Racing expert Tony Calvin previews the Derby at Epsom on Saturday and explains why he believes Aidan O'Brien's runner is the one to back in a wide open field...
"Regardless of what the weather throws at us, Shogun rates the best bet in an incredibly open renewal at 50.049/1..."
I have been banging the Shogun Derby drum for a while now and the beat will be getting louder the more the ground dries out on in the next 36 hours or so. But, regardless of what the weather throws at us, I think he rates the best bet in an incredibly open renewal at 50.049/1 in the big one at 16:30.
The first thing that I would say is that you should let no-one put you off whatever you fancy in the race, not even the total rag Biodynamic at 200-1+. The race is full of question marks from top to bottom, and no result would shock me.
It's a good job I am saying that as Shogun - 66-1 with one bookmaker when I started writing this column at 5:30 am on Friday morning - is second to only Biodynamic in the outsider stakes, but I am simply not having that as an accurate reflection of his chances.
How he could be priced up at over six times the price of 10-1 shot Moonlight Magic, for example, with the unnamed layer above totally baffles me. But we will get to that. Let's have a look at the horse's profile first.
He wasn't one of the top workers in the Aidan O'Brien two-year-old factory last season but he was still beaten less than two lengths in the Lagardere, in which he was hot on the heels of a couple of subsequent Group 1 winners, including Galileo Gold no less, despite not being seen to best effect, though several in that race can claim the same in-running hardships.
Crucially, that run came on quick ground at Longchamp - it was faster than the official description of good there - and his efforts on rain-softened ground at the Breeders' Cup and on his reappearance in a thunderstorm-hit Craven Stakes are easily forgiven because of the going.
But he gave a big hint of what he was capable of in the Derrinstown last month, when he was upped in trip and encountering better ground, as he shaped very well to finish one-and-a-quarter lengths second to Moonlight Magic, with Idaho half a length away in third and subsequent Gallinule winner Beacon Rock a short head away in fourth.
Go and look at the video of that race and tell me why there is such a discrepancy in price between the winner and the second, as Moonlight Magic got first run on a closing Shogun.
The key to that improved performance from the selection was the step up to 1m2f on good ground, with the blinkers off.
Of course, many will look at his 11 length fifth in the Irish Guineas last time as a big negative to his chances. But he was never going to be seen to best effect back over 1m and pretty deep ground, with the blinkers re-fitted, though he was staying on at the end of the race, unsurprisingly.
No, what this horse wants is the headgear off - they put the blinkers on the horse to concentrate his mind and try and making him more competitive over shorter trips, but apparently he may not face them as well as he might - a greater test of stamina, and decent ground. He gets the first two on Saturday afternoon, and hopefully the third.
There isn't much doubt in my mind that tackling 1m4f for the first time will bring about more improvement - he is a full-brother to last year's Oaks winner Qualify, for starters - and I view the booking of the trainer's son, Donnacha O'Brien, as a positive, whereas many may see it as a negative.
The youngster may lack experience - and this is only his fourth ride in England, and his first at Epsom - but he has impressed some good judges in Ireland this season, and I very much doubt that his father is going to put him up on a no-hoper on his first Derby ride, let alone put on a pacemaker as some have suggested.
I hope not anyway, as I have probably had far too much on the horse already.
Back Shogun at 50.049/1 or bigger in the Derby
For the rest of my Saturday Racing Tips please follow the link.