The colts’ race has a field of eight runners but the drawback is that is appears short on real quality and is unlikely to have any real impact on the Epsom Derby market.
The fillies’ race, on the other hand, has attracted a field of nine runners — a number of which are really interesting sorts — and it has the potential to provide real pointers to the Epsom Oaks.
Let’s start by looking at the Derby Trial (3.10), which has attracted a field of eight. Shantaram and Main Sequence share favouritism but there are valid reasons to oppose both, particularly the former. John Gosden’s colt is still a maiden after two starts but that doesn’t worry me as much as his suitability to the mile and a half trip.
He’s by Galileo, out of a Darshaan mare and that would suggest that he’ll improve for the trip. I’m not totally convinced. The bay colt is a full brother to Jim Bolger’s Gan Amhras, who was beaten little more than two lengths third behind Sea The Stars in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas. But rather than improve for the step up to a mile and a half, he ran very poorly in the Epsom Derby on his next start and similarly so in the Curragh after that.
There may have been mitigating circumstances but, at the very least, it suggests Shantaram’s suitability to today’s trip is no formality.
And there’s also the evidence of his comeback run in a ten-furlong maiden at Newmarket, where he was just touched off by Model Pupil. The winner didn’t do a lot of harm to the form when just failing to catch Mickdaam in Thursday’s Chester Vase but Shantaram had every chance to beat him at Newmarket and yet he was caught late. That he found himself a touch short of room at one stage of the race would not even register as an excuse as he hit the front plenty soon enough and was outdone by the Charlie Hills runner.
At odds around 3-1, I’m not suggesting he’s a straight lay — though I wouldn’t put anyone off taking him on — but he tends to travel strongly in his races and looks certain to trade short in-running, whether he wins or not. That should give exchange punters a chance to take him on at short odds before his stamina is called into play.
My issue with the race is that it looks decidedly ordinary and may not take a lot of winning. Main Sequence, who shares favouritism with Shantaram, swished his tail in the closing stages on his most recent outing and as this is also his first step out of a handicap, I’m not inclined to back him at short odds.
In the Oaks Trial (2.40), the runners are far less exposed and getting a good grip on the form is not easy.
Vow was perhaps the most impressive of all when running on strongly to make a winning debut over 10 furlongs last month.
The way she finished off her race suggests she’ll improve for this extra couple of furlongs and runner-up Everlong ran respectably when fourth, beaten only two lengths, in the Cheshire Oaks earlier in the week.
Vow’s inexperience is not really against her as only one of her opponents has run more than twice and with normal improvement she’ll be hard to beat.
Second favourite Estrela won a modest maiden last time, and so Colima should prove the biggest threat to the selection.