Epsom Derby 2021 leading contenders

Aidan O'Brien

Nineteen horses were confirmed at the six day stage for the 2021 Epsom Derby and as usual Aidan O’Brien is well represented with six horse currently set to run. Three sires, Galileo, Frankel and Camelot dominate the leading contenders and we have summarised their prospects and likelihood of staying the stiff 12f here.

BOLSHOI BALLET

Sets the standard on form after his 6l demolition of the field in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown, with Mac Swiney well in arrears. He had already shone in winning the Ballysax at the same track in the spring and drying ground is a definite positive as his on below par effort came on desperate ground at Saint-Cloud last autumn.

The son of Galileo should have no issues with the trip given his dam has produced stayers in the past, notably Southern France, another Aidan O’Brien inmate who is a Group 3 winner over 1m6f.

HIGH DEFINITION

Something of an enigma as he can get behind early, but finishes with a rattle. He came from well back to win on both his starts as a juvenile at the Curragh including the Beresford Stakes, a race with a fine record of producing future stars. Again he was off the bridle early in the Dante at York before rallying for third. He will undoubtedly come on for that and I wonder whether some form of headgear might get applied to sharpen him up, something the trainer has done successfully in this race recently with the likes of Ruler of the World and Serpentine.

Another son of Galileo, he has a full brother who is a 3m winner over hurdles and indeed runs at Wexford over 3m on Wednesday so he will surely stay every yard of this trip and more. The faster they go, the better his chances will be.

HURRICANE LANE

3-3 in his career now and he has progressed dramatically this term. His Dante win at York displayed his determination as well as class. Frankel’s progeny seem to excel over all sorts of distances and the likes of Cracksman and Logician have displayed their worth over 12f and beyond.

His dam Gale Force won three times over 2m so I can’t see stamina being an issue at all.

JOHN LEEPER

Would provide the fairytale winner being named after trainer Ed Dunlop’s late father John. There is no better bred horse in the race than this son of Frankel and Snow Fairy – who won the Oaks here on 2010 for the same connections.

Having won a modest Newcastle maiden in April, he moved up successfully in grade to land a Newmarket listed contest last time. My concern with him though would be how free he was on that occasion and he will need to settle better to last home over an extra 2f and a stiffer track here.

MAC SWINEY

Has the rather bizarre career form figures of 51918141 which would seem to indicate inconsistency and given he won last time (albeit in the Irish 2000 Guineas) his current profile trend would suggest a poor run here.

His best form has come on very soft ground, such as that Classic win, or when he won the Futurity at Doncaster on bottomless conditions last autumn. He is a son on New Approach who won the 2008 Derby last year despite pulling like a train and for me he might struggle to last the trip.

MOHAAFETH

A real dark horse who has progressed from winning a weak All Weather maiden, to a Newmarket handicap and then a Newmarket listed race. On each occasion he has impressed, winning with plenty in hand, but he seems to possess an abundance of speed and whilst he might be classy enough, will he be robust enough to cope with the demands of Epsom.

Another son of Frankel, his dam French Dressing won both her career runs (both at 10f) – the question has to be whether he can last 12f.

ONE RULER

Had a busy 2yo season, culminating in a narrow defeat in the Futurity at Doncaster. However his best form seems to be generally on softer ground than he is likely to face at Epsom.

Whilst he stays 1m well, getting outpaced before running on again in the 2000 Guineas, his breeding does not really possess great stamina. His sire Dubawi and dam Fintry were really specialist milers and whilst he needs a stiff mile, I don’t expect him to be suited by this test.

SIR LAMORAK

Has only won a Dundalk maiden and Leopardstown handicap so far, and was then a late withdrawal due to the soft ground at Chester, so we have not really learned if he is up to this grade yet.

He is a son of Camelot, but his dam’s side is very pacy and he does not look one of O’Brien’s main hopes. Whether he might take his chance and be the pace angle in the race remains to be seen?

THIRD REALM

Another rapid improver who won the Lingfield Derby Trial last month – albeit the level of that form seems to be below what is required here. Came into that race off a mere Nottingham maiden win.

He clearly possesses much more stamina than some of his half-brothers like Ostilio and Cape Byron, who did not get beyond a mile, but he will need to step up again on what he has shown to figure prominently here.

VAN GOGH

Well beaten in the English Guineas, when probably in need of the run, but showed up better when third at the Curragh recently. His Group 1 Criterium win at Saint-Cloud on heavy showed an emphasis on stamina last autumn.

He is not a typically Ballydoyle bred Derby contender being by American Pharoah, but is out of Imagine who won the 2001 Oaks in her last start before retirement. Should definitely improve for 10f, though 12f is not guaranteed but on current form, he might just be short of what is required.

YOUTH SPIRIT

Represents the same owner-trainer combination that almost pulled off a 50/1 shock with Khalifa Sat in the 2020 Derby. He booked his place in this with a win in a depleted field for the Chester Vase on soft ground – conditions he might favour more than this quicker going.

His limitations on faster ground seemed to be exposed at Newmarket in April where he was well held.

CONCLUSION

Bolshoi Ballet definitely sets the standard and with the going in his favour, stamina apparently assured and with his race preparations apparently having gone to plan, he looks the one to bear. Hurricane Lane looks the solid one against him, although I can see why High Definition could leave his York run behind and Mohaafeth is the one that is difficult to match up given his rise in class.

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