Wait for O’Brien to solve Derby mystery

TWO weeks to the Epsom Derby and the mystery continues.

The mystery centres on how St Nicholas Abbey is still such a short-priced favourite, despite the fact two of his stable companions, Midas Touch and Cape Blanco, have produced far better trials.

The money this week came for Midas Touch and there is no doubt that was a reality and not just a figment of the imagination of some bookmaker’s agent attempting to pull the wool over an unsuspecting public’s eyes.

But, it seems it simply doesn’t matter who backs what, there is to be no extending of the price of St Nicholas Abbey and you could not beat 2-1 this week.

It is really amazing and is completely based on the love that both Aidan O’Brien and Johnny Murtagh have for the horse.

He really must be something else entirely on those Ballydoyle gallops. The fact of the matter is that St Nicholas Abbey was only a poor sixth behind Makfi in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The bottom line is that if anyone else bar O’Brien had him then the son of Montjeu could be as high as 10-1 for the Derby.

Ballydoyle’s Midas Touch then goes and puts up a fine performance at Leopardstown, and Cape Blanco lands the Dante at York. Yet, O’Brien and Murtagh are adamant St Nicholas Abbey remains the number one.

And that’s why this Derby remains a puzzle. I loved Cape Blanco in the Dante and am bursting to back him. But would I even get a run? It appears he isn’t the soundest of horses and the fact Ladbrokes are leading the charge looking to lay him immediately stops you in your tracks.

Midas Touch seems a particularly solid horse and the way he came home at Leopardstown, off a strong pace, would indicate that the trip will be the least of his worries at Epsom.

I think it’s a bit of a struggle to be overly optimistic regarding the likes of Bullet Train and Azmeel.

Bullet Train won a modest trial at Lingield, apparently surprising trainer, Henry Cecil, a bit in the process.

Azmeel scrambled to victory in the Dee Stakes at Chester, with less than a length covering the first three.

When you consider that Ballydoyle’s less then enthusiastic Encompassing was fifth then that tells you just about all you need to know about the form.

Aidan O’Brien hasn’t won the Derby since High Chaparral in 2002 and an interesting statistic to emerge this week is that he has saddled 33 losers in the race in the meantime.

You would have to think he’s an odds-on shot to put that to bed this time round, but until we know precisely what way O’Brien is going to deal the cards then you’d be nuts to play!

lTHE growing love affair with Paco Boy across channel shows no sign of abating and many of the layers have now bought into the horse and he heads the market for the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.

He’s been impressive twice this season, at Sandown and Newbury. Paco Boy was very good at Newbury last Saturday, moving his trainer, Richard Hannon, to tears.

One has a feeling, however, that if tears are shed at Ascot then they may well be for very different reasons!

Paco Boy has enjoyed two relatively easy touches thus far and taking on Rip Van Winkle and brilliant filly, Goldikova, is going to represent an altogether different test.

After all Rip Van Winkle slammed Paco Boy by two and a half lengths in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last season and did run Sea The Stars to a length in the Eclipse at Sandown. Come the day here’s one willing to bet Rip Van Winkle will go off favourite!

lWHAT brilliance, God bless them, was shown by the odds compilers at Navan last Sunday morning.

The focus of attention was a six furlongs two-year-old maiden, which had the perfect eight runners for each-way backers.

Some of the compilers felt that 6-1 was a fair price about Purple Glow, even though she was 13lbs better in with hot-pot Catalpa Sail for a beating of a head and six lengths at Leopardstown.

Now I know that 13lbs included Ronan Whelan’s 7lbs claim, but it still gave Jim Bolger’s filly a fighting chance.

In the end, she had more than a fighting chance, beating Catalpa Sail by a length and a half at odds of 7-2. Morning-prices remain the punter’s greatest friend!

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