Epsom Derby & Oaks Previews

Hard to believe, but by the beginning of June four of the five English Classics will have been run and this time next week I will be looking back at the Epsom Derby & Oaks.

Today I will be concentrating on previewing both next week’s Classics. I have to say both races have an open look about them. Let’s begin by looking at the colts’ Classic and the main contenders.

Circus Comes to Epsom

Sir Dragonet – Aidan O’Brien

Heads the market, but still to be supplemented for the race and, at the time of writing this, on Sunday morning, the five-day declarations have yet to come in. The trainer has talked about the French Derby as a possibility, but I would be surprised if he wasn’t to be supplemented. There is, after all, only one Derby!

He was very visually impressive when winning the Chester Vase. However, the ground was soft and the colt seems to have a very rounded action, both his runs have so far come with plenty of ease in the going. Will he handle good ground on an undulating track like Epsom?

Broome – Aidan O’Brien

Has won both his starts this season. The last of those wins came in the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown. The son of Australia probably didn’t beat much in winning last time, and his Racing Post Rating dropped by four from his previous run.

He was workmanlike rather than spectacular, but he’s the colt that connections think is their Derby horse. On the evidence of his runs this season, the step up to 1m 4f will bring out more improvement in the colt. He looks like a stayer but he does have a change of gear.

Anthony Van Dyke – Aidan O’Brien

The third of the O’Brien horses that head the market. Another who looked more workmanlike than spectacular when winning the Lingfield Derby Trial. He was weak in the market that day, looking like connections thought he would need the run, but he ended-up winning the race fairly easily, as he was entitled to on his juvenile form. He should be fitter on Saturday. Could be a Derby winner but he’s not for me at the prices.

Telecaster – Hughie Morrison

Like the ante-post favourite, he’s another who must be supplemented for the race. He beat Too Darn Hot into second in the Dante Stakes on his last start. He chased a very strong pace that day and just outstayed the runner-up. He’s a lovely looking horse, but he’s also big horse who may not handle the Epsom undulations. Then there’s how will he react to the atmosphere of Derby Day. If he handles the track and the big crowd he’s a strong contender.

Bangkok – Andrew Balding

Showed a good attitude to win the Sandown Classic Trial. I liked the way he stuck his neck out that day. On pedigree, the son of Australia should stay the Derby distance and could improve for it.

Japan – Aidan O’Brien

The son of Galileo won two of his three starts as a juvenile. He was one of the best backed horses for the race over the winter, even before he had made his seasonal reappearance, being backed into as low as 8/1 at one point.

He was beaten nearly six lengths by Telecaster in the Dante Stakes, but he was a market drifter on the day. Looked and raced like he needed the run badly. He should improve plenty for his Dante run, and should be suited by the step-up to 1m 4f.

Madhmoon – Kevin Prendergast

Won both his two starts as a juvenile, and for me was one the best of the Irish 2-year-olds. Wasn’t suited by soft ground when runner-up on his seasonal reappearance, but left that behind when encountering quicker ground in the 2,000 Guineas. Finishing 4th that day, doing his best work at the finish.

Connections wisely opted against going for the Irish 2,000 Guineas to aim the colt at the Derby. He’s a well-balanced horse who shouldn’t have any problems with the track. On pedigree there would be doubts about the colt’s stamina for the Derby trip, however, he shapes like he should stay. One thing we do know he needs quick ground to be seen at his best.

Surfman – Roger Varian

Finished third in the Dante. Like Japan he was doing his best work at the finish, after he had found himself too far back in the early stages of the race. The step-up in distance will suit, and he does have similarities with the trainer’s Kingston Hill, who finished runner-up in the Derby before going on to win the St Leger. If he’s ridden more prominently on Saturday, I think we will see a better performance from the horse.

Circus Maximus – Aidan O’Brien

A decent juvenile who finished fourth behind Magna Grecia in the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster on his final start of 2018. Just two places behind Saturday’s Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Phoenix of Spain.

The son of Galileo made a winning seasonal reappearance when landing the Dee Stakes at Chester. He raced bit lazily that day but handled the Chester twists & turns well enough. The Derby distance should bring out more improvement in the colt. I think he’s become a little bit of a forgotten horse and represents good value at around 20/1.


I do like Telecaster, but I wonder if the race will come too quickly after the Dante. Madhmoon brings Classic form to the race, and should be suited by the track, but there are stamina doubts. Sir Dragonet might be another Shergar but at his price I can pass. My pick is Circus Maximus who seems to have become the forgotten horse despite his Chester win.

Derby Selection: Circus Maximus – 20/1 @ William Hill & Coral

Weld Filly Can Provide Oaks Surprise

Like the Colts’ Classic, the Oaks looks a more open-looking race than the market suggests.

Mehdaayih – John Gosden

Impressed when winning on the soft ground in the Cheshire Oaks. Connections have supplemented the daughter of Frankel for the race. She showed a turn of foot at Chester, and should be fine on the Epsom undulations. Probably deserves to head the market.

Pink Dogwood – Aidan O’Brien

Steadily progressive as a juvenile, and looked to have improved a lot from two to three when winning at Navan at the end of April. Has the potential to be one of the top 3-year-old middle distance fillies. Winning form so far has come with some ease in the ground, but there seems no reason why she won’t handle quicker ground just as well.

Hermosa – Aidan O’Brien

Third in the ante-post market, but due to run in Sunday’s Irish 1,000 Guineas, so I can’t see her coming over for the race.

Maqsad – William Haggas

Didn’t beat much in winning the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket, and had far too much speed for her rivals. I think she could well have won a 1,000 Guineas on what she showed in winning the Pretty Polly. By no means certain to get 1m 4f on pedigree, but if there’s a special horse in this year’s field it could be her and maybe her class can win her the race.

Anapurna – John Gosden

I was impressed with the filly’s win in the Lingfield Oaks Trial. Despite only having her third career start she handled the Lingfield track well. She still looked green in the early part of the race, but the further they raced the better the daughter of Frankel looked. There will be more improvement to come from her.

Frankellina – William Haggas

Lost three or four lengths at the start of the Musidora Stakes at York, so in the circumstances she did well to get as close as she did at the finish, beaten just a neck into second. That was only the filly’s second career start, and she’s another who will improve with more racing experience.

Manuela De Vega – Ralph Beckett

Was trying to give Mehdaayih 3lb when runner-up to that filly in the Cheshire Oaks. She shouldn’t be far away on Friday, but it’s hard to see her reversing form with the favourite.

Lavender’s Blue – Amanda Perrett

Finished runner-up to Queen Power in a Newbury Listed race. That was only her second career start, and she probably would have won that day with bit more race experience. Going the right way, the daughter of the Sea The Stars should improve for the step-up to 1m 4f.

Tarnawa – Dermot Weld

A winner of her second career start back in April. The daughter of Shamardal then ran Pink Dogwood to 1 ¾ lengths at Navan. She improved again to win the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at Naas last month.

She was doing her best work at the end of her race at Naas, and shouldn’t have any problems with step-up to the Oaks’ distance on the evidence of that run. Looks like a real staying filly. Trainer won the Oaks in 1981 with Blue Wind, and he saddled the runner-up Tarfasha in 2014, who also won the Blue Wind Stakes prior to running at Epsom. She’s my tentative each-way pick in the race.


I’m a fan of Maqsad who is classy for this field, but maybe she’s too speedy. At an each-way price I’m just going with the Weld filly.

Oaks Selection: Tarnawa – 25/1 @ Bet365 or 20/1 – Gen – each way


John Burke

I have a MA in International Politics and having spent a number of years working in political campaigning but I eventually I realised that politics was not the world where I wanted to work I had been interested in horse racing since the late 1980s but in the early years I was merely just betting and watching racing like most people as a bit of fun and a hobby, then the hobby becomes a passion and that’s what happened to me with horse racing. I soon realised that to make money from my hobby I had to learn as much as I could about the sport and betting in general. The whole process took time but after a number of successful years of betting, I decided in 2011 to take the plunge, gave up my full time day job and decided to bet on horse racing as a part time business and I haven’t looked back since. I like to specialise in the better class of races and I love to solve the puzzles posed by big field handicaps the latter races often provide punters with great value betting opportunities. Whilst most of my time is spent reviewing previous races I like to keep things as simple as possible as even the biggest field handicaps can usually be pruned down to half a dozen strong contenders with the right sort of approach.
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