Kevin Blake kicks off the Epsom Derby meeting with two tips for Friday's card including a three-time course winner and one that's worth backing at a huge price...
"Save A Forest has quietly progressed with each run, winning a fillies’ handicap at Windsor off a mark of just 79 as recently as April, but it is her most recent run in the Lingfield Oaks Trial that makes her interesting."
The Derby meeting is here! For over 200 years, this meeting has been one of the most important in the world of Flat racing and it remains one of the great occasions in our sport.
It kicks off on Friday with the Oaks card and the first race of interest on the day is the Coral 'Beaten By A Length' Free Bet Handicap (14:35).
Espinado deserves more respect at Epsom
It goes without saying that Epsom is a very unorthodox track and horses that are proven around it warrant respect when they return there, so it is slightly surprising to see the market being so dismissive of the chance of the Simon Dow-trained Corazon Espinado.
The six-year-old has run in handicaps at Epsom on eight occasions, winning three times, finishing second twice, third on another occasion and failed to stay the mile-and-a-quarter trip on another.
While his draw in the widest stall isn't ideal for one that likes to push forward and often makes the running, it might not be a big problem as there looks to be plenty of other pace in the race and a wide draw might allow him to find a favourable slot in behind the leaders without getting dragged into a pace duel.
He has had a slight freshen up since his last run and his connections are likely to have had an eye on this race given his record at the track. He looks a big price at 14/1 and a big run from him would not surprise.
Save A Forest has lot going for her at a huge price
The Cazoo Oaks (16:30) poses a similar conundrum that the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket did due to the presence of the Aidan O'Brien-trained Santa Barbara at the head of the market.
While we have more evidence in front of us following her fine fourth in the 1000 Guineas, significant unknowns and indeed concerns about her ability to handle this idiosyncratic track and stay this much longer trip mean that it isn't a difficult decision to look outside her in search of value.
If I was confined to a more conservative alternative, the Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained Saffron Beach seems overpriced. She finished in front of Santa Barbara when second in the 1000 Guineas and not for the first time shaped as though a longer trip would suit her.
Whether she'll want quite this far is open to question and the probability of her staying can have stones thrown at it when one assesses the female side of her pedigree, but I would consider her as being more likely than not to get the trip. She is a solid alternative to the favourite.
However, my selection is going to be a bit more creative than that. The Roger Varian-trained Save A Forest is currently trading at a huge price of 50/1, but I feel she is far from a forlorn hope.
She has quietly progressed with each run, winning a fillies' handicap at Windsor off a mark of just 79 as recently as April, but it is her most recent run in the Lingfield Oaks Trial that makes her interesting.
The form of that race has been much maligned as it compared very poorly in time terms to the Derby Trial on the same card, but Save A Forest shaped particularly well in finishing a never-nearer second having coming from an unfavoured position on ground that was almost certainly softer than ideal for her. As well as that, she handled the undulations of Lingfield well on that occasion which bodes well for her prospects of handling this track.
The likelihood of a sounder surface, stronger pace and greater emphasis on stamina will all be in her favour and while she needs to take a giant step forward to get in the mix, it could well be a chance worth taking at a huge price.
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