Experience gives 'Anthony' the Epsom edge
With seven of the 13 Epsom Derby (4.30) runners trained by Aidan O'Brien, there's a very good chance the Ballydoyle supremo can add his name to the list of leading trainers in the race.
Three trainers (going back donkey's years) have won the Derby a record seven times but with six wins for O'Brien, he's getting close to becoming the first modern-era trainer to achieve that level of success in the world's greatest flat race.
Of course, throwing a load of darts at the board does not always guarantee success, as shown in 2007 when eight O'Brien runners finished behind Peter Chapple-Hyam's Authorized, which gave Frankie Dettori his first Derby win. Similarly, O'Brien had five losing runners last year, including 4/5 favourite Saxon Warrior, so the race is never just about one trainer.
Having said all that, regular readers will know I like to produce my own ratings for the big races and just like the betting, they all point to an O'Brien win with Anthony Van Dyck and Sir Dragonet on top of the list for me, although Hughie Morrison's Telecaster is also in with a strong shout if my analysis is somewhat accurate.
Ryan Moore rides the 11/4 favourite Sir Dragonet with Seamie Heffernan partnering Anthony Van Dyck, although Wings Of Eagles' 40/1 win for O'Brien in 2017 goes to show that the stable jockeys can't always be expected to pick the right horse.
As a general rule, backing O'Brien's 'first string' in a given race is the most reliable option with a strike-rate of 26pc, compared to 9pc for the 'second string' and 4pc for the 'third string' or worse.
On average, you'd lose 14 cent per euro staked on his most-fancied runners compared to 17 cent on the next in the betting - although that's if you use traditional starting prices. It's a different story for exchange users, where prices are generally much better on outsiders.
Had you backed all O'Brien runners, excluding his most-fancied horse in each race, you'd have made a profit in seven of the last 12 years. So while the market usually calls it right, I wouldn't put any reader off backing his other runners, provided they get a decent price.
I'm going to put my money where my mouth is on that front today, and go with Anthony Van Dyck. He trades at 13/2 with the bookmakers at the time of writing but is hovering just below 9/1 on the exchanges, which is a nice bit of value in my opinion - even allowing for commission.
With four wins from eight races, his strike-rate may not be as impressive as that of some other rivals, but his experience will count for a lot on these big occasions.
A Group Two winner as a juvenile, he was second in a Group One at the Curragh - but his one and only race this term, in which he was successful in the Lingfield Derby trial, marked him out as one who has come on nicely over the winter at home.
The step up in trip in the Derby trial really suited the Galileo colt, and he should have more to come at these distances.
A lack of Group One-winning experience is the only negative but on all known form he's good enough to win a Derby and this year's renewal looks particularly open.
The favourite Sir Dragonet had to be supplemented following a smart performance when winning the Chester Vase, so perhaps even the stable didn't appreciate his potential until recently.
He'd previously only raced once, winning a Tipperary maiden in April at the expense of stablemate Norway, which re-opposes today. With a 100pc record, it's hard to say anything negative, only that his price is probably a little short.
As mentioned, Telecaster has strong claims based on his Dante win, although his victory over Too Darn Hot on that occasion may not be as significant as once thought, with that horse beaten again in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, much to the expense of this corner!
The Dante made it two wins from three for Telecaster, although this will be his first run at a mile and a half, and no horse has ever won from stall two.
Broome also deserves a mention under Donnacha O'Brien. He's won his last two races and on both occasions he looked like he'd appreciate the step up in trip - so this improving sort has got to make the shortlist.
In the Group Three Investec Diomed Stakes (3.10 Epsom), a chance is taken on Zaaki, which was trading around 6/4 yesterday evening.
Michael Stoute's four-year-old has won just twice in an 11-race career but one of those victories came in his latest Listed outing where he beat Barney Roy by a neck.
He was gelded over the winter, after a failed stud career, so it's good to see him back racing at Group Level. Bye Bye Hong Kong looks the biggest danger to the bet, priced around 5/2.