Tony Calvin on the Epsom Oaks and Derby: Open feel to both Classics

Epsom racecourse
The packed crowds will be watching the Oaks and Derby at Epsom this weekend

Both the Epsom Oaks on Friday and Derby on Saturday have an open feel to them says Tony Calvin who gives his early thoughts on this week's Classics...

"I expect Aidan O'Brien's Peach Tree, perhaps the under--rated filly in here, and Lavender's Blue to be on my radar should they get declared on Wednesday morning and a decent berth."

The second round of Classics appear to have come around very quickly this year, and the market seems pretty confident that the winner of Friday's Oaks will come from either Mehdaayih or Pink Dogwood.

Even at the best prices of 5/2 and 3/1 in the marketplace, which are mirrored on the exchange, they take out nearly 54% of the book, and I think this looks a more open race than that.

A lot more.

Correct favourite but the juice has gone

I definitely agree that Mehdaayih is the right favourite, though.

She was 8/1 in the immediate aftermath of her Cheshire Oaks romp, where she had the clock-watchers and sectionals jobbies purring (well, they were after strutting their stuff on the video analysis) as she powered to a 4½-length defeat of seasonal debutante Manuela De Vega and Fanny Logan on soft ground.

The visual impression was backed up by the time, and the quicker ground is not expected to be a concern for her, as she beat the Chester third on quick ground as a juvenile.

The issue, as ever, is that her price has gone south ever since, and surely all the juice has been squeezed out of her at around 5/2.

Her stablemate Anapurna was no less impressive when winning from Tauteke at Lingfield in the soft too, and her pedigree gives you plenty of hope that the expected better ground won't be a problem.

Incidentally, the ground at Epsom is currently good with a largely settled week ahead, so Andrew Cooper may decide on a bit of watering at some stage if it remains dry (he chucked a bit on last Friday, apparently).

Questionable form for Dogwood

The second market principal is Pink Dogwood, and she was well backed for this race, it seems, before her reappearance win at Navan.

She did it snugly enough there over 1m2f and the extra 2f could well suit this Camelot filly but she looks plenty short enough given the questionable strength of her form going into the Classic.

There is no doubt that Hermosa would leap to short-priced favouritism if connections have a change of heart and they decide to come here instead of the French Oaks, as she is streets ahead of this field in terms of class after what we saw of her at the Curragh on Sunday and this Galileo filly had always been thought of as a middle-distance filly.

Before presumably showing a lot more speed at home before Newmarket, that is.

She looks a professional, tough filly and I'd be tempted to go to Epsom with her myself, given her outstanding form claims, but France is the current plan. I also assume Irish 1,000 Guineas Iridessa fourth will be giving this Classic a swerve, as well.

A couple on my radar if they get declared

Connections of Manuela De Vega are making positive noises about her coming on a good deal for her Chester run - and she did shape well there when thought badly in need of the outing - but it is quite hard to see her turning that form around, and another filly at the top of the market, Maqsad, has her stamina to prove after a hugely taking win over 1m2f at Newmarket last time.

I'll keep my Oaks powder dry until Thursday afternoon when we will know everything we need to, especially the draw, but I expect Aidan O'Brien's Peach Tree, perhaps the under--rated filly in here, and Lavender's Blue to be on my radar should they get declared on Wednesday morning and a decent berth.

The latter looks certain to be, as Silvestre De Sousa is already jocked up, and I can see this daughter of Sea The Stars really stepping forward for the extra 2f. She will need to after that Newbury defeat last time, but the potential is certainly there on just her third start.

Expect Dragonet to drift during the week

There were no surprises in Monday's five-day Derby decs at midday - I don't think anyone was seriously expecting Sir Dragonet and Telecaster not to be supplemented - where O'Brien is responsible for eight of the 15 horses left in (six came out).

The aforementioned Sir Dragonet has a very similar profile to that of the Oaks favourite in that his price has steadily gone downhill ever since his wide-margin Chester Vase win in a good time.

He is undoubtedly a colt of huge promise but, unlike Mehdaayih, he is unproven on anything other than soft ground. He may improve for it, but it is an unknown and his Chester win wasn't totally without blemish, as he couldn't go the early pace there.

If he cannot at Epsom, then he could be trading at double-figures in the blink of an eye. I think he could be a drifter from his current exchange price of 4.1 throughout the week, too.

Telecaster has made giant strides since beaten by subsequent Sandown Classic Trial winner Bangkok when a 20/1 chance in a 1m2f Doncaster maiden in March and he looked the part when beating Too Darn Hot in the Dante last time, with Surfman and Japan well beaten off in third and fourth, with Line Of Duty a bitterly disappointing seventh.

I couldn't put anyone off him - indeed, both of the Classics have a very winnable and open feel to them - but it wouldn't be the biggest surprise were Surfman or Japan (incredibly weak in the market at York) get a lot nearer to him on Saturday.

O'Brien pair to be feared

The two that I like most at the top of the market are the O'Brien pair of trial winners Broome and Anthony Van Dyck - the former is my idea of the most solid each-way play in the race, as it stands - but, as I hinted above, I wouldn't be in a mad rush to put a line through anything in here.

And, as we know, anybody drawing the dreaded stall one over 1m4f has a hell of a lot of history to overcome, so Thursday's live draw will actually be meaningful for once.

As it my MO, I do have an outsider that I am considering but I may as well keep that under my chapeau until Friday.

Until then, best of luck and I'll be back on Thursday.

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