Jan Vermeer looks too strong to ignore
IF you are finding it hard to pick a horse for today's Epsom Derby (4.0), spare a thought for the gamblers of 1862, when no fewer than 34 horses lined up at the Downs.
The race was won that year by a horse named Caractacus at 40/1, but recent times have been kinder to punters, with all winners this century priced in single figures.
It's a funny old sport sometimes and I had fully expected to fill today's 'Betting Ring' column with reasons as to why the Aidan O'Brien-trained favourite should be opposed; but now that St Nicholas Abbey has been withdrawn, I find myself doing just the opposite and have sided with the readjusted market leader and backed Jan Vermeer.
I suppose it's an unoriginal choice but after spending a few hours looking up, down and sideways for a live outsider, I can't get away from the Montjeu colt and I'm fairly pleased with the price of 7/4 or thereabouts.
These days, the Derby participants don't normally have too many races under the belt before heading to Surrey, but the selection has improved with every race and is now going for a four-timer after his victory in the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh.
I've been wary of backing O'Brien's horses this year as the spark just hasn't been there, but his patience with Jan Vermeer following a stone bruise has paid off and you can expect improvement from the win at Irish HQ.
He has always shown promise, but he became a live outsider for the Derby following a Group One victory in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud in November -- although he has had to live in the shadows of St Nicholas Abbey following that horse's explosive performance in the Racing Post Trophy in October.
It's disappointing that St Nick won't make the line-up, but the Ballydoyle boys have plenty of other options throughout the year, including Ascot.
A bit of a fuss has been made about Al Zir and some firms now go below 20/1 following the surprising decision by Godolphin to give the ride to Kieren Fallon, but as I've said before in this column, the formbook is a man's best friend and on paper, Al Zir will struggle.
Besides, Rewilding is clearly top of their pecking order with Dettori on board so I wouldn't get over-excited about the booking. Michael Stoute's Workforce and O'Brien's Midas Touch are also worth a mention, but I'm confident that Jan Vermeer will show some true class this afternoon.
You could argue that the selection didn't beat any superstars last time at the Curragh, but don't forget that he had a 7lb penalty to contend with yet still toyed with his rivals.
At Newcastle, I'm surprised to see rouf (4/1) available for Tilliemint in the early maiden markets and I'm going to forgive her latest race at Haydock where she disappointed in fifth place.
She seemed distracted so the use of blinkers for the first time can be seen as a positive in this case, and she also gets a weight allowance for her sex, which should prove useful.
Previously, she was only beaten by a neck by Sir Lunchalott in a maiden at Thirsk, but she had acted up a little at the start which, again, might suggest concentration problems.
I'm confident that she can win a maiden pretty soon and hopefully the blinkers can make it happen today (6.35).
3.25 Doncaster -- Wigmore Hall
4.00 Epsom -- Jan Vermeer
5.05 Doncaster -- Fear Nothing
6.35 Newcastle -- Tilliemint
7.50 Lingfield -- Sarrsar
8.35 Newcastle -- Very Good Day