Thistle Bird to get punters off to a flyer in the opener

 
Bill Esdaile
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BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS TODAY’S OTHER RACES AND LOOKS AHEAD TO TOMORROW’S INVESTEC DERBY

INVESTEC Oaks day starts with the Group Three Princess Elizabeth Stakes (1.35pm) and only one of the 10 entries has ever run on this unique course. That was Beatrice Aurore who finished sixth in the 2011 Oaks behind Dancing Rain.

She is now under the care of Ed Dunlop and with the returning Frankie Dettori booked she has to be respected. However, I’d expect her to come on for the run and am happy to look elsewhere on this occasion.

It’s been a few years since Paul Cole had a really top class horse, but Gifted Girl looked pretty special at Ascot last time. That was only a handicap, though, and she is going to have to improve against this opposition.

I was a little disappointed with Starscope in the Middleton Stakes a couple of weeks ago, although the combination of the drop in trip and the return of the hood could see her in a better light. Her quirkiness could be her downfall at this track and I would prefer to stick with a more solid contender.

The one with the fewest questions to answer is Roger Charlton’s THISTLE BIRD and she should take all the beating. She looked as though she needed the run when finishing third behind Dank and Chigun at Newmarket on Guineas day in the Dahlia Stakes.

She got very tired that day, but the form was franked at the Curragh on Saturday when Chigun dotted up in another Group Three.

Thistle Bird had some really strong form last season and as long as she settles nicely under James Doyle I think she will have too much for this bunch. She is worth backing at 4/1.

No trainer has their string in better form at the moment than Amanda Perrett and I expect her to continue her recent hot streak and land the Investec Wealth & Investment Handicap (2.10pm) with BLUE SURF.

The four-year-old gelding won on his reappearance last season and I like the fact he has some strong form at Goodwood, which augurs well for him being able to handle this idiosyncratic course.

Pat Dobbs has been riding out of his skin recently, so it’s a bonus that he is in the saddle, while Blue Surf has run well with some juice in the ground and that is looking likely after the weather we’ve had this week.

Dangers abound in a race as competitive as this, none more so than Ralph Beckett’s Niceofyoutotellme who won well at Kempton on his seasonal debut and has snuck in at the bottom of the weights.

Resurge, who won this contest two years ago, is another threat, but he comes here without a prep race and he normally takes a couple of runs to get going.

The Investec Diomed Stakes (2.45pm) has been a minefield for punters in recent years with no winning favourite in the past decade. Gabrial is the current market leader and Richard Fahey’s four-year-old is fitted with a first time visor after his third at Chester over 10 furlongs.

He could go well but I prefer the look of Richard Hannon’s PRODUCER, who is four from four at Epsom, albeit over the shorter trip of seven furlongs.

There is a slight stamina doubt with this son of Dutch Art, as he hasn’t won over a mile, but his ability to hold a position could be vital in this contest. Richard Hughes is the perfect pilot to conserve his energy and although the final furlong might seem awfully long, I fancy them to hold on.

The race that precedes the Oaks is the Investec Mile (3.20pm) which is always run at a furious gallop. I therefore want to be with a guaranteed stayer who can sweep late and fast.

Andrew Balding won this race last year and Benzanno looks as though he has been laid out for it. He’s just a little inconsistent, though, and I’m more interested in the chances of David Simcock’s VAINGLORY.

Now, this needs some explaining as he is a nine-year-old that hasn’t won since October 2011. However, he’s run in this race three times and has never finished out of the places.

He put in an eye-catching performance at Chester last weekend and has dropped to a mark that he can definitely win off. Martin Lane takes the ride and at 14/1 with Coral he looks decent each-way value.

Racing UK TV is the only place to see all 14 races from the Investec Derby Festival and is offering a special four-months-for-half-price offer for City A.M. readers. Please visit www.racinguk.com/fourmonths for more details.

Pointers…

THISTLE BIRD 1.35pm Epsom (today)
BLUE SURF e/w 2.10pm Epsom (today)
PRODUCER 2.45pm Epsom (today)
VAINGLORY e/w 3.20pm Epsom (today)