SO the Epsom Derby plot thickens. We finally have a crystal clear favourite after today’s Dante… but he isn’t even entered for the race! GOLDEN HORN shot to the head of the Derby betting with his impressive display and owner Anthony Oppenheimer now faces the dilemma of whether to fork out the £75,000 to supplement him for Epsom. Should he pay the money? Well, for me, it’s a no-brainer. There is only one Epsom Derby and the horse’s likely alternative is the French equivalent as his owner has always had him down as a 1m 2f horse. Wouldn’t be quite the same though, would it?
Golden Horn looks pretty bombproof and ticks all the Derby boxes: he has speed, looks likely to stay 1m 4f and is a neat type of horse who should handle the contours of Epsom. I loved the way he switched off early in the race and he certainly looks to have the right temperament. He is also showing remorseless improvement and remains unbeaten.
Trainer John Gosden was careful to put the responsibility of supplementing (or not) squarely on to the owner after the race. He could afford to as he has an excellent back-up in Jack Hobbs who finished a good second to give the in-form Newmarket handler a one-two.
Jack Hobbs ran a blinder for a horse who had previously won, albeit at a canter, a handicap at Sandown off a rating of 85. He had to race three wide around York’s sweeping home turn but finished the race as though he will relish 1m 4f. As for handling Epsom’s undulations, well, I’m not convinced as he is a tall, rangy animal. The Curragh or Ascot would probably suit him more. But there is only one Derby and I hope both Gosden horses go to post at Epsom.
Jack Hobbs’ Epsom price ranges from 5/1 to 8/1, while Golden Horn is generally the 5/2 clear favourite in most books.
Elm Park ran a solid race in third until a lack of fitness told at the business end. You would suspect he will come on a lot for the run and would be aided by the longer trip at Epsom and any rain that might put some juice in the ground. The ground was just about ok for him today and considering it was his first race of the season he ran extremely well. He remains a serious prospect although if the ground is firm he will probably not even turn up at Epsom. Be guided by the weather if you’re thinking of a punt on Elm Park, who is available at a big-looking 8/1.
But the Derby now looks a distant dream for John F Kennedy, who was a major flop, and Ol’ Man River who also disappointed. It’s a major surprise that Aidan O’Brien is unlikely to be saddling any of the favourites for the Derby unless, of course, he throws a curveball by running 2,000 Guineas winner Gleneagles. The latter goes for the Irish 2,000 Guineas next weekend where he might come up against Dermot Weld’s Zawraq who is still prominent in the Epsom Derby betting at around 6/1 and who could end up the best of the Irish challengers.
Barry Hills’ Nafaqa pulled too hard in the Dante and didn’t get home. He looks like he might be a miler, although a very good one at that.
But it will be John Gosden who will be sleeping soundest tonight in the knowledge that he has two outstanding candidates to give him a second Derby success following Benny The Dip in 1997.