Tony Calvin: Southern Lights to shine in the Epsom Derby

Tony Calvin strongly rates an outsider in the Derby

With plenty of attention at the top end of the market in this year's Epsom Derby, Tony Calvin has found a big priced outsider he likes the look of...

Strip away the name and prestige and I just wonder how many people would have a bet in the Derby if it was just any other race.

The media feel obliged, even obligated - we see it in these nonsense "Five For The Festival" columns in the lead-up to Cheltenham, where some of the authors are a million to be taking their own betting advice - to have an opinion on the biggest races, but just how attractive is the Derby each year from a punting point of view?

It is regularly full of raw, unexposed, very lightly-raced individuals with better days ahead of them, on a track that a fair few won't handle, and there is a definite whiff of the guess-up about finding the winner, an opinion perhaps skewed by recent 40/1 and 25/1 Ballydoyle winners.

I suspect that if this was an everyday conditions race off level weights, I would readily let the race pass by most years.

But, as with the Grand National and the like, no opinion is not really an option in the marquee events.

Mohafeeth: instinct bet

I have already got involved, in fact, having backed Mohafeeth at prices ranging from 12s to 8s after his 1m2f Newmarket Listed race success at the start of May, but that interest pretty much underlines what I wrote above.

It was basically a gut-feel bet in that the form of that race is questionable and untested (none of his three beaten rivals have run since), and he is unproven over 1m4f and in anything approaching this class of event.

But sometimes you have to bet with instinct, as opposed to hard, proven facts, and this will be the driver of most bets in the premier Classic on Saturday. Because we have precious little to go on, if truth be told.

Sure, we all know Bolshoi Ballet is the most likely winner from what we know and have seen going into the race, as his Derrinstown win is head and shoulders the best, or rather most solid, piece of form, for all he has his stamina to prove.

The betting has been screaming that for a while, and the noise has been ratcheted up a few decibels in the last 24 hours as he has been backed into 2.6613/8 on the exchange.

Mmm, I wonder if Ryan Moore is going to ride the hot favourite, or one of his stablemates who is at least five times his price on the exchange?

Tough one that.

It is like being asked to decide between a 13/8 and a 7/1+ chance in a straight, evens match bet, and taking the outsider.

Ryan Moore at Epsom 956.jpg

There is having an opinion and then there is stupidity, however much you really fancy that 7s poke.

Everything in horse racing is about price, and never let anyone tell you otherwise.

The Dante third High Definition is the 8.88/1 second favourite but, like many, I have never had him down as an Epsom horse. His stamina overdrive may kick in late like a Wings Of Eagles but surely his lack of tactical speed on fast ground on this track is going to have him in all sorts of early bother.

And if he is drawn in one of the coffin boxes in one and two, then good luck with that project. He could well win, but not with my cash on him.

The thing that struck me most when going through the entries at the five-day stage again is just how little I fancy in the race at the current prices.

I think MacSwiney is just about the form horse alongside Bolshoi Ballet but you would have to worry about the likely quick ground for him, given all his form has come on testing ground, but I suppose the price is compensating for that to a large degree now he is 11/1 and drifting on the exchange.

So let's look at this logically.

The market and the form book is telling us the Derrinstown is the key piece of form coming into the race.

Outsider in the market interests me

The 6-length winner Bolshoi Ballet is around a 13/8 chance, the fourth MacSwiney has come out and won the Irish 2000 Guineas - admittedly the fifth did little for the form when fourth in the Gallinule - and we have an unlucky horse in sixth who re-opposes here.

Step forward Southern Lights at 60.059/1 on the exchange.

If you go back and look at the Derrinstown, you surely have to conclude that he would have finished second there had the door not been shut on him when he was making his run up the inner at the furlong pole.

A distant second admittedly, but he possibly would have got within 4 lengths of the winner at a push.

And, for a horse having only his third start, that was a very promising run.

He also looks like a horse who looks set to improve markedly over 1m4f, as he doesn't do anything quickly over 1m2f.

He only got up top in the closing stages when winning his (admittedly slowly-run) maiden over 1m2f at Leopardstown in April (the runner-up has run once since and won his maiden by 5 lengths) and Declan McDonagh was at him again early enough last time, too.

Perhaps they will try and ride him more prominently here (he made the running when second on his debut over 7f), if he has the early gas, but I think he is a stayer, for all his pedigree gives mixed messages on that front, and he will surely be ridden to finish off his race.

Sea The Stars is a big stamina influence and this horse's run-style has 1m4f written all over it.

The likely quick ground, unless they really hammer on the water, is an unknown (Timeform had his maiden win as coming on good to soft) but apparently connections don't have any concerns on that score, and he has operated perfectly well on good. And it is currently good (good to firm in places) at the moment anyway.

There are two ways to play this bet.

You can back him win-only at 60.059/1 on the exchange - I would happily take ten points lower there if you are looking for a guide price - or 40/1 each-way with the Betfair Sportsbook, three places.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that you will get four, maybe five places, come the weekend, so the win-only play on the exchange at the bigger price is the way to go.

I'll leave Saturday's card there.

Good luck.

Tony Calvin's P/L

2021 FLAT SEASON (started April 14)

Staked: 65pts
Returns: 125.91pts
P/L: +60.91pts

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