The simple way to pick a winner – it's as easy as 1-2-3
James Moore has set five rules for backing a horse today. What could possibly go wrong?
Saturday 05 June 2010
After the thrills and spills provided by Sea The Stars last year, it's been back to earth with a bump for Flat racing, which is still desperately holding out for a hero for the public to latch on to as the World Cup looms ever larger.
Will that hero take the turn at Tattenham Corner today? On the evidence of the trials, it's hard to see it happening. That said, an analysis of the stats suggests that winners all share a remarkable similar profile. The Derby is not the sort of race for form-book anoraks with the ability to unearth some clever factoid everyone else has missed that shows why a 33-1 shot should really be the 2-1 favourite.
Rule 1: History counts
First things first. You can eliminate anything that did not win last time out. In the last 15 years only Sir Percy has bucked this trend and he was a very creditable second in the 2,000 Guineas, which has, in most years, been won by crack milers, who rarely get entered in the Derby. Like George Washington, who won in Sir Percy's year. A horse that manages to win both the Derby and the Guineas only comes along once in a blue moon and is usually accorded legendary status. Like Sea The Stars.
Rule 2: Only back winners
At First Sight is a pacemaker for the Aidan O'Brien team and is knocked out having finished third last time. This rule also accounts for Godolphin's outsider Buzzword and Hot Prospect, which isn't one.
Sir Michael Stoute's Workforce, the second favourite, is many people's idea of the winner. His trainer has won the Derby four times and his jockey, Ryan Moore, has the best record over the undulations of Epsom over the last five years. The horse certainly has the capacity to win some big races, but he managed only second in the Dante Stakes at York and no placed horse from the Dante has ever won the Derby. So he's out and we can also take the scissors to Coordinated Cut, who came third in the same race.
Kieren Fallon is the king of the Derby from a riding standpoint and the price of his mount, Al Zir, has been falling, with a real buzz being generated by some glowing reports of his work. But he could only manage ninth in the Guineas, so he's stricken from the record, M'Lud.
Rule 3: Curse of the Chester Vase
That leaves us with a more manageable six. From which we can remove Ted Spread. Mark Tompkins' charge is seen by many as a lively outsider and lines up after winning the Chester Vase. Trouble is no winner of that race has taken the Derby honours since a certain Shergar in 1981. The latter might have had Sea The Stars off the bridle and Ted Spread's not in the same league.
Rule 4: Outsiders don't win
Another stat against him is his market position – he's an outsider at 33-1. In every year of the last decade, the winner has come from the first four in the betting. Each-way punters can be reassured that plenty of big-priced horses have been placed, they just haven't won.
A better (relative) outsider would be Azmeel. He doesn't look to have quite the requisite class, but did win the Dee Stakes at Chester, a race that has provided a couple of recent winners, and was available at 12-1 at the time of writing.
Rule 5: Follow the best trials
Now let's look at some positives. Neither Godolphin's apparent first string Rewilding nor Jan Vermeer come from traditionally strong trials. The former won the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood last time out. Not since Troy in 1979 has the winner of that race taken the big prize. But I have a hunch that he could do well. The Gallinule Stakes, won by hype horse Jan Vermeer, has never provided the winner, although the race conditions have changed more than once and it's only recently been established as a proper trial. He also has a big positive through being a son of Montjeu, who sired both Motivator and Authorized.
Bullet Train won the Lingfield Derby Trial, which hasn't turned up the winner since High-Rise in 1998, but he's trained by the four-times winner Henry Cecil and is a son of Sadler's Wells, the greatest Derby sire of the modern era.
But the horse that might produce gold from the bookies is Midas Touch. He's trained by O'Brien and while he appears to be the second string, he's by Derby winner Galileo, who sired New Approach, and won the best trial apart from the Dante, the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, which has produced three winners in the last decade. In what looks a substandard year, he could be a value bet at around 13-2.
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