The Derby – Profiles of the Runners & key trends

The Tissue

The Tissue

His abilities as a jockey, have only been bettered by his Trans-Atlantic swimming attempts.
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THE DERBY RUNNERS

Frankie explains to Ryan how to ride The Derby, while Grand National-winning jockey Marcus Armytage, ponders whether his head has shrunk since Eton.

Racecard No (draw) HORSE NAME (Trainer/Jockey)

1 (5) AMHRAN NA BHFIANN (Aidan O’Brien/William Buick)

Unimpressive debut, (13/16 Curragh – Gold Maze 5th). 3yo career might have some shape, but he was 4th LTO with the first three taking minor honours in the Irish Derby. If you drew him in a sweep and it had prize money down to 5th you might have a surprise.

2 (4) EMISSARY (Hugo Palmer/Jim Crowley)

He’s keeping his powder very dry with just two runs to date. Nothing has gone on to win from his debut and the 4-runner Cocked Hat was a “Who Cares” race. Give him time and he might become Bourgeoise.

3 (1) ENGLISH KING (Ed Walker/Frankie Dettori)

Debut 7th at Newmarket but caught the eye at Newcastle on his 2nd race as a 2yo. Came back this year and took the Lingfield Derby Trial by almost 3l in a decent time. 7l back to the third.  The 2nd in that race was Berkshire Rocco who went on to be 2nd in the Queen’s Vase, which was won by the Irish Derby winner.

4 (16) GOLD MAZE (Jessica Harrington/David Egan)

Jess Harrington obviously rates Gold Maze and she isn’t the type to allow horses to run simply to give the Owners a prestigious badge and a jolly lunch. His last three runs have all been in Group company, The Irish Derby LTO. He ran way too free and was empty at 10f and burned out by 11f. He’ll get the distance and he’ll win races – just not here.

5 (13) HIGHLAND CHIEF (Paul and Oliver Cole/Ben Curtis)

Wins his debut at Newbury, came third to Pinatubo in the 2019 Chesham Stakes and then came a disappointing 6th in the Royal Lodge. That might have been down to an ulcerative condition and is perhaps best ignored. He came back to form at Royal Ascot in one of the new 10f handicaps and picked up an OR of 107. I make him probably 3 lengths shy of standard. He does, however, have a very solid Dosage Index.

6 (11) KAMEKO (Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy)

His form is rock solid with a decent winning debut at Sandown,  followed by a 2nd in the G3 Solario and another 2nd in the Royal Lodge. If you add his losing distances together, it comes to the required social distancing for a brace of ants determined to break the rules. He won the Futurity on Tapeta in a decent time and then won the Guineas, doing just enough to take it comfortably. At the time he went straight into my notebook and I told you to back him ante-post there and then. I thought he’d get the distance, but having dined with a handicapper recently, he kicked my bucket of confidence from under my feet saying unequivocally he was a 10f horse. What do they know?

7 (14) KHALIFA SAT (Andrew Balding/Tom Marquand)

I really don’t get this entry, other than his winning the Cocked Hat, which as I’ve already suggested looked ordinary. I sort of can’t be bothered to tell you any more. So it will probably tun out to be the biggest improver on the card and will become the champion 2023 Stallion. Or not.

8 (7) MAX VEGA (Ralph Beckett/Harry Bentley)

Decent 2yo who began with a second to Kenzai Warrior at Salisbury in September 2019, in a race in which every one of the six runners has since won and between them they have scored 14 times. He’s beaten Miss Yoda (Oaks Trial winner) and Berkshire Rocco, and you could argue that his disappointing 5th in the Classic Trial at Kempton was that he didn’t like the surface, had been off for 8 months and that he’d seen a pink butterfly. The reality is I suspect that he’s not a very imposing horse and may simply need a bit more time to grow into himself. I’d be surprised if he won this, and indeed if he’d take anything above a G3 at this stage. At four, I think he’ll be better. The stats are against me, suggesting he is shortlisted material

9 (2) MOGUL (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore)

Won his second 2yo race, and then won an 8f G2 at Leopardstown. He was 4th in the Futurity having been backed to favouritism all morning, and gave the impression that he needed the run. The notebook said “one to keep on side” and I had a small saver on him in the King Edward VII where he was third and looked flat. I’m wondering whether he’s another late horse or four-year-old in the making.

“Mogul has progressed nicely since Ascot, as we knew he would. It was a big ask doing what we did and bringing him to Ascot first time. He has progressed plenty over the last couple of days and we’re very happy with him. He’s improving every day. He’s always been a lovely colt.”

10 (15) MOHICAN HEIGHTS (David Simcock/Andrea Atzeni)

He was two from two as a juvenile, including a black-type race at Salisbury.  Two from two as a 2yo including a good Listed win at Salisbury beating Berlin Tango into third by 4½l. He ran a blinding finish in the King Edward VII despite not truly liking the GS ground, coming from near last to third. Providing the rain stays away, I think he might be value for a place.

11 (10) MYTHICAL (Aidan O’Brien/James Doyle)

Is this the one, where they were all sitting around the kitchen table and Aidan asked if they had still room for one more on the box fleet coming over? “Well shove on that Mythical, he could do with a blow.” Said the great man…. perhaps. He was reported lame after the Gallinule LTO, he was 6½l adrift of the winner in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud behind Arthur’s Kingdom, he looked miserable in the Zetland before that. Yeah, he needs something Aidan – cos I’m not convinced his head has ever been in it.

12 (3) PYLEDRIVER (William Muir/Martin Dwyer)

Until I saw his King Edward VII race, I was not a fan of Pyledriver, thinking he was one of those in-and-out horses. His debut looked like a very decent race, then he ran like a dead dog at Newbury in the old Washington Singer – but that might have been the Soft ground. Then he got Black type at Haydock over 8f – but on Soft again. So did he need further at Newbury? He was a truly disappointing 7th in the Royal Lodge losing by the length of the Pennines, was 2nd to Berlin Tango at Kempton in the Classic Trial, and then hosed in by 2l from Arthurs Kingdom in the King Edward VII. So he’s Group 2 class, where he might finally have found his distance and he might not like AW or Soft or Newbury. Lots of unanswered questions, but he should be on everyone’s shortlist.

“We could not have been happier with Pyledriver at Ascot and he has come out of the race really well. I said from Ascot that he had to come right back to his best at home [if he is to run at Epsom]. That includes putting weight on and he has done that. We thought Pyledriver was a good horse at the beginning of the year, although because of the season and how it has turned out, we are able to have an Investec Derby runner, something which might not have happened in an ordinary year because he would have to have been supplemented. Martin [Dwyer, jockey] will have a sit on him again on Tuesday morning, but he will just have a normal routine between now and the race. He is fit and healthy, and we will just keep him right. There are one or two very strong horses in the Derby, but he has not done anything wrong. His time was good at Royal Ascot and he has come out of the race well. Everybody is excited, and we are really looking forward to it.”

13 (6) RUSSIAN EMPEROR (Aidan O’Brien/Seamie Heffernan)

Another who makes the cut. An ordinary debut and came into play when second to Aiden’s Cormorant in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, going on to win the 8-runner Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot LTO by ½ length from First Receiver. He had left himself plenty to do entering the straight but stayed on strongly to lead late. While the form is by no means spectacular, the trip shouldn’t be a problem and he looks (and is judged by Timeform as second highest-rated) to have plenty of improvement left in him.

“Russian Emperor will run. He’s progressing all the time and showed a good attitude at Ascot. He’s come out of the race lovely and he’s definitely in the mix with regard to what Ryan might ride.”

14 (12) SERPENTINE (Aidan O’Brien/Emmet McNamara)

An unknown quantity and the addition of cheekpieces LTO helped the penny to drop, with a 9l victory in a 10f Curragh maiden. His breeding suggests the trip won’t be a problem, but while he won, it was what might be considered in a slow time. Noticeably. Perhaps they had two spare stalls on the horsebox.

15 (8) VATICAN CITY (Aidan O’Brien/Padraig Beggy)

He had a decent debut at Newmarket, which has since produced four other winners, and then had an easy victory at Dundalk where he showed marked improvement, and more importantly potential. He ran a hell of a race in the Irish 2000 Gns – especially for a horse just out of maiden company. He tracked the early pace and didn’t really get going until well inside the last. He ran to the line, but the winner Siskin just had a different gear. He’s a Galileo colt so 12f shouldn’t be an issue.

16 (9) WORTHILY (John Gosden/Martin Harley)

I could spin this out and talk about his reputation at home, and the fact that Johnny G is familiar with the family and that he is 12f bred and a brother to Corelli and and and…. Then I could just point out that this is his second-lifetime racecourse visit in three weeks, (yes the absence of a crowd will help), that he won’t get the trip according to his DI and stable jockey Frankie Dettori was freed to ride for another yard last week.

THE DERBY DOSAGE INDEX

Originating in the USA and developed in the early 1980s by Dr Steven Romans, the Dosage Index (DI) is a metric calculated from a horse’s ancestry to quantify the horse’s likely stamina and optimum racing distance. It uses stamina and speed influences from a horse’s bloodlines and produces a dosage index and centre of distribution figure that indicate the likely best trip for a horse. The higher the dosage index and centre of distribution figures, the shorter the predicted best distance for a horse. (If you’re scientifically minded, you can read Steven’s book in PDF format by clicking on the Downloads button above and then the relevant Title.)

This is a massive over-simplification of a complicated subject, but the DI and CD figures are as follows:

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You will understand my fear if this is correct because it clearly suggests that Kameko doesn’t get the trip.

DERBY TRENDS

Let us assume that bar one or two, we could expect the horses to have shown by now, what is expected statistically in a Derby-winning profile, even if only in some moderate measure. I am happy therefore to accept and use the statistic that all 15 of the last 15 Derby winners were rated 108+ on Official Ratings. The same 15/15 had all run over at least a mile, won at 7f and run at Group level. I am applying them in that order and thus get the following shortlist.

KAMEKO – MAX VEGA – MOGUL – PYLEDRIVER – RUSSIAN EMPEROR – VATICAN CITY

My man at the Racing Post also suggests that the drawer is important and it might be statistically worthwhile to remember that in the last 15 years Stalls 1 and 2 have not produced a winner. This I believe has something to do with the crossover dog-leg before the left-hander at the top of the hill. Indeed, Timeform says: “Only 38% of horses (from a sample size of 65) breaking from stall 1 ran to form. Other low draws also fared poorly, with only 40% of horses running to form from stall 2 – the gate from which Mogul, the mount of Ryan Moore, will break.”

I also favour the statistic that 14/15 had run to an RPR (Racing Post Rating) of 112+ (12/15 had run to an RPR of 118+)

KAMEKO [Best RPR 121] – MAX VEGA [Best RPR 108] – PYLEDRIVER [Best RPR 110] – RUSSIAN EMPEROR [Best RPR 111] – VATICAN CITY [Best RPR 113]

I am quite happy to accept that given the troubled preparation time 110+ might be a more sensible approach. But I also note that only KAMEKO has exceeded the profile of a horse rated 118+

As can be seen from the Dosage figures above, there is a big If over KAMEKO staying – but if he does, he wins. The DI gives VATICAN CITY the thumbs-up and his form looks very solid. I can definitely see RUSSIAN EMPEROR getting a podium and the same applies – perhaps more so – to PYLEDRIVER. The question is really whether the King Edward VII was a really decent race with the same being asked of the Hampton Court. MAX VEGA is an anomaly in my book and is squeaking into the discussion on the stats but simply isn’t good enough.

We already have an e/w antepost at 10/1 on KAMEKO. I would now suggest an e/w bet on PYLEDRIVER and add VATICAN CITY and RUSSIAN EMPEROR both to win. Do all four in a combination forecast. If you’re flush do them in a tricast as well.  What could possibly go wrong?

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