2020 Epsom Derby Runner by Runner Guide and Tips

by | Jul 3, 2020

2020 Epsom Derby Tips and Preview by Dave Stevos

We only landed a solitary place from 5 selections on Wednesday, but at least it was a 33/1 shot. Sondheim ran a cracker to finish 3rd, miles behind the impressive winner. Apricot Moon was posted wide throughout and never looked like threatening. Dalvey ran a huge race and I thought he finished with something left in the tank. He is an exciting prospect. Eyeoweyou was slowly away and never got into it. Ellheidi stopped like she was shot and ran as though something was amiss. The focus switches back to the UK on Saturday for one of the biggest days on the racing calendar. Check out Dave Stevos’ 2020 Epsom Derby runner by runner guide and free tip below…

Epsom Derby Runner By Runner Guide

1. AMHRANN NA BHFIANN

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: William Buick

Odds: 100/1

A two race maiden, at first glance this horse has no chance. However, he is regally bred being by Galileo and a full brother to Oaks heroine Was. Beat out of sight on sole 2yo run (8f yld) but did shape better last time at Leopardstown when 4th (10f gd/fm). Wasn’t far behind the 2nd, 3rd and 4th home in the Irish Derby and jockey booking catches the eye. The longest priced of Aidan O’Brien’s six entries but you couldn’t fully discount him. Should be up with the pace and could surprise with a good run.

2. EMISSARY

Trainer: Hugo Palmer

Jockey: Jim Crowley

Odds: 33/1

Not done much wrong in two starts so far. Won easy on debut then narrowly beat on return 3 weeks ago in a Listed heat at Goodwood. On the downside, his debut form has not worked out. Most certainly bred for the job, by Kingman and a half-brother to Derby and Arc winner Workforce. Connections reach for cheekpieces and Jim Crowley takes over in the plate. He had a superb Royal Ascot, as did Hugo Palmer, and this horse deserves to take his chance in an open race. Odds of 33/1 look about right on the balance of his form. Will likely be held up and delivered late.

3. ENGLISH KING

Trainer: Ed Walker

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Odds: 3/1 Fav

It was hard not to be very impressed by this fella’s win at Lingfield. He went into a lot of notebooks after that and anyone who was on at 66s for this race before that win is sitting pretty now. The runner up Berkshire Rocco did the form no harm at Royal Ascot, chasing home subsequent Irish Derby winner Santiago.

However, reportedly the ground is on the easy side of good at Epsom and this horse struggled on his sole start on soft. It was rattling quick at Lingfield and Frankie’s mount has questions to answer on easy ground. Not for me at 3/1 but is a very talented horse. Will be held up off the pace and will be interesting to see what happens if he comes off the bridle earlier than usual.

4. GOLD MAZE

Trainer: Jessica Harrington

Jockey: David Egan

Odds: 200/1

Rank outsider. Limitations apparently exposed in Irish Derby when beat 11L into 6th. Was a better run than it looked and could be suited by the easyish ground here. His trainer is in superb form and this well bred son of Golden Horn will be ridden by David Egan. Needs to take a big step forward to trouble the best of these. Drawn wide and will try to race up with the pace so has to be quick from the gates. Can put in a respectable showing but unlikely to improve enough to feature at the finish.

5. HIGHLAND CHIEF

Trainer: Paul & Oliver Cole

Jockey: Ben Curtis

Odds: 16/1

This son of Gleneagles is a talented horse but he looks ground dependent. Both his wins have come on proper soft ground and he needs the heavens to open. No doubt it was an impressive win at Royal Ascot in a 10f Handicap off 101 and he is entitled to improve for what was his first run of the season and his 4th career start. Is another one that will likely be dropped out and Ben Curtis will need the gaps to appear at the right time. If the rain arrives and conditions deteriorate he comes right into the reckoning at odds of 16/1. If it stays dry, he might lack the turn of foot to compete.

6. KAMEKO

Trainer: Andrew Balding

Jockey: Oisin Murphy

Odds: 4/1

The 2000 Guineas and Futurity Stakes winner, Kameko is one of the leading contenders here. Trained by Andrew Balding, Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy takes the ride. By Kitten’s Joy, Roaring Lion’s sire, and out of a Rock of Gibraltar half-sister to Kingsbarns, there is a lovely mix of stamina and speed in Kameko’s pedigree. However, the emphasis is most certainly on speed on the dam side and the 12f trip has to be a worry for him.

He steps up half a mile here and he wasn’t exactly powering clear in the closing stages at Newmarket. Connections are absolutely right to go for the big one but if you were planning on backing him at 4/1 you’d prefer if he had proven his stamina at least over 10f before this race. Ground on the softer side of good is another unknown. He’ll probably race just behind the pace and at his current odds he does not appeal as a bet.

7. KHALIFA SAT

Trainer: Andrew Balding

Jockey: Tom Marquand

Odds: 33/1

If you fancy Emissary to run a big race then this son of Free Eagle has to be considered too. A two time Goodwood winner (10f sft/11f gd), he would prefer the rain to stay away. Jamie Spencer reported he wasn’t in love with the soft ground when winning at Goodwood but once there is good in the description he should be fine. Will likely be up with the pace and while he made all in a small field last time, he will likely adopt different tactics from stall 14. Should run a decent race but will be surprising if he is good enough to win the 2020 Epsom Derby.

8. MAX VEGA

Trainer: Ralph Beckett

Jockey: Harry Bentley

Odds: 40/1

By Lope De Vega, this horse had very smart form as a 2yo. After a narrow defeat on debut to Kenzai Warrior on good he won two on the bounce, including a commanding defeat of Miss Yoda and Berkshire Rocco in the Zetland at Newmarket (10f soft). Was disappointing on the all-weather at Kempton on his return but that was likely a prep run for the 2020 Epsom Derby.

His half-brother Camphor has placed form over 12f and his trainer is confident that he will stay. A straightforward type, Harry Bentley will hope to break well from stall 7 and get a decent racing position just off the pace. If more rain comes and there is cut in the ground Max Vega could outrun his odds of 40/1.

9. MOGUL

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: Ryan Moore

Odds: 5/1

On bare form Mogul looks massively under-priced for the 2020 Epsom Derby. He has 3L to find with Kameko on their meeting at Newcastle last season and nearly 5L to find with Pyledriver on their Royal Ascot clash. On the plus side, he is by Galileo and a full brother to the likes of Japan and Secret Gesture.

However, easy ground is unlikely to suit and unless there is firm in the description Mogul could struggle to land a blow. It is hard to know what tactics will be employed but he will likely race in midfield and be ridden to finish strong. The fact Ryan Moore rides is the reason his odds have tumbled and he is of no interest at his current odds of just 5/1.

10. Mohican Heights

Trainer: David Simcock

Jockey: Andrea Atzeni

Odds: 20/1

Quite a few shrewd judges are sweet on this son of Australia for the 2020 Epsom Derby. He is very nicely bred and on pedigree he should get 12f no problem. He won his first two starts, a Leopardstown maiden for the Stacks (then sold) and he then stepped up in class on his only other 2yo start to land a Listed heat at Salisbury (8f gd).

Mohican Heights made his seasonal reappearance at Royal Ascot (12f gd/sft) and ran well. He was held up and stayed on late to narrowly finish ahead of Mogul, but over 4L behind Pyledriver. Mohican Heights is 4x the price of Mogul and that doesn’t make sense. That represents serious value and it would be no surprise to see Andrea Atzeni arriving late on the scene and possibly picking up place money.

11. Mythical

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: James Doyle

Odds: 66/1

This horse has just one win from 5 starts and he looks out of his depth here. James Doyle picks up the ride and on all known form it is hard to see how this horse can figure. The fact he was sent off at 11/10 last time suggests that he may have been showing something at home and while he ran poorly, he was lame afterwards. Still, even his best 2yo form leaves him with something to find and he may well be used as a pacemaker here. Mythical makes no appeal at odds of 66/1.

12. PYLEDRIVER

Trainer: William Muir

Jockey: Martin Dwyer

Odds: 18/1

This horse owes us nothing after his super win at Royal Ascot. We were on each way at odds of 20/1 and he did it very well. The son of Harbour Watch is a striking looking individual and he travels very strongly through his races. He made a promising return when 2nd in a Kempton G3 on his return and showed that was no fluke when scooting home in the King Edward VII at the Royal Meeting (12f gd/sft).

William Muir’s star is versatile when it comes to ground having won on both slow and quick surfaces. This horse was bought back by the vendor for 10k as a foal and that looks like some bargain now. His sire has already produced a Group 1 winner in Hong Kong but not in the UK. Pyledriver could be the first son of Harbour Watch to win a G1 on British soil and I can see no reason why he shouldn’t be competitive. Will likely be held up in midfield and there won’t be many travelling better 4f out. Whether he can win is another thing, but odds of 18/1 look generous.

13. RUSSIAN EMPEROR

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: Seamie Heffernan

Odds: 13/2

Russian Emperor and Ryan Moore teamed up to good effect when winning at Royal Ascot. Moore has deserted the son of Galileo though and opportunity knocks for Seamie Heffernan. He was on board for this fella’s first three starts and he won one of them. His dam was a top class performer in Australia, winning Group 1s at a range of trips up to 10f and this horse won his first Group race over that trip at Royal Ascot.

Plenty picked him out as a potential 2020 Epsom Derby winner after watching how he travelled and stayed on at Ascot. There are major stamina concerns on the dam side of his pedigree though and that is the biggest question mark. If he stays he is clearly talented enough to play a big part but his odds do not tempt. I would imagine he will be dropped out and ridden to get the trip.

14. SERPENTINE

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: Emmet McNamara

Odds: 25/1

Another extremely well bred son of Galileo out of Oaks runner up Remember When. Looks the Ballydoyle 4th string on jockey bookings but the worry has to be stamina. Looked an absolute machine when hosing up at the Curragh (10f gd) on his third maiden start a week ago. He won by 9L that day and given his pedigree it is no surprise that connections have come straight here.

However, none of his full brothers have won at 12f and that has to be a big worry. This horse made all last time and clearly has no shortage of speed. I expect him to be prominent early and he could be the one that takes them along. The extra 2f could find him out though and he is overlooked at 25/1.

15. VATICAN CITY

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien

Jockey: Padraig Beggy

Odds: 10/1

For a lot of people, Vatican City was the big eyecatcher in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Padraig Beggy rode him into 2nd behind Siskin and he shaped like going up in trip would suit. However, just like stablemate Serpentine his pedigree raises massive doubts about the suitability of 12f. All his brothers and sisters won at Group level (including Guineas winners Gleneagles and Marvellous) at up to a mile but only Taj Mahal won at 12f and those were Group 2s.

Additionally, the form of the Irish 2000 Guineas hasn’t really worked out so far. Six of the horses behind Vatican City have run since and only Sinawann won (G3). Looks to be the Ballydoyle third string on jockey bookings but at least Padraig Beggy does have Derby winning experience. Vatican City will likely race prominently just behind the early pace. If he stays he could figure but at odds of 10/1 the percentage call is to oppose.

16. WORTHILY

Trainer: John Gosden

Jockey: Martin Harley

Odds: 33/1

A bit of an unknown quantity having had just the one start so far. To be fair to the horse he won well at Nottingham (10f gd) and in such an open year connections are right to take a punt. Martin Harley was on board for his debut win and he keeps the ride on the son of Point Of Entry. Worthily is bred to be a Group 1 horse, being very closely related to Leger winner Lucarno.

His pedigree suggests that stepping up in trip will suit and looking at his debut win, stamina should not be an issue. However, 10 of the last 12 winners had at least two career starts and the lack of experience could count against Worthily. He could be a very nice horse in the future and it would be no surprise to see him staying on well at the finish and running a promising race. However, this looks too big an ask on just his second start and Worthily is best watched at 33/1.

The Verdict

It is fair to say that the 2020 Epsom Derby is one of the most open in recent memory. Due to the race program no horse has really emerged as a hot favourite and the fact that Aidan O’Brien runs six suggests that there may not be much between his runners on their homework. I think Amhran Na Bhfiann is an interesting dark horse given how the form of his last run worked out and if it rains both Highland Chief and Max Vega come into it. However, the two I’ll be backing at decent odds are Pyledriver and Mohican Heights.

Pyledriver goes on any ground and was very impressive at Ascot last time. He is proven at the distance and if he handles the track I think he has serious place claims. Mohican Heights shaped well behind Pyledriver at Ascot and stayed on well. He could improve a lot for that comeback effort and he is going to be much sharper than he was at Ascot. Pyledriver (16/1) and Mohican Heights (18/1) are the each way picks.  

2020 EPSOM DERBY TIPS: PYLEDRIVER E/W @ 16/1; MOHICAN HEIGHTS E/W @ 18/1 (BOTH 4 PLACES)

 

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