The Derby Prospects

May 10th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

I have never known Aidan O’Brien speak so openly about his Classic prospects as he has in the last few days.

He displayed the patience of Job when speaking to Matt Chapman for ATR at the end of the day at Leopardstown on Sunday – I think the interview must have lasted all of 20 minutes – and today’s Racing Post devotes almost four pages to his hopes and aspirations for members of his team.

Regarding the Derby, much more will be known after Thursday’s Dante Stakes at York. The Dante is still the leading trial for Epsom, even though this year’s field of 12 suggests the Classic still has a very open feel to it.

Midterm is currently favourite at a top price of 5/4 for the Dante and can be backed at 3/1 for Epsom.

Given the rather inconclusive nature of the Chester Vase, all Midterm has to do is win to confirm his position at the head of the market. It is, though, well documented that the colt shows little at home – or at least that has been the case until now – and it should also be added that lines through High Grounds, beaten nine and a half lengths at Sandown, and Dwight D, beaten almost 15 lengths, give US Army Ranger an advantage over his market rival of around 10 lengths.

Next best in the Dante market is Foundation, who ran a rather flat race in the Craven Stakes behind Stormy Atlantic who, in turn, finished way back in the Guineas. I liked the way Foundation travelled and quickened in his races last season, and John Gosden made it clear before his return to action that he would need the race. The concern for me is the trip, perhaps not at York but certainly over the mile and a half at Epsom. His pedigree is made up mainly of milers.

Deauville, by contrast, is bred to relish middle distances. This full brother to The Corsican twice finished behind Foundation last season but could reverse that form over a longer trip.

The most interesting runner in the Dante is Wings Of Desire, a son of Pivotal and full brother to Eagle Top and The Lark.

Eye-catching when third on his debut at the Craven meeting, he overcame greenness to win a modest 1m 4f maiden at Wolverhampton. That form falls way behind the achievements of his stable-companion – he is rated 88 as opposed to Foundation’s mark of 110 – but he is a very progressive colt and Frankie Dettori takes the mount. He does not yet carry an entry for the Derby.

Of the other Dante runners, a victory for Black Sea would give a boost to last year’s form with Blue De Vega, who I expect to go well in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. If Blue De Vega were to win that then the Derby could enter the reckoning, as he is bred to stay well.

Roger Varian thinks highly of Windsor maiden winner Choreographer as does William Haggas of Ripon winner Victory Bond. Both would need to be supplemented for Epsom if they were to win. Sea Of Flames has been in very good form on the all-weather this year.

The most likely outcome is that Midterm wins the Dante and is cut further in price for Epsom, depending on the manner of his success. I do, though, have a slight doubt about the mile and a half for him. Foundation could win this but then also have a problem with the trip at Epsom, while a victory for Deauville will probably raise the profile of stable-companion US Army Ranger.

I have to say that I thought US Army Ranger moved very well at Chester, despite turning for home on the wrong leg. On paper Port Douglas comes out the superior colt in the Chester Vase, especially so given the tender nature of the ride he received, but there seems little doubt at Ballydoyle that US Army Ranger has the scope to progress beyond him.

We will learn more at York on Thursday, but on the form lines illustrated above and on what we have heard, at this stage I am leaning towards US Army Ranger.

Bye for now