Epsom Derby and Oaks

Tony Calvin: Saturday's Derby is all about Eydon so I'll just have to sit and wait

Betfair Tipster Tony Calvin

"And there is little doubt that Eydon will be a lot better suited by going back up in trip. Whether he quite wants 1m4f, or the shorter distance of the French Derby, I guess we will hear soon enough."

Tony Calvin takes an early look at Saturday's Derby, but the one he fancies most at the prices might not even be a runner, so our man is sitting on his betting hands for now...

The Derby field lost five (well, six if you include the Queen) and gained two on Monday, and we are now down to 18 possible runners on Saturday.

In alphabetical order, Buckaroo, Lysander, Ivy League, Sir Bob Parker and United Nations were taken out at midday, while Nations Pride and no-hoper El Habeeb were supplemented.

However, it is well worth noting that Guineas fourth Eydon and Dee Stakes winner Star Of India still hold an entry in the French Derby, so you may be best off holding fire there if you like that pair, and keep 'em peeled for updates.

Right, that is the entry housekeeping out of the way, and now for the going update.

Ideal ground a possibility

The current description is good (good to soft in places) and that is probably ideal, as hopefully that takes the dreaded watering option out of the equation.

I think the clerk of the course Andrew Cooper would love nature to provide him with that going assessment on Friday morning ahead of the two-day meeting - no watering is planned for Monday or Tuesday but apparently "the situation is being kept under review during the week" - and with an unsettled forecast, particularly up until Wednesday, I imagine it will.

I cannot believe that they will (or have to) water myself, given that the two sites I use both predict a fair bit of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday (around 8mm in total, maybe more), if those forecasts are accurate.

Yes, I know.

If.

Eydon the pick at the prices... if he turns up

Anyway, I have already nailed my colours to the Oaks mast with my 66/1 ante-post each way selection Moon De Vega - and every time I watch her run at Chester the closer she gets to the front two in my mind, so I think the 33s with the Sportsbook (and 40+ on the exchange) remains fair value - so I will concentrate on the Derby in this piece.

It was a bit frustrating to read that a decision on the aforementioned Eydon's participation will still not be made until Tuesday as he is the horse I have liked for the race - at his price obviously - ever since his fourth at Newmarket.

I have been nibbling away at him on the exchange, but only to small stakes (because of the running doubts) - he is currently trading at 32.031/1 - and I'd be pretty happy siding with him at 20+1 if and when he gets the green light for Epsom.

To be honest, I am not totally sold on the strength of the Guineas form as it has been largely untested since.

But at least what we have seen has been acceptable. And possibly a touch more than that.

The runner-up Native Trail has come out and won the Irish Guineas, the eighth Royal Patronage has finished second to Desert Crown in the Dante, the 11th Wizard Of Eye was beaten 9 ½ lengths in the German Guineas, and the 13th Boundless Ocean was a badly-hampered third in the Gallinule.

And there is little doubt that Eydon will be a lot better suited by going back up in trip. Whether he quite wants 1m4f, or the shorter distance of the French Derby, I guess we will hear soon enough.

He came back to a mile to contest the Guineas after impressing in a 3 1/2-length defeat of Masekela over 1m1f in the Feilden, a race in which he poured it on late, and his pedigree gives you hope 1m4f may be within his compass.

His sire Olden Times was best at 1m2f but some of his best offspring have been stayers (notably Doncaster Cup winner Times Up ) and he is out of a Frankel mare.

Reading between the lines, I reckon they may go to France, but we can only sit on our betting hands for now.

Confidence behind Crown but I prefer Stone Age at current prices

The market tells you as much but there seems to be a gathering, infectious confidence behind Desert Crown, and he really did ooze class when winning the Dante. And I genuinely believe that connections were surprised by how impressive he was there considering they had left a lot to work on fitness-wise, as he had had a minor setback some weeks previously.

But he is just 2.89/5 now - and shorter still at 13/8 on the fixed-odds front - and I don't see there is that much scope for him to shorten further before Saturday.

As his price has hardened, everything else has lengthened, and none more so than second favourite Stone Age, matched as low as 3.55/2 after his 5 ½-length Leopardstown defeat of Glory Daze but now nearly double the price at 5.95/1.

I have a lot of time for the horse, and would just about prefer him of the top two in the betting at the current exchange odds, but maybe the time to get with him is after the final field is known just after 10am on Thursday, and when the enhanced each-way terms enter the fray.

I doubt you will get five places, even with 16 runners, but you will get four. And every little helps when you are dealing with lightly-raced unexposed colts ready to spring forward.

Two possible trading angles

You can fully see why Nations Pride has been supplemented, even if the cost would be a drop in the ocean for his owner.

I must admit I had totally forgotten just how good he was when beating Hoo Ya Mal by 7 lengths at Newmarket - he didn't really appear on the Epsom radar again until the work morning chat there last week - but his pedigree suggests he does have questions to answer on the stamina front.

I wouldn't be in a mad rush to lay him at 12.011/1 mind you. You could be filling your trousers 2f out on Saturday.

Outside of Stone Age, Aidan O'Brien looks set to rely on guaranteed stayer Changingoftheguard at the weekend and he powered home to win over an extended 1m4f in the Chester Vase on soft ground.

The form is perhaps questionable, with the second, 4/11 chance New London, seemingly underperforming, but the time gives it some substance, and you can expect another aggressive ride from the front if you fancy him.

Maybe he is the trading angle of the race, but maybe that is already factored into his price of around 12/1 on the exchange? No massive opinion either way, if truth be told.

Question marks as to how much depth to the race

I am not sure how much depth this race has, outside of the numbers, as it is striking how many of those beaten out of sight in the trials are willing to re-oppose. And seemingly without much chance of turning things around.

The likes of Royal Patronage, Glory Daze, Masekela, Sonny Liston and Hoo Ya Mal would appear to have little chance of avenging their trial defeats with the opposing winners, while Blue Riband Trial second Grand Alliance (beaten ½ length by Nahanni) has a mountain to find form-wise.

And the horse the touted Walk Of Stars came second to in the Lingfield Derby Trial, United Nations, was taken out of the race on Monday.

If you are backing that Godolphin horse at 20.019/1 you are buying into the fact that this bruiser has learned a great deal from Lingfield, a race in which he looked an awkward so-and-so, and perhaps hoping lightning will strike twice after Adayar stepped forward markedly from defeat in that race last season to win the Derby 4 ½ lengths.

Epsom Oaks Aidan O'Brien 1280 .jpg

There is a lot of positive chat around Donnacha O'Brien's Ballysax winner Piz Badile but I can't get excited by the bare form of that Leopardstown victory, even at an inflated 12/1 on the exchange (9s fixed odds).

Nottingham winner (second and fourth beaten in novice company since) West Wind Blows is another talented, unbeaten guess-up. He is currently the same price as Eydon on the exchange and I wouldn't mind a non-runner, money-back evens match bet on the Roger Varian colt.

A watching brief is needed for Dee Stakes winner Star Of India given that French option - that is why he is available at 28.027/1 - and that leaves me with only one other to mention.

We haven't seen Westover since his short-head win in the Sandown Classic Trial on April 22 but he did well to win there considering he nearly hung his chance away, and he is plausible outsider.

Then again, even his exchange price of 25.024/1 is easy enough to resist given the bridge he has to cross to meet the form horses.

No, for me, this is all about Eydon at the moment.

So I will be very much be on Varian alert on Tuesday as for those running plans.

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