The final race on Derby day is always hugely competitive and this year looks no exception for this six furlong handicap. Read on for our expert’s tip and runner by runner guide to the race.
IN SUMMARY: Any number in with a chance here in a tough ‘getting out’ stakes. Naggers will no doubt be popular and rightly so with the rain falling while Blaine looked much more like his old self when winning at Newbury last time. Asphan Sam and Clear Spring are previous course winners for whom the rain will not be a problem but the vote goes to SIR OTTOMAN. He placed twice on soft and heavy in France as well as winning twice on good. The ground looked too quick for him on his UK debut at Newmarket where he was a notable eyecatcher, travelling well until stumbling. The race has been won by 33/1 and 25/1 shots in the past eight years and he may looks well overpriced as does B Fifty Two for trainer Marjorie Fife, making a rare raid on the South.
1 BLAINE – Winner of this contest last year, he was back to something close to his best when scoring at Newbury last time. That was his debut for under-rated trainer, Brian Barr, who will be looking for his time to shine. He scored off a two pound higher mark at York back in 2014 so while the handicapper has given him more to do, it may not be beyond him., especially with Joshua Bryan taking off a valuable seven pounds in the saddle.
2 SUZI’S CONNOISSEUR – Has long looked capable of taking a marquee handicap but such is his usual run style, he needs a lot of luck to weave a passage through from the back. He was able to track the pace a little closer than is usually the case when winning over seven furlongs at Newcastle in February but this is a very different test on a speed track. If he can hold his position, he may run into a place but he is more likely to be flying home all too late.
3 NAGGERS – Paul Midgley has really found the key to this son of Excellent Art in the last twelve months, getting his head in front four times from his last six outings. He finds himself twenty six pounds higher up the weights than when starting this run of smart form at Ayr last July, but it would be wrong to think that he is done improving. This is tougher than the handicap he won at Thirsk last time out but such was the impression he made, another ten pounds on top wouldn’t have stopped him then. Huge chance if the rain comes.
4 SIR OTTOMAN – Three times a winner at about this trip in France, he was far from disgraced on his UK debut when sixth at Newmarket, a race in which he would have been closer but for losing his action twice in the final quarter mile. That was over five furlongs so the step up in trip is in his favour, He was placed on both soft and heavy ground in France and is a fascinating contender in a first time tongue tie at a price that looks far too big.
5 SCRUTINEER – The more rain that falls the better for Mick Channon’s charge, a heavy ground winner at Hamilton last season. He has been nowhere close to that form so far in 2017 so is hard to support with any confidence in current heart, with twenty one lengths to make up with Blaine on their running at Newbury last time.
6 WATCHABLE – Has not greeted the judge wince September 2014 when landing a Curragh handicap off a mark three pounds higher than this. Beaten just two lengths in the Prix Maurice de Gheest in 2015, he spent the majority of last season looking regressive. He has shown a little more sparkle so far this season and from a workable mark, he needs to be considered despite a wider than ideal draw.
7 HOLIDAY MAGIC – Very interesting dropping back to this trip since last Autumn. He spend a successful winter campaigned over further but was often noticeably free in front. He has a good draw from which to attack under Adam Kirby but despite running a huge race behind Fastnet Tempest in the Victoria Cup at Ascot, he is yet to make it into the places on turf and rain would be a negative for his chances.
8 CLEAR SPRING – Showed a little more life when fourth behind Blaine at Newbury in a race he has won in the past. August 2013 was the last time he was able to run off a mark this low so, although he is getting long in the tooth, he is dangerously well weighted. He was successful on his only start here at Epsom, with softening of the ground a plus to his chances in what should at least on paper, be a strongly run contest.
9 NINJAGO – Finished a close third from this mark at Doncaster back in April, with the winner of that contest scoring again the next time. He acts with a bit of cut in the ground, so the rain need not be a concern but, is looking increasingly difficult to win with and a place may be the best that he can hope for from a wide draw.
10 ASHPAN SAM – Drawn widest of all which will be a sizeable negative unless there is a lot of rain, he won the race in both 2014 and 2015. He was also runner up over this course and distance last Summer so clearly comes alive when he heads to the Downs. His previous victories in this contest were off marks of 100 and 97 so a mark of 89 here is tempting but, he is another who has a lot to find with Blaine on their Newbury run in May.
11 PEARL SPECTRE – Has done the majority of his running on the all weather but has been placed twice from three starts on the turf. The six year old is yet to win off a mark this high however and his sole run with cut in the ground was disappointing to say the least.
12 REPUTATION – A winner from two pounds lower at Leicester last season, he was a costly failure for punters at Newmarket just ten days later when turned over at evens, trying to defy a penalty. Three runs this season have been a long way short of his peak, with the latest of them on soft at York, easily his worst. That doesn’t bode well with the skies opening during the Oaks as he would certainly prefer the ground on the quick side.
13 GEORGE BOWEN – A mercurial talent, Richard Fahey’s son of Dark Angel is capable of winning this race as he likes from a mark of 86, but there have been serious trust issues between horse and punters in the last year. It’s fifteen starts now since he last tasted victory with slow starts costing him dear on more than one occasion since. He picked them off from the back late on in this contest in 2016 as is his wont and although he could comfortably triumph, he can’t be trusted enough to warrant being tipped.
14 IN THE RED – Two turf wins have come on good and good to soft ground, in the Autumn of 2015. One of those was at Goodwood, a similar switchback track to Epsom so he should have no problem with the camber in the home straight. He is yet to run over a trip as short as this, spending the majority of his career over seven furlongs or a mile, he has even tried a mile and a quarter so that must rate as a bit of a concern for those looking to get involved.
15 LUCKY BEGGAR – A winner at Catterick on Friday afternoon for trainer, David Griffiths. That was Griffiths eleventh winner of the season, well on his way to beating his current seasonal best of nineteen set in 2012. The Catterick win was on much quicker ground than he is likely to encounter here but, he has plenty of form with cut in the past, including a win on heavy at Windsor. Could play a part as long as the run doesn’t come too soon.
16 B FIFTY TWO – Another in the line up who is a shadow of his older days, which leaves him well treated on a career low mark. Marjorie Fife has not had a runner at Epsom in the last five seasons, so he is an interesting raider for the North Yorkshire trainer. His last three wins have all come on good to soft, so a bit of rain probably won’t harm his chances, coming here on the back of finishing fifth over a furlong less than this at Pontefract last time. It isn’t easy to regard him as a potential winner, but he could well outrun his price.
17 PADDY POWER – Finally broke his duck on turf at the sixteenth attempt last time out when scoring on good to soft at Newmarket. Connor Murtagh is the man charged with the mount at Epsom after Sammy Jo Bell rode him last time. She has struck up a smart rapport with the gelding so it remains to be seen if Murtagh can get the same tune out of him. Both career wins have come at five furlongs but this trip is not a problem, not is the softening of ground.