Three of our experts talk the Derby, Oaks and all things Epsom
Epsom's Derby Festival catches the public's imagination. It gets Frankie Dettori on Loose Women. Over 150,000 will be at Epsom over the two days, as will many of the best horses. Here three of our experts, tipsters David Baxter and Keith Melrose, and racecourse reporter Tony McFadden, talk you through the all the action.
David: So boys, what wins the Derby?
Keith: I agree
David: John Gosden and Frankie Dettori, what's not to like! So you think he's the right favourite?
Keith: I can't see why he isn't further clear at the head of the betting. He did really well to beat Permian, who got a savvy ride, at Epsom and is unexposed - while still being proven on the track. His credentials stand out and I think it's only down to recency bias that he's not 11-4 or 5-2.
Tony: I certainly feel that Cracksman is the most likely winner and 4-1 is good value. There's a big field, but many of the runners look well short of the standard usually required to be competitive in the Derby. As you say Keith, Cracksman's unbeaten, unexposed and, to my eyes at least, looks a top-class colt in the making.
David: Mark Johnston was very bullish earlier this week on the chances of his Epsom victim Permian, do you give him a squeak?
Keith: Aye, but maybe more for a place. It's probably quite a weak Derby and he has the street smarts and the experience, which definitely counts at Epsom. You'd fancy there's at least one or two horses in there with more ability, though.
David: Such as Cliffs Of Moher?
Tony: You'd have to respect Cliffs Of Moher as his two-year-old form looks strong and, like Cracksman, he hasn't yet shown the full extent of his ability. He looks by far and away the strongest of Aidan's string but I was underwhelmed by his reappearance - even taking into account he was supposedly slow to come to hand - and think Cracksman is likely to end up the better horse.
Keith: Who do you fancy David?
David: If Cliffs Of Moher was really fancied by the lads then I think it would be reflected in his price. He got the job done at Chester but hardly set the world alight and as everyone keeps telling us it's an open year, I'm happy to look elswhere. Best Solution won his trial impressively at Lingfield and I think he can be in the shake-up at a decent price.
Keith: I can't have that. The Lingfield Derby Trial is usually in breach of the trade descriptions act these days but more of a worry for me is that he's been going in Dubai over the winter and you wonder how much more there is to come? Plus, even taken in isolation the Lingfield race this year looks shaky form with the fancied O'Brien horse failing to show up. I'd give Eminent more of a chance as there's more stamina in his pedigree than maybe meets the eye at first. I might have expected more of a price after the Guineas, though. Plus he looks a big horse and seemed a bit awkward going into the Dip, even though he won the Craven, so I wouldn't be certain whether Epsom is for him.
Tony: Fancy anything at a price?
David: I suspect his stamina won't last but I've been a fan of The Anvil since last year and he'd probably tempt me to have a small bet.
Keith: Wings Of Eagles is big because at Chester he looked like at least the equal of Venice Beach. You could also make the case for Benbatl improving again. He's only had the three runs and looked like he'll learn some more from his Dante second. He has a proper middle distance pedigree, too. His dam won the l'Opera and his granddam was second in the Oaks.
Tony: Okay, on to the Oaks, what do we make of the odds-on Rhododendron. She couldn't win the Guineas but didn't have the clearest run?
David: She's the most likely winner, though there's not much meat on the bone value-wise. If you're wading in with big money, then yes she does still retain some value, but not for my much shallower pockets!
Tony: Okay, well what would you take her on with? Enable?
Keith: Enable's obviously talented and could win, but if I'm ducking Rhododendron at evens then I'm not rushing to back her at 7-2. I thought she got a good ride at Chester, which made her win look a bit better than it was.
Tony: Then what?
David: Ralph Beckett has a good record in the race, prepped Talent to win in 2013 via the Pretty Polly, so I think you have to have a look at Isabel De Urbina, who's following the same route. She looks like one who can make the frame.
Keith: I think there's a case to be made for Horseplay, who beat Isabel De Urbina in the Pretty Polly and I think she's much better than she looked that day. She was still very green there and did really well to get up. She pulled like mad, and if you assume that was inexperience rather than anything else the trip really ought to suit her.
Tony: I think we can all agree Rhododendron is clearly the one to beat but I think there is decent strength in depth to this year's Oaks and I'd be happy to oppose her at odds-on with Coronet, who shaped nicely on her reappearance behind Sobetsu in the Prix Saint-Alary and looks sure to relish the step up to a mile and a half. She was ridden patiently on that occasion and was poorly placed the way the race developed, so I would expect to see a markedly improved performance from a filly who created such a striking impression as a juvenile, and whose form has been franked by the likes of Permian and Cunco.
Keith: Interesting, so do you boys fancy anything else over the two days?
David: The race I like the most is the Dash, and I'm going to be cheering on the 2015 winner Desert Law, and El Astronaute. Desert Law's nine now and is a bit hit and miss, but he was back to form last time at Musselburgh and could run a big race, while the race has been a target for El Astronaute, and John Quinn is a shrewd operator.
Tony: Hopefully Cardsharp can make it a winning start to the meeting in the Woodcote Stakes. Clearly held in high regard, he followed up an odds-on debut success with a creditable effort in defeat in a strong-looking race at Ascot, and he should appreciate this step up to six furlongs. De Bruyne Horse is clearly the one to beat on the back of a wide-margin win at Ripon, but his only legitimate rival flopped that day so I'll take a chance Cardsharp can turn him over.