been in the best of form by his own standards over the last few weeks, with his strike rate below 5%, but this filly was a rare bright spot when making all the running under a typically well-judged Franny Norton ride to land the Cheshire Oaks. I thought she was seen to maximum effect that day and have huge doubts as to whether that form is good enough at all, although she should ensure this race is run at a very true gallop from the stalls.
Stephen Harris’ Beth.bet top tip for the Epsom Oaks:
Teona at 8/1 is the most attractive prospect to me, despite the fact that plenty of punters will be writing her off after her disappointing return at York behind Snowfall. She was seen at a huge tactical disadvantage that day pulling hard in a steady run race, and I expect her to leave that form well behind her in a true run race at Epsom.
Epsom Derby – 1m4f, Group 1, Prize Money £637,987 to the winner, Three Year-Old colts only
Saturday 5th June
This race is run over the uniquely undulating Epsom course and provides a severe test for the best 3-y-o’s in the world. The Cazoo Derby is traditionally one of the biggest betting races of the year in the UK and has gained popularity and a wider worldwide audience since it moved to a Saturday from Wednesday.
Currently a best price 8/1 chance with Bet365. Ed Dunlop’s three-year-old has won two of his three career starts so far, starting off last September with a very promising effort in a warm Doncaster maiden. He has been a revelation this season after eight months off, winning on the all-weather at Newcastle in a very competitive novice stakes (that has worked out well subsequently), and then taking his form to another level when landing the Betway Fairway Stakes on the 15th of May. He raced slightly freely there but looked a thorough stayer and picked up strongly to come clear in the closing stages from the useful ‘Tasman Bay’. That form leaves him a bit to find, but there is a lot more to come as his stamina is drawn out (and he is likely to drop the bit and settle in the early stages for the first time in his career). At his current price he makes plenty of appeal, with a recent racecourse gallop showing that the unique Epsom track would be no problem at all.
The current 15/8 favourite (with Paddy Power) is trained by Aidan O’Brien who knows exactly what it takes to win a classic. This three-year-old Galileo colt has won both of his starts this season at Leopardstown, taking a Group 3 on 11th April 2021 and then really impressing in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trials Stakes on the 9th of May 2021. He was up on a fair pace throughout there – was sent on three furlongs out by Ryan Moore and showed an explosive turn of foot to draw six lengths clear of some modest rivals. He did have everything run to suit him that day, but still promises to be a top class performer and these connections have plenty of experience to measure him against. The step up two furlongs in trip to 1m4f should suit and he is a worthy favourite – although, whether there should be such a price differential between him and one or two others in the field is open to question.
Charlie Appleby’s three-year-old Frankel colt has the perfect 3 from 3 record so far, winning his only start as a juvenile at Newmarket last October and returning from 177 days off to win impressively at both Newbury and York this season. He took his form to another level altogether when winning the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York in May, coming from well off a strong pace to forge clear in the closing stages. Quite what that form is worth is open to debate, and he certainly made hard work of things, under pressure early on and looking a thorough staying type. On the flip side, he has an unbeaten record for an excellent yard and will relish every yard of the extra two furlongs at Epsom.
This is the stable-mate of the current favourite Bolshoi Ballet, and the market moves on the day will be fascinating for experienced watchers of the betting ring. The highly regarded colt lost his unbeaten record when only finishing third behind ‘Hurricane Lane’ in the Dante at York last time out, under pressure when turning for home there but staying on strongly in the final furlong. He is another one who seems sure to enjoy the step up in trip, as his untapped stamina is drawn out over the 1m4f Derby trip. He has attracted significant market support since the Dante run, backed down from 8/1 into a top-priced 4/1 with Bet365, with sectional time judges very keen on his finishing effort last time out.
William Haggas’ colt is top-priced 8/1 for the Cazoo Derby and comes here on a roll having won at Lingfield and Newmarket twice since returning from five months off the track. He was particularly impressive in a small field in a listed contest over 1m 2f last time out in turning over the odds on favourite ‘Secret Protector’, and a step up in trip seems sure to suit, but he does have plenty to find to trouble the principles.
Stephen Harris’ Beth.bet top tip for the Epsom Derby:
John Leeper at 8/1 makes most appeal at this stage for the Epsom Derby. He moved really well in a gallop at the track in May and has loads of potential to improve past these rivals for more racing experience.