The Derby picture is almost complete after the running of the last significant trial, the Dante Stakes at York. No one horse is dominating the betting and in a wide open Classic some of the bigger priced horses should be considered. Eminent was trading around the 10/1 mark the day after the Dante and is high enough in the Racing Post Ratings and speed ratings to deliver in the biggest Flat race in the world.
The Derby is open to three year old colts and fillies. Geldings cannot run because they do not have the necessary tackle to deliver the goods in the breeding sheds. The Derby winner is all about pedigree so its no good if the winner can’t pass on his ability to offspring. Its also an anomaly that female horses can run in the Derby but male horses cannot run in the Oaks. The Derby is the second leg of the Triple Crown which also features the 1,000 Guineas and St Leger.
For years and even centuries the Derby was run on the first Wednesday in June. Traditionalists were livid when the race moved to the Saturday but it is now firmly established on the weekend sports schedule. It helps with viewing figures when there is no major football tournament. The World Cup and European Championships are played in even years so this year the Derby could get more column inches and media coverage. An open betting heat attracts more betting interest.
There are some gamblers who swear by trends and statistics. Even though numbers don’t tell the full story they can be useful in eliminating some of the contenders. The Derby is run over the unique one mile four furlongs course at Epsom. As a Classic only three-years-olds are eligible and fillies get a three pound sex allowance but very few take part and are more likely to be targeted at the Oaks. There are some key trends that are useful in forming a short list.
As befits the most important Flat race in the world and one of the most lucrative the race is won by the very best thoroughbreds. Indeed every winner in the last ten years has performed to an adjusted RPR of 128. After their debut run each winner since 2007 finished in the first three in all other races they contested. The race has become one for the market leaders as each winner in the last decade was in the first three in the betting. Outsiders do not win the Derby very often.
Derby winners also come from near the top of the ratings and nine winners over the last ten years were within 7 pounds of the top rated horse. The same number came into the race on the back of their best effort to date and nine were also sired by horses with stamina in their make-up. Eight of the 10 most recent horses to oblige won over seven furlongs or more as a juvenile and were drawn between three and ten. Most winners made their debut on a major Flat track and not on a small course.
The 2,000 Guineas has become an important trial again. Four of the last nine Derby winners won or were placed at Newmarket. No winner in the last 31 years had contested a handicap. Workforce is the only horse that was beaten in the Dante but went on to triumph in the big one at Epsom. Ruler Of the World won the race in 2013 without competing aged two and the last time that happened was in 1993. Eminent matches enough of the trends to have a decent chance of winning the Derby.
Eminent’s highest RPR is 127 so just one point below the trend. That’s manageable and horses can improve at a relatively young age. There is more encouragement from the speed ratings that put Eminent slightly below two of the top four in the betting. One negative is Eminent’s run in the Guineas but the track and distance did not suit. There were signs of a lack of enthusiasm at Newmarket but the horse already run twice as a three- year-old. The horse could be more streetwise than others more prominent in the betting.
Eminent won the Craven Stakes over one mile but couldn’t show the same form in the Guineas. Benbatl was almost two lengths adrift and that horse was second behind Permian in the Dante. There is some form and there are trends that suggest Eminent has the profile to win the 2017 Derby.