THERE are shades of last year in Saturday’s Investec Derby at Epsom. Camelot, on the back of an unbeaten run, brushed aside the opposition with barely concealed contempt in 2012. This year DAWN APPROACH will arrive at the Surrey track never having been toppled on the racecourse. Not only that, but nothing has come close to beating him. The favourite offers little value but is there really anything in the field that can get to him?
Aidan O’Brien will certainly be trying. He has six of the 15 entries for the race. BATTLE OF MARENGO has the second highest rating of the field and you suspect that if Dawn Approach does have stamina limitations then this fellow will expose them. He looks certain to relish the 1m 4f trip and has indicated that there is more to come after his workmanlike trial successes.
MAGICIAN could be the joker in the pack. He was very impressive in winning both the Dee Stakes at Chester and last weekend’s Irish 2,000 Guineas but is not a certain runner. RULER OF THE WORLD and MARS are both O’Brien dark horses and cannot be discounted. The trainer’s supposed second and third strings have a good record in the Derby. The Great Gatsby, Dylan Thomas, At First Sight and Treasure Beach were all placed at huge prices, so it would be folly to discount any of the Ballydoyle artillery, including FESTIVE CHEER.
Andre Fabre’s OCAVANGO and the German colt CHOPIN give the race an international flavour and neither of these can be ruled out. Chopin, a recent purchase to join the growing racing interests of Qatar’s ruling family, the Al Thanis, was supplemented as a late entry to the tune of £75,000.
LIBERTARIAN is the main British hope following the withdrawal of Telescope. Karl and Elaine Burke’s northern raider won the Dante at York impressively and should appreciate the extra two furlongs. He would be the first northern winner of the Epsom Derby since Dante himself in 1945 (although the race was run at Newmarket). Libertarian is a big horse and the only issue is whether he can handle the contours of Epsom. If he can, I think he is solid each-way value at around 16-1. His Dante victory has been under-valued and if he was trained by one of the more fashionable Newmarket big guns he would be half the price.