Doubts over favourite as Derby day approaches

Racing Ahead with Tony McCormick
Racing Ahead with Tony McCormick

Our racing pundit Tony McCormick from has recently been signed up by, the world’s largest independent horse racing website, to share his daily, each-way Double-Dutch selections.

This week Tony previews the Derby at Epsom in Saturday.

Eighteen runners stood their ground, at the time of writing for this weekend’s Epsom Derby, with Aidan O’Brien leaving seven in the race at this stage.

My feelings towards the favourite, US Army Ranger, is that usually in the past, O’Brien has around two or three runners in the big race. The fact that he has seven in the race, shows that they cannot be really sure on the chances of the favourite.

I believe, come the day, the Dante winner, Wings Of Desire will go off favourite for the race. The manner of his Dante win showed a horse where a further two furlongs would be no problem to him and the Gosden/Dettori team know exactly what they have.

At no point in the Dante did the Italian panic as the runners approached the two-furlong marker, knowing his mount would stay the distance of one mile, two-and-a-half furlongs. The three-year-old won by a neck from another one of Aiden O’Brien’s hopes, Deauville.

Others I’m confident will last out the gruelling race and distance are US Army Ranger, the French raider Cloth Of Stars and an outsider, Massaat.

Twelve months ago, Dettori had all of that when he rode Golden Horn to win the Derby for a second time, eight years on from winning with Authorized.

This week it is all about whether Wings of Desire can take the next step by winning the Derby. Not bad for a colt who made his racecourse debut at Newmarket in mid-April, won a maiden at Wolverhampton 10 days later and then burst into the Derby picture when he won the Dante Stakes at York three weeks ago.

It was with that in mind that John Gosden, Wings of Desire’s trainer, took the horse to Epsom last week for a chance to gallop on the track.

Ed Dunlop’s Red Verdon has earned his big chance by winning handicaps in tremendous fashion, but winning a Derby is in a completely different stratosphere.

The Richard Hannon-trained Humphrey Bogart won the Lingfield Derby Trial and has had experience of Epsom, having chased home So Mi Dar in the Investec Derby Trial.

Sir Michael Stoute is double-handed with impressive Newbury maiden winner Ulysses and Lingfield Derby Trial third-placed horse Across The Stars. Kieren Fallon boasts a 100 per cent record for Sir Michael in the Investec Derby and the man who mastered Epsom like nobody else since Lester Piggott is full of confidence he can extend that unbeaten association on Saturday aboard 33-1 outsider Across The Stars.

Fallon was once the automatic choice for punters in flat racing’s greatest prize.

Ulysses, whose sire and dam were both Epsom Classic winners, has the pedigree but not, as yet, the form to make him a genuine 8-1 chance. Massaat, in contrast, has the form, having finished second in the Dewhurst and 2,000 Guineas on his last two starts.