Are you ready for Derby Day?
The Epsom Derby is one of the most prestigious events on the flat racing calendar, and all the talk is around Aidan O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior, the hot favourite bidding to win this year’s Triple Crown. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Derby, as well as a look at some of the other runners and riders who could yet spoil the party for O’Brien.
When and where?
The Derby takes place at 4:30PM on Saturday 02 June at Epsom Downs racecourse in Surrey. It is the showcase race in a two day festival at Epsom, with Ladies Day taking place on 01 June. Derby Day itself will see seven races run – gates open at 11AM and the final race starts at 5:50PM. Tickets are still available and start at just £12.50 per person.
Saxon Warrior and the Triple Crown
The Derby is the most prestigious of the three races that comprise the Triple Crown, and in Saxon Warrior, there is the feeling that Aidan O’Brien might, at last, have that truly spectacular horse that he has been waiting for. When the three year old won the 2000 Guineas, the talk began – but this is no mere wistfulness, and those planning on placing a bet for next weekend will see that Saxon Warrior is odds on favourite with every single bookmaker. You have to go back almost 50 years to see the last Triple Crown winner – that was Nijinsky, ridden by Lester Piggot and trained by Aidan O’Brien’s namesake, Vincent O’Brien.
Could Roaring Lion spoil the party?
There are some in the media who are calling this year’s Derby a foregone conclusion, but that is a dangerous attitude to take in horseracing. Trainer John Gosden confirmed last week that Roaring Lion will run at the Derby following his stellar performance at the Dante Stakes. Bookmakers immediately promoted the horse to second favourite in the betting odds – most are offering odds of around 5/1 or 11/2.
Saxon Warrior has had the best of their previous meetings – in last year’s Racing Post Trophy, there was nothing between the horses, and Saxon Warrior ultimately won by a neck, while when they met again in this year’s 2000 Guineas, Roaring Lion came in a disappointing fifth.
Nevertheless, Gosden is quietly optimistic that his horse has what it takes, and told reporters: "He is in great form and I hope he can get involved with Saxon Warrior."
Any dark horses worth watching?
Everyone loves a dark horse, and racing fans will be aware that last year’s Derby was won by rank outsider Wings of Eagles, a 40/1 being ridden by a journeyman jockey. While most of the attention will be on Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion, which are the other horses that might be worth a punt, or perhaps a strategic each-way bet?
The news that Frankie Dettori will ride Hazapour has sent both race fans and bookies into something of a tailspin, and odds into freefall. Suddenly, the bookies are quoting Hazapour as short as 12/1 as they see a real chance of a fairy tale outcome at Epsom. It will be Dettori’s first ride for the Aga Khan since 2003, and will renew a relationship that started 30 years ago, when the jockey was just 17.
Last year’s 40/1 shot was from the O’Brien stable. Could history repeat itself? If so, look no further than Nelson. The horse ran well to win at Leapordstown last month in the Ballysax, and although he had a bad day at the office last time out at the same course, the Derby could play to his strengths. Definitely worth an each-way wager.