IT HAS been an extremely odd build-up to this year’s Investec Derby with contender after contender falling by the wayside. Hopefully, this afternoon’s Dante Stakes (3.15pm) will shed some light on what is a fairly confused picture at present.
John F Kennedy was the ante-post favourite for Epsom glory throughout the winter. He clearly has talent and, if history is anything to go by, Ballydoyle always reserve the best names for their best horses.
But even if a number of Aidan O’Brien’s runners have come on for their first run, his reappearance in the Ballysax Stakes last month, when he was third of three at 1/4, was bitterly disappointing – even if the soft ground wasn’t to his liking.
I’m concerned about his awkward head carriage in particular and am not prepared to back him at 7/2 after that last run.
Jack Hobbs, the current 5/2 favourite with Betway, is difficult to weigh up too. He looked like a world-beater when he hosed up by 12 lengths in a handicap at Sandown last time. He was cut to 16/1 for the Investec Derby after that, but is now as short as 4/1.
He could be a superstar, but he has to prove that yet and he was only winning off a mark of 85 last time. Funnily enough, I’d be slightly more interested in his stablemate Golden Horn, who won the Feilden Stakes last time. However, he’s just 5/1 with Betway and that’s not quite big enough to tempt me.
As a result, I’m sticking with the only Group One winner in the field, ELM PARK, who, as long as the ground doesn’t dry out too much, can prove the best of these today.
Andrew Balding’s stable star rounded off his juvenile season with a commanding win in the Racing Post Trophy. He enjoyed the soft ground that day, but he also won the Royal Lodge on good-to-firm so conditions shouldn’t prove too much of a worry.
The Dante looks the perfect race for him – the Derby may just stretch his stamina slightly – and he has to be the call at 3/1 with Betway.
The Jack Berry House Stakes (2.10pm) kicks off the action on day two and looks like one of those fiendishly difficult York five-furlong handicaps.
Tim Easterby loves nothing more than a winner on the Knavesmire and his horses are in flying form. He saddles SEE THE SUN here and, if he can repeat his effort from last June when beating Naadirr off just a 3lb lower mark, he is going to take the world of beating.
He ran respectably on his seasonal pipe-opener at Ripon and is likely to get a lovely lead from the trailblazing Tangerine Trees down the stands rail.
This doesn’t look a great race and he has both the speed for five furlongs but also the stamina to see it out. He should be backed at around the 7/1 mark.
SEE THE SUN e/w 2.10pm York
ELM PARK 3.15pm York