The topsy-turvy Derby market

May 10th, 2015 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

The topsy-turvy Derby market took another hit this afternoon when Highland Reel ran a fairly lifeless race in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Longchamp. Aidan O’Brien’s colt was a leading fancy of mine for both the English Guineas and the Derby, but after racing keenly for a couple of furlongs he could not improve his position behind the impressive winner Make Believe.

It looks as if Thursday’s Dante Stakes at York will, once again, prove the strongest guide to Epsom. Aidan O’Brien has seven of the 15 entries for the Dante as I write, but they include Highland Reel. The buzz horse is Giovanni Canaletto, but he missed Lingfield on Saturday due to a temperature. My understanding is that he figures at the top, if not very near the top, of the Derby shortlist. John F Kennedy did not handle the soft ground on his return and with the going at York currently good to soft it will need to dry out for him to run. It was interesting to hear O’Brien put Ol’ Man River forward for this race following his poor effort in the Guineas, especially as I have him down as a doubtful stayer.

The market is currently headed by Jack Hobbs, a giant of a horse who was raised 24lb after making a nonsense of his 85-rating in a handicap at Sandown. He may be joined by stable-companion Golden Horn, who would need to be supplemented for the Derby, with Elm Park setting the standard.

If forced to nominate a selection for the Derby at this stage I would probably find myself siding with Elm Park, who bypassed the Guineas due to the fast ground. He does not do anything very spectacularly, but he’s very tough and given the uncertainty over his rivals he looks cast-iron for the frame. A victory in the Dante Stakes would see him shoot to the head of the market.

Bye for now
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