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The Derby Festival Day One – 02/06/2023

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Epsom Top Picks, Friday 2nd, 2:00pm

The Derby Festival gets underway at Epsom on Friday and with more attention than ever on the Surrey track, we can’t wait for the action to get underway. We have a very strong undercard to enjoy, and our racing experts have found a couple of selections to take note of.

2:00 – British EBF 40th Anniversary Woodcote EBF Stakes

We get underway at 2:00 with the Woodcote Stakes for the 2-year-olds. This race has been won by some smart types in recent years, most notably Buratino and Pinatubo, who both went on to win at Royal Ascot after success on the downs. It remains to be seen whether there is a Juvenile of that quality in this field but the key to sprint trips at Epsom is the draw and over 6-furlongs, there is a definite preference to a low draw close to the rail, especially when the ground is good or better. Having looked at the lower numbers, the likes of Bobsleigh in 6 and Balon D’Or in 3 do make some appeal, especially as they have already won races. Whilst Fifty Grand Slater is worthy of note after he was unlucky enough to bump into Asadna on debut at Ripon, for all that stall 11 gives him a difficult task here.

It’s a little bit of a guessing game as we really don’t know which horses will handle the camber on the track, but the horse to appeal most is MAYMAY. She improved significantly on her debut when 2nd to Flag of St George at Newmarket last time, recording a time figure of 88 in a truly run race. Having broken well and raced prominently, she did well to keep galloping despite being involved in setting the strong gallop and if she does the same again from stall 2, she could be hard to pass.

3:10 – Dahlbury Coronation Cup

With so many out-of-form horses the second race looked a bit beyond our skill, but we move on to the Coronation Cup at 3:10 and this race looks worth watching. We have a select field of 5 going to post, but they are all proven performers at the highest level. Emily Upjohn was so unlucky in the Oaks behind Tuesday over this course and distance last year and with her Fillies allowance she is worthy of respect. However, she has been reported to be slow to come to hand this year, especially after her intended stint in Dubai was shelved and on her first start since October she may well improve for this run. Hurricane Lane and Tunnes are admirable horses, but whether either of them would really want the forecast quick ground is open to question so the race probably concerns Point Lonsdale and WESTOVER.

Aiden O’Brien hasn’t won this race since Highland Reel triumphed in 2017, but Point Lonsdale looks likely to be his best chance since, especially if he is able to match the form that he has shown in his 2 wins so far this season. He has produced battling performances to win at the Curragh and Chester and arrives here on the top of his game, but whether that level is sufficient to win a competitive Group 1 is open to question. He has had 2 previous starts at this level, finishing 2nd in the National Stakes to Native Trail before a 10th placed finish in last year’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. He has had some injury issues and it may be that he is a different horse now that he is seemingly over those, but there are some reservations about both the track and the marked step up in class that he needs to take, so our preference is for Westover. He finished 3rd behind Desert Crown in the Derby last season before going on to win the Irish equivalent at the Curragh. His form tailed off after that, but he returned to his best when finishing 2nd to Equinox in the Sheema Classic in Dubai in March. This has been the plan ever since and on conditions that we know will suit, he gets our money.

3:45 – Betfred Handicap

Before we get to the Oaks, we have a competitive handicap over the 10-furlong course at 3:45 and this looks to be a very good race. Honiton and Savvy Victory arrive here on the back of career best performances and need to be respected. As does Bad Company, who proved that he could handle the track by winning the City and Suburban Handicap here on Trials Day, but they will all need to improve to match the level of form shown by MARHABA THE CHAMP when he won at York last month. Trained by Kevin Ryan, this lightly raced son of Galileo relished the good ground and step up in trip to win nicely on his return at York. He’s been raised just 2lbs for that win and if he finds further improvement, which seems very likely, he could be hard to beat.

5:10 Nyetimber Surrey Stakes

The final pattern race of the opening day comes up at 5:10 with the Listed Surrey Stakes. This doesn’t look an overly competitive renewal of this race and so the most obvious winner is HE’S A MONSTER. He has won 3 of his 4 starts for Archie Watson and whilst the form of his 2 wins on the All-Weather earlier this year is open to question, he could only beat those that were entered against him, and he remains an exciting prospect. He has been gelded since his last win, which should help him to settle and the fact that his Sire, No Nay Never, has such a good record on fast ground would suggest that he will handle conditions. In a race where there don’t appear to be too many improving types, he could well prove a class apart.

*Prices subject to fluctuation.

The Derby Festival Day One – 02/06/2023

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