Derby: Buick fancied to guide Ancient Wisdom to glory

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18 Min Read
Derby: Buick fancied to guide Ancient Wisdom to glory

I think it is fair to say that Saturday’s Derby is one of the most open contests for several years. It is a division that has lacked a horse to stamp his authority on it, while the one that looked set to potentially do it as a juvenile last season has disappointed and now has plenty of questions to answer.

It is also justified to say that at this juncture, it looks like a sub-standard renewal. Hindsight might tell us otherwise of course, while I’m sure the connections of the winner on Saturday evening won’t mind how the so-called experts rank the race.

The track conditions have been a common topic of discussion this week. Earlier in the week, the threat of downpours had some suggesting it could even be heavy. However, on Friday morning, clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, reported that less than 2mm fell on the course through Thursday.

Of the last 20 Derbys, just eight have had 16 runners or more. Five of those renewals were won by horses drawn in stall 12 or higher, while seven of them came from the higher half of the draw. The one exception was New Approach, so it might just take a special horse to defy a low draw in a big field.

Ambiente Friendly (drawn 6)

Rab Havlin | James Fanshawe

This Gleneagles colt took a notable step forward on his previous form last time when running out a ready winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial. The form has been franked since with the third (beaten almost eight lengths) winning a Listed race at Goodwood. He had Illinois back in second too, whose form from last season ties in closely with Los Angeles. That effort is a match for virtually all the runners here except for the favourite’s juvenile form and better than most have managed.

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Ancient Wisdom (11)

William Buick | Charlie Appleby

One of last season’s leading juveniles after winning the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket impressively and following up in the Group 1 Futurity in testing conditions at Doncaster on his final start. While the form was downplayed at the time in many quarters, it has worked out quite well. Breeding suggests he should be at least as good and probably better at middle distances, and that is supported by how he shaped in his races last year.

William Buick and Ancient Wisdom reunite

Image: William Buick and Ancient Wisdom reunite

He was a tad disappointing in the Dante at York on reappearance behind Economics, but I would be willing to forgive that run. He was a little free early on and tracked the strong pace but stayed on better than the rest. His yard could hardly be in better form either, having an excellent season thus far. He rates a major player and while he would have thrived in soft ground, he certainly handles better ground.

Bellum Justum

Oisin Murphy | Andrew Balding

It took him four starts to break his maiden as a juvenile but has stepped forward in both of his last two starts. It was a strong maiden he did win when he got off the mark, beating last weekend’s Group 2 winner Inisherin, who ran well in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. He continued his progress with a Listed success at this course on seasonal return in the Blue Riband Trial. He is highly likely to step forward again, but he will need to improve a lot to get involved.

City Of Troy

Ryan Moore | Aidan O’Brien

There is a feeling of déjà vu regarding City Of Troy ahead of the second colts’ Classic of the season. There was divided opinion of him ahead of the 2000 Guineas and while I was in his camp, my faith waned in the aftermath of that hugely disappointing reappearance. It was such a disappointing effort that those keeping the faith must put a line through that effort as it was too bad for him to just need the run.

I still believe he has the most ability in this field, but I certainly have more questions now than I did prior to Newmarket. The memories from his sensational juvenile campaign are less vivid now than they were prior. I had him down as more of a Derby horse at the end of last season, but I still wanted to see more than a (16-and-three-quarter length) ninth-place finish. Furthermore, he is now priced as though he ran well in the 2000 Guineas, and he has a poor draw in stall 1 to overcome.

Dallas Star (7)

David Egan | Adrian Murray

Dallas Star looked an entirely different prospect on his return this season. Having looked exposed towards the end of last term as one that had reached close to his ceiling, his impressive Group 3 success at the hands of Illinois and The Euphrates raised doubts about that theory.

Ballysax Stakes winner Dallas Star

Image: Ballysax Stakes winner Dallas Star

There is the possibility that the O’Brien pair were slightly undercooked, but taking the form at face value he is entitled to take his place here. That form puts him on a similar level to several here who could run well, while leaving him with some improvement required to get seriously involved.

Dancing Gemini (15)

D McMonagle | Roger Teal

He is a horse I have been a big fan of, pretty much since his debut at Salisbury last June. He progressed with each run and put in a big performance at Doncaster in the Flying Scotsman at the Leger Festival in September. He probably wasn’t quite in the same form when he returned there the following month when behind Ancient Wisdom in the Futurity.

His seasonal return was a promising one when staying on second in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas). He is one that probably wanted all the forecast rain to fall, with all his best efforts coming on soft ground or worse. He needs to step forward again, but he is a very likable type, who looks sure to run his race, despite connections having some concerns regarding the track prior to a recent spin.

Deira Mile (14)

Jim Crowley | Owen Burrows

Another that contested the Futurity at Doncaster last season, his fourth-place finish possibly deserving of marking up slightly as he got outpaced at a vital point and it was his first run for the stable after leaving Charlie Johnston. He was staying on again at the line and this son of Camelot looks sure to enjoy this distance.

Deira Mile and trainer Owen Burrows

Image: Deira Mile and trainer Owen Burrows

He had a simple task on reappearance at Windsor in a Novice contest over ten furlongs, which told us very little. He did appear to need the run on that occasion too. He has shown some personality in the past and it might be interesting to see how he handles the occasion. One of the likelier outsiders.

Euphoric (9)

Declan McDonagh | Aidan O’Brien

Euphoric was just a length behind Los Angeles at Leopardstown last time, although one felt that the winner on the day was value for more. He had been beaten at Cork prior to that, while Los Angeles was having his first run of the season. In truth, it is hard to see him reversing that form and he could well be set for pace-making duties for the Ballydoyle team. They have won the race with such types before, of course.

God’s Window (10)

Kieran Shoemark | John & Thady Gosden

One that certainly would have appreciated the return to softer conditions if Epsom did get the forecast rain as his form is of a much higher level when he is able to get his toe in. He ran a huge race when finishing third in the Futurity on just his second start, just 42 days after making his racecourse debut.

He made a winning return to this campaign at Nottingham but has been rather disappointing in two starts since. They have come on better ground and perhaps he is just ground dependent. The Dante effort especially leaves him a little short of the standard required here.

Kamboo (3)

Richard Kingscote | Richard Hughes

Kamboo arrives at the Derby trying to win the Classic without a run this season. He hasn’t been seen on a racecourse since his win at Kempton in December. As well as not having had a prep, he is yet to race on turf either. While Notable Speech managed to overcome that negative to win the 2000 Guineas, it must be a concern, especially on the undulations of this course.

While the Kempton race was reasonably strong for a December maiden, he has plenty of question marks surrounding his chance here and others are preferred.

Los Angeles (4)

W M Lordan | Aidan O’Brien

This unbeaten son of Camelot is hard to knock, even though I find it difficult to weigh up what he has actually achieved. That seems like a strange comment for an unbeaten thrice-raced Group 1 winner, but I’m unsure about the strength of that Group 1 success in the Criterion de Saint Cloud. It was more the manner of the success and while one might argue that he did well to win, he didn’t travel through the race like a Derby winner, although perhaps that was down to greenness.

On the plus side, he was more professional at Leopardstown in the Derby Trial, and he looks sure to really appreciate the extra two furlongs. He has been very strong at the finish in all his races. If he can stay involved, few will be finishing as well as him.

Macduff (8)

Rossa Ryan | Ralph Beckett

He was always likely to make up into a better three-year-old, but still managed to reach a decent level as a juvenile. His fourth in the Royal Lodge backing up a similar effort behind Al Musmak at Haydock, although probably better than the bare result in the Newmarket contest.

Macduff is Declan Rix's selection

Image: Macduff

His return at Sandown leaves him with a bit to find but his shrewd trainer has previous in treating those trials as exactly that and finding significant improvement for the Classic itself. He will need to work his magic again as that bare form leaves him with something to find.

Mr Hampstead (5)

Sean Levey | Dominic Ffrench Davis

The outsider of the entire field, this 86-rated maiden would be 1000-1 in another year. This year has such an open feel, connections may feel justified in rolling the dice. Having said that, despite it looking like an average renewal, he hasn’t done anything in three starts to date to suggest he can get seriously involved in a Group 1 contest, let alone a Classic. He wasn’t far behind Voyage at Newbury, so perhaps his supporters can make the case he is overpriced on that run.

Sayedaty Sadaty

Tom Marquand | Andrew Balding

The son of Anodin had a busy campaign as a juvenile, running on five occasions. He managed just one win in those starts but took a substantial step forward on his return when a close second in a Listed contest at Newcastle. Sayedaty Sadaty failed to build on that upped to 10f at Newmarket and I have stamina concerns from both his pedigree and his performances to date.

Tabletalk (13)

James Doyle | Tom Clover

Tabletalk is one of the least exposed horses in the line-up after just two starts, with a single win in a Chelmsford maiden to his name. It was an authoritative success, with the 71-rated Belcamo easily dismissed back in third. While it was impressive on the eye, it is a monstrous rise in class from that contest to a Classic. One that I think he might struggle with, despite the confidence of his connections.

Voyage (16)

Pat Dobbs | Richard Hannon

Last, but not least, is the Richard Hannon-trained maiden winner, the least experienced horse in this year’s Derby after just one start. That was an impressive one, when winning at Newbury. It came just 43 days ago, but the form has received a couple of boosts since, with the fifth and sixth both winning.

He was much the best on the day, but it is difficult to quantify what he achieved with real accuracy. He is very likely to step forward substantially too, making him even harder to get a handle on. It wouldn’t shock me if he won as we don’t really know how good he is, but I find it hard to make the case for him at the same time.

James’ verdict

The one I have just about come down on is the Dante second, ANCIENT WISDOM. He is the one horse that I feel will run his race, and if City Of Troy does fluff his lines once more, he sets the benchmark for the others to get to, in my opinion.

That opinion is not necessarily on the bare form of his Dante run, when no match for Economics. I thought he was better than the bare result though, keen early and then short of room at a vital stage. He also raced close to the strong pace and a combination of that, and expending energy unnecessarily means that effort can be upgraded.

He won the Futurity last season at Doncaster, he should stay, is versatile regards ground and is tough in a battle. He ticks plenty of boxes, without possessing the real star quality usually required in such a race. The bigger prices were snapped up earlier in the week, but the current 6/1 in places is more than acceptable.

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