THE Investec Derby (4.30pm) is the absolute pinnacle for any racehorse. The unique contours of Epsom Downs put demands on a three-year-old thoroughbred like no other course on the planet.
This race has been dominated by one man in recent years, Aidan O’Brien, who is certain to go down as one of the greatest trainers of all time.
The master of Ballydoyle became the first handler to win the Derby for three consecutive years 12 months ago when Australia took the crown, ridden by his son Joseph.
That is a truly extraordinary achievement and he is firing three bullets at this year’s renewal with Giovanni Canaletto, Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro.
There has been serious money for the former over the past few days – he was 16/1 on Sunday but is now no bigger than 7/1 after Ryan Moore was confirmed that he would take the mount.
He is probably the number one contender for Ballydoyle, but has still only won a maiden from three starts and I’m not prepared to back him now when his price was so much bigger earlier in the week.
In truth, O’Brien’s trio don’t look hugely strong and the leading Irish contender for the past few weeks had been Zawraq for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen.
It’s a real shame that one had a late setback and was pulled out, as it would have been fascinating to see if he stayed.
So the stage looks set for someone else to take the limelight and, if the bookies are correct, the man to step up is John Gosden.
The trainer landed his first Derby with Benny The Dip back in 1997 and ever since he fired in a one-two in last month’s Dante Stakes at York, he’s been a short price to make it number two tomorrow.
Golden Horn was the impressive winner at York, but he wasn’t entered for this race and had to be supplemented at a cost of £75,000 by his owner-breeder Sir Anthony Oppenheimer, who still has doubts about his colt’s ability to stay this 1m4f trip.
If he stays he’ll probably win, but there are question marks and I’m not willing to take the 6/4 with Betway to find out.
The one who appeals at the prices is his stablemate JACK HOBBS, who was beaten at York but finished his race off well and has since worked impressively at Epsom’s Breakfast with the Stars event.
He’s undoubtedly still learning the game, and the way he hung slightly left in the Dante is a worry, yet this looks to be a serious horse and tomorrow could be the day he shows his true potential.
Gosden has warned that if the ground is too quick he’ll pull him out, but there is rain forecast today and if it doesn’t arrive I’m sure clerk of the course Andrew Cooper will water after racing this evening.
There probably isn’t much between the two, but at 9/2 with Betway, Jack Hobbs has to be the call.
JACK HOBBS 4.30pm Epsom (tomorrow)