Watch the Investec Derby on Channel 4 at 4pm on Saturday
They say that the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket is the best trial for the Epsom Derby, and ante-post favourite AUSTRALIA can back that notion up by landing the Investec-sponsored Classic on Saturday.
The son of Galileo, who is held in the highest regard by trainer Aidan O’Brien, produced a fine effort on the Rowley Mile early last month when beaten less than a length into third behind Night of Thunder and Kingman.
That renewal of the 2,000 Guineas looked like a strong one, and Kingman confirmed that impression when coasting home in the Irish equivalent subsequently.
Australia did extremely well to finish as close as he did, conceding race-fitness to two high-class rivals over a trip which is clearly inadequate for him. Being by a Derby winner and out of an Oaks winner, we will almost certainly see him in a far better light upped to a mile and a half at Epsom.
Australia – outstanding value at 7/4 with 888sport
Recent rainfall and being drawn in stall 12 – no horse in the history of the Derby has prevailed from that gate – are two factors that have led to Australia’s odds swelling to a nigh-on unbelievable 7/4 with 888sport, having been as short as 10/11 at one stage.
Personally, I’m not concerned about the draw and, unless conditions deteriorate markedly at Epsom on Saturday, in which case he may well be pulled out, I cannot envisage Australia being beaten. He should be 4/7, not 7/4, by me reckoning and can provide Ballydoyle with a record third consecutive Derby winner.
The one that has been the subject of support recently is the Roger Varian-trained Kingston Hill, who is a standout 8/1 with Betfair at the time of writing and vying for second favouritism with Australia’s stable companion Geoffrey Chaucer.
The Mastercraftsman colt was unbeaten in three starts as a two-year-old, including the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy, and shaped well when eighth in the Guineas. If conditions become testing at Epsom, Kingston Hill will be a live danger, but as things stand I am firmly in the Australia camp.
Godolphin’s True Story is fourth best in the betting at around the 12/1 mark. He was most impressive when scoring at the Newmarket Craven meeting and, though turned over in the Dante at York subsequently, it’s far too soon to write him off.
Fabre’s Flintshire up for the Cup
Aidan O’Brien has virtually made the Investec Coronation Cup his own in recent years – astonishingly, he’s landed seven of the last nine renews of this Group 1 contest – but he is not represented in this year’s renewal.
French raiders Cirrus des Aigles and Flintshire dominate the betting, with the former, who has looked as good as ever the last twice, odds on across the board – 4/5 is currently the best price on offer about the eight-year-old.
He will be hard to beat, particularly if the ground eases, but Andre Fabre doesn’t send horses across the pond for the fun of it so I’m siding with FLINTSHIRE who is a value alternative at 4/1 with Bet365.
The Dansili colt failed to land a blow in the Arc on his final start of 2013, but he endured a nightmare run on that occasion and looked very smart prior to that, particularly when landing the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp in July.
Flintshire needs to raise his game a couple of notches if he’s to beat Cirrus des Aigles, but he appeals as the type to make further progress this season and at the prices he’s well worth chancing.
Speedy Even Stevens can burn rivals off in the Dash.
The Investec Specialist Bank “Dash” is one of the trickiest handicaps on the Flat racing calendar, and this year’s renewal is no different.
Steps and Eton Rifles, first and second respectively in a Listed heat at Haydock last weekend, are the class angles in this valuable handicap, but EVEN STEVENS looks the one to be on at 12/1 with Stan James.
He hasn’t been at his best back on turf in his last three starts, but he showed blistering early pace at York last time and will be ideally suited by this razor-sharp, downhill track. He’s well-drawn in stall 18 and is on a very attractive mark at present.
Others to consider in this extremely competitive sprint include Caspian Prince, Smoothtalkingrascal, Elusivity and Swan Song.
2.05 Baitha Alga
3.15 Even Stevens