Saxon Warrior can overcome his tricky draw
There are many types of Derby around the world, from a local rival football match to a type of bowler hat - and plenty of races too with that name in their title.
But the fact that we can refer to today's big race (4.30) as the Derby rather than the Epsom Derby goes to show that there's only one original, and best.
Racing fans have been dismayed to see outbreaks of drunkenness and violence at some big meetings like Goodwood and Ascot in recent times, and it's a little sad to see there's a need for police to send in armed and plain-clothes officers to keep an eye on things at Epsom this year.
But those that think that this modern world has gone to hell should read Nigel Townson in The British At Play - A Social History of British Sport From 1600 to the Present:
"Soon after its inception, the Derby was attracting tens of thousands. Most would never see the big race itself, coming for the sideshows and entertainments and, above all, the gambling that was part of the occasion.
"Pickpockets, prostitutes shady bookmakers and con-artists no doubt abounded, and there were hideous freak shows, but, by all accounts, Derby day was an occasion without equal in the sporting year."
Despite the recent fuss about drunkenness at racecourses, the Derby is still an occasion without equal, and it will be no surprise to regular readers that I'm having a decent-sized bet on Saxon Warrior, having followed him for some time now, including his win in the 2000 Guineas.
I've mentioned before how I find there's very little value in ante-post betting these days, and for the big festivals, you often get just as good a price on the day as you do a number of weeks beforehand. That's the case once again here, with Saxon Warrior trading at even-money just after the Guineas, a similar price to what's available at the time of writing now.
It seems to me that bookmakers are taking no chances on ante-post betting any more, and it's a little pointless making a bet early on and risking the horse picking up an injury or not showing up for the race for whatever reason, without getting a decent price.
Most bookmakers seem to be run by boring accountant types these days, but we can still hit them where it hurts with a bet on the favourite today, which was eased in the market over the last couple of days following the announcement that he'll be racing from stall one, which hasn't produced a winner since 1999.
But I'm not too caught up on that statistic, and there's other reasons including field size, tactics and ability of horses drawn in that stall as to why it has performed poorly.
Based on the evidence so far, Saxon Warrior certainly has the ability to overcome any potential negative draw bias.
Aidan O'Brien's colt has excelled over a mile, winning the Racing Post Trophy last term, and the 2000 Guineas in decisive fashion last month, but his breeding suggests he'll be best over the middle distances. If that turns out to be true, he could be one of the greats.
A victory here would see O'Brien equal the record of most trainer wins in the race at seven, although it could be argued that the Guineas form is not as strong as it once seemed, with Elarqam and Gustav Klimt failing to fire at the Curragh.
But that doesn't take away from Saxon Warrior's success, and he looks like he's got even more improving to do. A win here and an attempt at the Triple Crown would be great for racing, and while his price is short, I reckon it's justified and he should take all the beating this afternoon.
Although priced quite high at 16/1, the one I'm most worried about is Masar. Charlie Appleby's charge was impressive when winning the Craven, and wasn't disgraced in the Guineas with third place. I don't believe he has as much room for improvement as the favourite, but the mile and a half trip may well bring out the best in him.
Young Rascal, Roaring Lion and Hazapour are others for the shortlist but on all known form, they all have a few pounds to make up on Saxon Warrior and I'm confident that the favourite's chances of winning are bigger than 50pc, as suggested by the market.
For those looking to back something at a bigger price, consider Sovereign Debt, which was available at 7/1 for the Investec Diomed Stakes (3.10 Epsom) yesterday evening.
A winner of this race last year, Ruth Carr has been building his fitness with this contest in mind.
Available at 6/1 yesterday, Dark Shot is not priced quite as high as my usual each-way selections, but I strongly feel he'll at least finish in the money for the Investec Corporate Banking 'Dash' Handicap (3.45 Epsom) if not actually winning.
Trained by Scott Dixon, the five-year-old was narrowly beaten at York last time at a big price off today's rating of 88, and once again jockey Jamie Gormley's 5lb claim can make a difference.
* Last week's each-way selection, Vale Of Kent, was placed at 25/1.
2.35 Epsom: Lincoln Rocks
3.10 Epsom: Sovereign Debt
3.25 Musselburgh: Unforgettable Filly
3.45 Epsom: Dark Shot (e/w)
4.30 Epsom: Saxon Warrior
Do the double
Trained by Hugo Palmer, Unforgettable Filly seems overpriced around 4/1 for the Listed Stobo Castle Ladies' Day Gold Cup Fillies' Stakes at Musselburgh (3.25). She won this race last year, and while she was out of her depth in a Group One last time, she did manage to win the Group Three German 1000 Guineas. Back at this level, she'll be hard to beat today.
Micheál Donoghue will have been very pleased with how his side saw off Kilkenny, and Galway have now shortened to 13/8 in the All-Ireland outright betting market. They face Wexford at Wexford Park this evening, and while the Model County may be buoyed by their successes over Dublin and Offaly, Galway simply look far stronger right now. The price will be very short around 4/9, but the Tribesmen look like banker material.