The Derby at Epsom kicks a busy June of horse racing off in real style this Saturday (16:30), and Aidan O’Brien saddles a magnificent seven runners in this year’s premier Classic.
Three of those from the Ballydoyle battalion have strong claims of giving the master Irish handler a record-equalling seventh success in the race.
Sir Dragonet has burst onto the scene this season and heads the Epsom Derby betting at 11/4 with Bethard after a taking success last time out in the Chester Vase.
This son of 2012 winner Camelot out of an Oasis Dream mare is a typical Coolmore blueblood whose pedigree mixes stamina with speed.
After landing a Tipperary maiden over the 1m 4f trip of The Derby on debut in April, Sir Dragonet was pitched straight into Group 3 company for one of the key Classic trials.
He was held-up in last place during the Chester Vase and started making some very eye-catching headway before two out.
Sir Dragonet then hit the front before the final furlong and only needed pushing clear to smash the re-opposing Norway by eight lengths.
This was an impressive performance from the most lightly-raced colt in this 13-runner Classic field.
With just two starts under his belt, there is obviously tons more scope for improvement from Sir Dragonet and he commands respect.
As he now gets the services of O’Brien stable jockey Ryan Moore, he’s sure to attract plenty of attention from punters.
An opening official rating of 115 may underestimate Sir Dragonet and it would be no surprise to see him make further progress here.
He encounters very different going here than at Chester, however, and on that basis alone could be worth taking on with value lying elsewhere.
Broome and Anthony Van Dyck also respected
Although more exposed than their stable companion, both Broome and Anthony Van Dyck have also won recognised Epsom Derby trials this spring, so also enter calculations.
Dealing with the former, Broome is an Australia colt out of an Acclamation mare. As with Sir Dragonet, his pedigree combines a Derby winner with a speedier dam.
In Broome, O’Brien has another horse that is unbeaten as a three-year-old but with more experience after five previous runs as a juvenile.
He got a mile last season which often suggests further will suit if a horse trains on over the winter.
There’s no doubt Broome has, twice scoring in comfortable fashion over 1m 2f in Group 3 contests at Leopardstown.
Both the Ballysax and Derrinstown have thrown up subsequent Derby winners, so his ready successes in those events must be kept in mind.
Broome is thus also well worth considering for Classic glory at 9/2 with Betfair under his trainer’s son Donnacha O’Brien, who is two from three on him.
Anthony Van Dyck notched a hat-trick as a juvenile before running into Quorto in the Group 1 National Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend.
That smart juvenile form, including a subsequent third to champion two-year-old Too Darn Hot in the Dewhurst at Newmarket, suggested he could well come into his own this season.
Despite that, Anthony Van Dyck was a weak favourite for the Listed 1m 3f Derby Trial at Lingfield on reappearance.
He was soon in command after taking things up over a furlong from home and scored by a cosy couple of lengths.
The breeding is in the purple as Anthony Van Dyck is by great Derby winner Galileo out of an Exceed And Excel mare. He can also be backed to emulate his sire at 15/2 with William Hill.
Telecaster faces tight turnaround from Dante win
Another key Epsom Derby trial and form line to consider is the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York, but this year’s renewal won by Telecaster was just 16 days before the Classic.
All major rivals of the Hughie Morrison trained son of New Approach here have had more recovery time than that.
After chasing home the re-opposing Bangkok on debut at Doncaster, Telecaster then bolted up by nine lengths at Windsor.
Connections pitched him into Group 2 company off the back of that effort, and he found plenty for pressure when running out a length victor over Too Darn Hot in the Dante.
Frankie Dettori actually eased that highly-regarded John Gosden inmate close home when it was clear he couldn’t win, however.
The runner-up was one of a few that disappointed in the Dante, but ran well enough when hastily turned out and second in the Irish 2000 Guineas when dropped back in trip.
While Telecaster should have nothing to fear from the likes of re-opposing duo Japan and Line Of Duty who were also in-behind, this is tougher and may come too quickly from his York run.
Morrison may never get another Derby calibre colt, however, and can’t be blamed for taking his chance in a race for which Telecaster is undoubtedly the leading contender for the home team.
Caution is advised. Telecaster may be worth taking on at odds of 11/2 with Ladbrokes despite in-form jockey Oisin Murphy taking the ride once again.
This is more competitive than the betting suggests, and the aforementioned Bangkok has clearly trained on from two to three for trainer Andrew Balding.
The King Power Racing owned son of Australia was winless in three juvenile run, but stepped up on reappearance and stayed on strongly to beat Telecaster by over a length.
Consider Bangkok and Circus Maximus each-way
Bangkok then tackled Group 3 company and followed-up in the 1m 2f Classic Trial at Sandown, where he made swift progress down the outside to lead approaching the furlong marker.
All champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa had to fo then was push him to score in more decisive fashion than the winning margin of 1 1/4 lengths suggests.
At the 9/1 on offer with William Hill, Bangkok thus looks a solid each-way bet now up in trip again and as the Balding team have had winners in the week leading up to Epsom.
Circus Maximus, meanwhile, is the mount of Dettori and yet another of the O’Brien contingent who comes over for the Emerald Isle for a crack at this.
Also by Galileo, he was an unlucky in-running 3 1/4 lengths third to Persian King in what looks a strong renewal of the Group 3 Autumn Stakes over 1m at Newmarket last season.
All of the first four home have since come out and won. Persian King won the French 2000 Guineas and is a leading contender for the Prix du Jockey Club.
Magna Grecia, the runner-up, landed the Group 1 Futurity Trophy at Doncaster next time up and the English 2000 Guineas on reappearance.
Circus Maximus was then fourth and beaten just a length by that one on Town Moor when also behind subsequent Irish 2000 Guineas hero Phoenix Of Spain.
As he then returned to action with victory in the Listed 1m 2f Dee Stakes, it would be folly to underestimate his chances. Circus Maximus is thus another worth considering each-way at 16/1 with Coral now up in trip again.
Madhmoon may struggle to get home
Last year’s Irish champion juvenile Madhmoon beat Broome as a two-year-old, but hasn’t scored since and is not a guaranteed stayer on breeding.
This Hamdan Al Maktoum owned son of Dawn Approach is trained by Kevin Prendergast and was turned over when sent off odds-on on reappearance for a Listed contest at Leopardstown.
Madhmoon was giving weight all-round and went down by half-a-length to Never No More without ever really matching the winning.
He then ran on to take fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket despite getting outpaced about a furlong-and-a-half from home.
It’s difficult to know what to make of that display. The form is certainly open to question as the winner Magna Grecia bagged a plum draw on the nearside and then bombed out in the Irish 2000 Guineas.
While pedigrees can’t tell you everything about a horse, Madhmoon is not bred for The Derby, so he may be best avoided despite odds of 11/1 with Betfred.
Norway looked the pick of the O’Brien potential Epsom Derby runners when landing the Listed 1m 2f Zetland Stakes at Newmarket last season but has not gone in again since.
Even taking ground that was the soft side of good into account on reappearance at Chester, he still has eight lengths to find on stable companion Sir Dragonet.
Norway was short of room before two out, but whether a clear run would’ve produced a different result is doubtful.
Both he and Japan have questions to answer, and there are other O’Brien inmates with more going for them in this.
It could pay to hedge your bets in this renewal of the Epsom Derby with the leading Ballydoyle contenders all very closely matched.