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Will It Be Australia Day At Epsom Derby?

The world’s most famous Flat race takes place at Epsom on Saturday courtesy of the Derby (4.00), where punters across the land will be licking their lips at the prospect of backing the 2014 winner. The big question is: who will write their way into the equine history books?

With several of the leading trials having taken place during the springtime, there is plenty of recent evidence to look back on, starting with the current red-hot 5/4 favourite, Australia.

Having signed off last season with a Group 3 win, Aidan O’Brien’s colt was well backed on his seasonal reappearance in the English 2,000 Guineas when backed into 5/2, before keeping on into third place. Connections weren’t disappointed with the son of Galileo, however, as they stated he will relish the step up to 1m4f – after all, his sire did win the Derby for O’Brien in 2001.

As for what the stats say about 2,000 Guineas runners heading to Epsom, then three Derby winners have emerged from the Newmarket Classic since 2006, including Sir Percy who was second at HQ eight years ago prior to Derby glory.

What may cause backers some concern regarding Australia on Saturday, though, is his price, as only two of the last four favourites priced 6/4 or shorter in Derby managed to deliver. Such evidence suggests Australia may not prove unbeatable on the Downs, and one who could get closer to the jolly than he did in the 2,000 Guineas is Kingston Hill (7/1).

Roger Varian’s colt won the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster over 1m last autumn, but seemed to find the trip too sharp at Newmarket on his return, getting outpaced before staying on at the finish. There is stamina in his breeding and it will be no surprise if he reverses form with Australia on Saturday. It’s worth remembering also, that four Racing Post Trophy winners went on to win the Derby, including Camelot two years ago.

Another reliable pointer for the Derby is the Derrinstown Derby Trial staged at Leopardstown last month (1m2f, soft), where the first three that day are all set to do battle once more in Ebanoran (16/1), Fascinating Rock (14/1) and Geoffrey Chaucer (8/1).

In what proved a very rough race at Leopardstown, Fascinating Rock actually finished second but was promoted to first place, having been bumped by Ebanoran, while Geoffrey Chaucer was arguably the worst sufferer, having had the front door closed on him in third place.

The market has certainly spoken in Geoffrey Chaucer’s favour too, as he is around half the price of the two who finished in front of him in the Derrinstown, and having been unbeaten in two races prior, this son of Montjeu is expected to improve way beyond that showing, especially as he is related to numerous middle-distance winners.

John Gosden is not a trainer to ignore in these big races, however, and he has a live outsider in Western Hymn (14/1), who arrives unbeaten in three outings and won the Group 3 Classic Trial at Sandown 43 days ago (1m2f, soft).

Jamie Spencer also rides an interesting contender for Peter Chapple-Hyam in Arod (16/1), who was unlucky not to win the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York last month (1m2f, good to soft). Short of room that day, Arod stayed on well late on to finish 3/4l ahead of Godolphin’s, True Story (12/1).

One thing remains certain prior to Saturday, and that is the ability to stay the trip, while the ability to act on soft ground may also prove vital. With that in mind, then the current hotpot, Austrlia, may not be suited by a mudbath, which could leave things open for an each-way punt on his stablemate, Orchestra (12/1), who like last year’s winner, Ruler Of The World, won a Group trial at Chester prior to Epsom (1m4f, soft), and could be underestimated as the O’Brien “second-string”.

Here are the full trends covering the last 18 winners…

All 18 winners were first or second last time. The Dante, Derrinstown Derby Trial, and Dee Stakes were excellent pointers, while the 2,000 Guineas and Lingfield Derby Trial supplied five Derby winners. All three Epsom winners from the 2,000 Guineas made the frame at Newmarket.
All 18 were ridden prominently or held up – no front-runner won.
All 18 had 2-7 career starts.
17 scored over 7f-1m1f as juveniles.
17 raced during the last two months – 15 in the last month.
16 were trained in Newmarket or Ireland.
16 won a Pattern race.
14 won between 2-4 races.
14 were drawn in stalls 3-10.
Aidan O’Brien trained four winners, Sir Michael Stoute three.
Irish-breds winners came out best (12), with the Brits (3) & Americans (2) supplying five between them.