It was 100-30 the field yesterday for next Saturday’s Epsom Derby and that tells you all you need to know about the open nature of this Classic.
The old rule of thumb used to be that if you had more than one Derby horse in reality you had none, but, of course, Aidan O’Brien has long since debunked that theory.
O’Brien has numerous contenders and it will be interesting to see how many darts he finally fires at the board.
The most fascinating possibility of all, arguably, is his twice-raced and unbeaten Camelot colt, Sir Dragonet, who will have to be supplemented to run.
You’d imagine he has not been easy to train and was unraced as a two-year-old.
He made his debut in a 12-furlong maiden at Tipperary on April 25 and it seems Ballydoyle had little notion of the machine they were bringing to the races.
He went off at 14-1, with O’Brien also supplying the favourite, 4-5 shot King Pellinor.
Sir Dragonet hardly broke sweat, quickening away in the straight to put 15 rivals to the sword for a clearcut success.
He then stepped way up on that effort in the Group 3 Chester Vase, slamming his apparently better-fancied stable-companion, Norway, by eight lengths.
What makes Sir Dragonet so interesting is that he would not be the first horse to score at big odds and then subsequently develop into a top-class performer.
Perhaps, the best example of all is the dual Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner, Alleged, who was trained by Vincent O’Brien. As a three-year-old he won the Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh at 33-1.
Another excellent example is the mighty Vintage Crop, the first horse from the northern hemisphere to win the Melbourne Cup in 1993.
Trained by Dermot Weld, he made his debut at Thurles on October 17, 1991, in a two-mile race on the Flat.
Mick Kinane was stable jockey at the time and he rode another of Weld’s, the 3-1 shot Padiord, who finished 12th.
Meanwhile up ahead Vintage Crop was bounding clear in the hands of Pat Shanahan, scoring by eight lengths at 20-1.
Will O’Brien, and ‘the lads’’ decide to supplement Sir Dragonet? The indications on Tuesday were that they will, which surprised this observer. I would have wagered they wouldn’t, on the basis all the evidence is he is a soft-ground horse, highly unlikely to get such conditions at Epsom, and they don’t really need to anyway.
Until we know for sure just what O’Brien is going to run in the Derby there is no point in predicting the outcome.
That said it does seem Anthony Van Dyck and Broome will be very much to the forefront of his charge.
Anthony Van Dyck showed no signs of stopping when landing the mile and a half Derby Trial at Lingfield,
though he may not have beaten much.
Broome won the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial in good style at Leopardstown and shapes as a thorough stayer.
Mind you I’m told he wouldn’t beat the local cat on the Ballydoyle gallops!
Another well worth a second glance is the Kevin Prendergast-trained Madhmoon.
One might have thought the Irish 2000 Guineas would be his target, following a highly creditable fourth behind Magna Grecia in the Newmarket equivalent, but Prendergast had no hesitation nominating the Derby as the way to go.
The problem is will Madhmoon stay?
His dam, Aaraas, only won once in 13 outings and that was over six furlongs at Navan.
His sire is Dawn Approach, who won the 2000 Guineas of 2013 at Newmarket and was essentially a high-class miler.
On the credit side, however, is the fact Dawn Approach’s daddy, New Approach, won the Epsom Derby in 2008.
Madhmoon certainly looked as if he was crying out for a longer trip at Newmarket, but whether an extra four furlongs is called for remains to be seen.
Bottom line is it will take a few more days before we can contemplate having a punt.
Aidan O’Brien continues to make the right noises about Capri and seems to still see him as an Ascot Gold Cup horse.
On his best form, Capri is a top-notcher, having won an Irish Derbv, English St Leger and taking a solid fifth behind Enable in last year’s Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe.
But if the magic man can get this lad to win the Ascot Gold Cup, I’ll give up punting for a month.
Capri has developed into a right sourpuss. He made his seasonal debut, under Ryan Moore, in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan last month and never went a yard when fifth behind no-hoper, Master Of Reality.
Partnered with restraint then, Donnacha O’Brien took over at Leopardstown eight days ago in the Saval Beg Stakes.
On this occasion, Capri was allowed stride along from the start and looked a happy bunny for a lot of the mile and six-trip.
But when O’Brien asked him to go and win his race early in the straight, Capri basically downed tools and was a well beaten third behind Twilight Payment and Falcon Eight at the line.
You’d imagine the Dermot Weld-trained Kiss For A Jewel has a decent future, even if she did get overhauled late and beaten a neck into second by Ger Lyons’ Kaftan in a maiden at Naas last Sunday.
The daughter of Kingman did just about everything right through the one-mile contest, but was mugged by a marginally better rival on the day.
Kiss For A Jewel will surely improve as the campaign progresses and it is worth noting that her pedigree screams she needs cut in the ground. It was a fast surface at Naas.
She is regally bred, by Kingman out of Sapphire.
Kingman was a brilliant horse, winning seven of his eight races.
He scored four times at Group 1 level and basically went on any ground. Kingman was seriously effective when getting his toe in, however, taking the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh, on soft to heavy, by five lengths.
Sapphire used to be trained by Weld and won six of her 11 races. An admirable filly, the softer the ground the better she was.
It’s terrific Too Darn Hot runs in this afternoon’s Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh and, trained by a master of his profession, John Gosden, he is entitled to the utmost respect.
But I am a massive fan of Magna Grecia and will be very disappointed, and a trifle poorer, if he fails to cope with the overseas challenger.