The Epsom Derby meeting is one of the most anticipated events in the turf calendar, and this year promised to be an absolute classic with the Derby field looking strong and some top class fillies on show in the Oaks. The unseasonal wet weather played a huge part on the Friday on Oaks day, with the watered ground changing rapidly from the predicted good to firm, good in places to soft ground by the end of the day. However, by Saturday the downs were blessed with glorious sunshine and the ground had dried out, with the official description of “good to soft” almost perfect by the last race on the card (and the time for the Derby only 0.85 seconds above standard).
Here are my 10 key takeaways for Beth subscribers gfrom this year’s Epsom Derby festival:
Watering the course controversy again
Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper is one of the best in the business, but his decision to water quite significantly through the week in the lead up to the meeting always looked a strange one given the wet weather forecast for Friday. This proved to be something of a disaster for punters (and connections) on Oaks day, with the ground changing to “soft” after the first race (having still been described as good or faster ground before racing). The rain persisted all afternoon and conditions were terrible by the final race on day one, with fields finishing strung out and plenty clearly failing to handle the extreme conditions. Despite excellent communication through the day by the Epsom team, this was clearly unsatisfactory and while there is no doubt that naturally the ground would have eased to be good to soft, the earlier watering played a part in changing the conditions for the worse.
Aidan O’Brien’s Derby shenanigans
The week leading up to Epsom was rather spoiled from a betting point of view, with Aidan O’Brien pulling five of his intended six runners in the Derby, leaving just ‘Bolshoi Ballet’ as his only representative on the day. This came as a shock to plenty of ante-post punters who had piled into his second string ‘High Definition’ (well backed from 8/1 into a strong 9/2 second favourite since his Dante return). He now heads to the Irish Derby later in the season, which is of course quite rightly up to connections. However, clearly having power concentrated in the hands of so few people at the top of racing is not beneficial to most punters, and this was just another example that ante-post betting is effectively dead unless you are privy to inside information about running plans.
‘Oscula’ continues Boughey’s dominance in the juvenile division
The Woodcote on Friday got the week off to a spectacular start as George Boughey’s two-year-old scooted clear to run out a really impressive winner. He had only won a lowly Brighton maiden last time out, but is clearly progressing fast, and the trainer now has had a remarkable fourteen winners from thirty-one runners in the two-year-old division. A young trainer who has a strong hand with his small team of horses, he is well worth Beth.bet subscribers following throughout the season ahead.
The Coronation Cup produces a thriller
There was a cracking finish to this prestigious Group 1 on Friday, as William Muir and Chris Grassick’s ‘Pyledriver’ proved a very resolute winner in a thrilling battle with the short priced 7/4f favourite ‘Al Aasy’. The runner-up traded at 1.01 on Betfair in-running, looking sure to win when he loomed up out wide under a confident ride from Jim Crowley. However, he had not counted on the brave rally of the battle hardy ‘Pyledriver’ under an inspired ride from Martin Dwyer, and this race will live long in the memory as one of the great Epsom battles (with the versatile winner a live outsider for the Arc de Triomphe at Paris Longchamp in October).
The Oaks winner Snowfall decimates a quality field by 16 lengths
Aidan O’Brien’s battle-hardened filly ‘Snowfall’ was an incredibly impressive winner of the Group 1 Cazoo Oaks, cruising clear on the bridle under a motionless Frankie Dettori. Well backed late into 11/2, the filly was always travelling well in rear under an assured ride from the evergreen Dettori, eventually hitting the front two furlongs out and sprinting clear to win by an Epsom record-breaking sixteen lengths. She was quoted afterwards as big as 8/1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in October, and that price predictably soon disappeared. The 3-y-o will surely take plenty of beating there with soft ground almost guaranteed and clearly suiting her ideally (although it must be stressed that very few of her rivals seemed to give their running on the rapidly changing ground on the day).
Adayar a worthy Derby WinnerBolshoi BalletAdayar a worthy Derby Winner
‘Adayar’ sprang a 16/1 surprise in the Epsom Derby for Charlie Appleby and Adam Kirby. Outsiders dominated the finish in the 2021 Derby with this strapping 3-y-o coming home well clear under a brilliant ride up the inside from Adam Kirby. He was the subject of a huge late gamble backed from 50/1 into 16/1 in the final few minutes of betting, and in truth rarely gave his supporters much anxiety. Always in a good pitch from stall 1, squeezing up the inside two furlongs out and powering clear of the competition who all faded out of things pretty tamely in a true run race. Quite a few fancied horses did disappoint in the race, not least the well-backed 5/4 favourite ‘Bolshoi Ballet’ who was in trouble and going nowhere coming down Tattenham Corner. Aidan O’Brien suggested the dead ground was one of the reasons for the subpar performance (although he later was found to have suffered a nasty gash to his hind leg which might be a more valid excuse). With the winning times only 0.85 seconds above standard, this clearly demonstrated that the ground had begun to dry out rapidly through the day on Saturday in stark contrast to Friday’s soft ground.
Parents Prayer lands the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth from the front – Archie
Watson enjoyed a cracking couple of days at Epsom, and his progressive performer took this valuable prize in terrific style. The 4-y-o filly made all the running under a very good ride from Oisin Murphy, never in any danger to rout a useful field, and now heads to the Duke of Cambridge at Royal Ascot.
The veteran ‘Oh This Is Us’ rolls back the years
The Group 3 Diomed saw a thrilling finish, with the well backed ‘Century Dream’ looking sure to land a hefty punt. However, he hadn’t counted on the late rally of ‘Oh This Is Us’ for Richard Hannon, who sprang an 18/1 surprise to the delight of bookmakers up and down the country. The eight-year old is a real credit to the connections and has been a real money spinner over the years. He showed terrific gameness here to get up right on the line, and few horses have such a good attitude to pressure at this stage of his career.
Epsom Dash goes to 25/1 outsider ‘Mokaatil’
Ian Williams has enjoyed a fantastic couple of months, with several of his horses winning valuable handicaps, and this quirky sprinter swept clear under David Egan to land this prestigious handicap. This was Egan’s first ever winner at Epsom and it came in some style, with the incredibly fast pace up front setting things up for a late charge up the middle of the track.
Looking forward to Royal Ascot
After the Epsom meeting our thoughts turn to Royal Ascot next week, and one horse of interest will be William Haggas’ ‘Mohaafeth’. He was a very strong third favourite in the Derby lists on the Saturday morning, but was pulled by Haggas because he thought the ground was going to ride too soft for his charge. This one now heads to Royal Ascot and seems sure to be of immense interest and with lots of scope to keep improving, and the ground sure to be on the faster side of good given the excellent weather forecast in the lead up to the meeting. Check out next week’s Beth. Bet blog for our exclusive insights into betting at the Royal meeting over the five days.