Donn McClean Previews The Derby

9 min

Matchbook Ambassador and renowned Racing journalist Donn McClean previews flat racing’s showpiece event – The Epsom Derby!

It wasn’t surprising that respective connections paid the respective supplementary entry fees to put Telecaster and Sir Dragonet into the Investec Derby. The supplementary fee was £85,000, and there is £921,537 now for the winner. Sir Dragonet is 4.0, Telecaster is 6.0.

With £349,375 now for second and £174,850 for third and £87,100 for fourth, both bets are very good bets, and that is without taking into account the prestige that goes with the Derby, or the winner’s enhanced value as a stallion prospect.

There are stats against Telecaster.

He didn’t race as a juvenile, and he has raced three times this season so far. Ruler Of The World is the only Derby winner in the last 10 years who was unraced as a juvenile, and Masar is the only one who raced more than twice as a three-year-old before winning the Derby. And stall two makes it difficult.

The stats stack up against the Hughie Morrison trained Telecaster but he still should step forward.

That said, Hughie Morrison’s horse was impressive in winning the Dante, and the Dante is one of the best trials. Shirley Heights and Shahrastani and Reference Point and Erhaab and Benny The Dip and North Light and Motivator and Authorized and Golden Horn all won the Dante. He is progressive, and he could step forward again.

Sir Dragonet could also step forward again. Aidan O’Brien’s colt caused a mild surprise when he easily landed his maiden at Tipperary on his racecourse debut just five weeks ago. He was even more impressive in winning the Chester Vase last time, and that is the race that Ruler Of The World – also trained by Aidan O’Brien, also unraced as a juvenile – won as a prelude to his Epsom Derby victory.

The Camelot colt’s relative inexperience is undoubtedly a concern, but he is unbeaten, he has impressed in everything that he has done in public thus far, he has the potential to progress again and he is the choice of Ryan Moore.

He is a worthy favourite.

Sir Dragonet has been all the rage in the market this week.

Of the other Ballydoyle colts, Broome has been strong in the market in the last few days, and the son of Australia has won the Ballysax Stakes (Galileo, High Chaparral, Harzand) and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (Golden Fleece, Sinndar, Galileo, High Chaparral). He got stronger as those races progressed. He shapes as if he will improve for the step up to a mile and a half, and you can see him staying on better than most.

Bangkok is a player, he beat Telecaster to win his maiden at Doncaster in March, and he looked good in winning the Sandown Classic Trial (Troy, Henbit, Shergar, Shahrastani). Ideally, you would have liked to have seen that race work out a little better than it has to date, but Bangkok has the potential to progress.

That said, Madhmoon could be the value of the race. Sheikh Hamdan’s colt was unbeaten in two runs last season as a juvenile, and he looked like a high-class colt when he won the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown in September when he had the afore-mentioned Broome two and a half lengths behind him in second place.

There was a sense of disappointment when he got beaten at odds-on in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial on his debut this season. But he was conceding 3lb to a talented and progressive and race-fit rival in Never No More, who had won the Madrid Handicap two weeks previously.

And that race was run over seven furlongs on soft ground. The trip was sharper than ideal and the ground was softer than ideal.

Madhmoon ran a big one in the Guineas last time out.

Kevin Prendergast’s colt ran a big race in the Guineas last time. It wasn’t an advantage that he was drawn in stall one, on the far side and, in finishing fourth overall behind Magna Grecia, he finished second of the group of 16 that raced down the centre of the track.

Also, he was staying on at the end of that one-mile trip, which left the impression that he would be better over further.

You can argue that he is bred to be a miler (by Dawn Approach out of a Haafhd mare), but you can also argue that he is bred to get further (his sire’s sire is New Approach, a Derby winner, and his dam stayed 10 furlongs well).

He is a classy colt, and it is significant that Kevin Prendergast is happy to allow him take his chance in the Derby. He is well drawn in stall six, and Chris Hayes is riding out of his skin this season.

You can be sure that he will have prepared thoroughly for Saturday.

Given how Madhmoon raced in the Guineas, it would be surprising if he did not improve for stepping up beyond a mile. It may be that 10 furlongs will be his optimum, but he is worth his shot at the Derby and, at the price, it is worthwhile taking a chance on his stamina.

Tom Stanley is joined by Sam Turner, Declan Rix and Matchbook’s Micheal Deasy to preview the Derby, the Epsom Dash and give their best bets for Saturdays racing.