It’s Cazoo Derby day at Epsom and our flagship tipping column features four Saturday selections to consider.
Value Bet tips: Saturday June 4
1pt win Swilcan Bridge in 2.00 Epsom at 14/1 (General)
1pt win Tees Spirit in 3.45 Epsom at 12/1 (General)
0.5pts win Lipsink in 3.45 Epsom at 50/1 (General)
1pt win Royal Patronage ‘without the favourite’ in 4.30 Epsom at 22/1 (William Hill, bet365)
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Fitting selection on Jubilee weekend?
Take Desert Crown out of the whole equation and ROYAL PATRONAGE would be coming into the Cazoo Derby as the comfortable winner of the Dante and there looks to be some mileage in getting him onside in the market ‘without the favourite’ at Epsom on Saturday.
Trained by Charlie and Mark Johnston, a yard responsible for the 2018 Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee who was also beaten in a recognised trial (Chester Vase) en route to finding just Masar too good at odds of 20/1, Royal Patronage was a very progressive two-year-old.
In winning twice over seven furlongs (here at Epsom and York) before beating Coroebus in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket, he was effectively defying his stout, middle-distance pedigree as a juvenile, and it was no great surprise that connections were lured into running their colt in the 2000 Guineas first time out at three.
He inevitably lacked the gears to confirm form with Coroebus – who was the moral winner when the pair met last year having hit the front far too soon – but stepped up on the run to finish second on the Knavesmire, where he was well-backed on the day and eventually sent off 7/2 joint-favourite.
The son of Wootton Bassett made steady headway from midfield to lay down his challenge and looked a major threat, though from the two-furlong marker he could only box on at the one pace as fellow joint-fav Desert Crown had too much class.
That performance rightly earned Desert Crown priority at the head of the Derby betting, but it seems odd Royal Patronage isn’t a touch shorter than 33/1, with the winner generally 15/8.
Subsequent Arc winner Workforce is the only horse beaten in a Dante to go on to win at Epsom – he also had legitimate excuses at York as the bit slipped through his mouth – and Royal Patronage clearly isn’t of that calibre.
But there are only three rated higher on official figures, he’s from the family of Shalapour and dual Derby winner Shahrastani, while his sire Wootton Bassett has had a total of 16 12-furlong winners so far, including recent Group-race scorer Ilaraab, so it’s hard to believe he can’t show at least as much ability over this longer trip.
Stall one and hefty local showers turning the ground very soft are two potential sticking points, although they’re seemingly well factored into the prices available. Let’s not forget, he’s won on good to soft before and Adayar obviously defied the lowest gate just 12 months ago.
Balding horse backed to bridge class gap
The Derby day ITV coverage kicks off with a cracking three-year-old contest over 10 furlongs – the Cazoo Handicap – and good luck to those getting stuck into market leader Mr Big Stuff from stall 13.
He’s going to have a wall of horses in front of him when the race develops and it’s not hard to see a repeat of last month’s Newbury outcome when seemingly all dressed up with nowhere to go en route to finishing fifth in the London Gold Cup.
The assessor has nudged him up a pound for good measure, too, so he’s easily overlooked at the prices, with ready preference for SWILCAN BRIDGE, whose half-brother Drochaid won this race for the same yard in 2017.
The glaring negative with him is that he’s got to run from 4lb out of the handicap, but we’ve been here before with trainer Andrew Balding winning major weekend handicaps with horses officially ‘wrong’ at the weights, and this progressive colt could find enough further improvement to defy the fact he’s technically up against it.
He went up a couple of pounds for his latest head second when stepped up to this trip for the first time at Goodwood and it’s a race he arguably should have won, looking almost sure to collect before edging left in the final furlong and nutted right on the line by Marcus Tregoning’s Al Azhar.
Perhaps the sizeable son of Helmet was just feeling the quick ground in the closing stages there but he’ll be happier on the rain-softened ground this weekend if his Southwell maiden win in March is anything to go by and, much like Balding’s other recent winner of this race Le Don De Vie (2019), he’s already had a look around Epsom earlier this season having been a staying-on third over the extended mile here on April 19.
Take two in fine punting puzzle
The Simpex Express ‘Dash’ Handicap is the most competitive race of the day but it’s surprising to see half a dozen horses shorter than TEES SPIRIT in the betting.
Trained by Adrian Nicholls, son of ‘sprint king’ Dandy Nicholls who won the Dash on a handful of occasions between 1997 and 2009, he’s looked a improved model this time around after not quite kicking on as expected after making a winning start to his 2021 campaign at Ripon.
It can be tough for three-year-old sprinters but he held his form reasonably well without taking the next step up.
This year’s evidence looks very different, though, and after impressive wins at Beverley and Nottingham – both over the minimum trip on good ground – he’s now stepping into the big league off a career-high mark (83).
Connections obviously think he’s up to it as he could easily have gone for a relatively soft 0-85 to bring up the hat-trick, and Nicholls is no doubt buoyed by Nottingham runner-up beating his Abate back at the same track off 1lb higher later last month.
The other one who appeals near the bottom of the weights in the same race is LIPSINK, one of the outsiders of the field at the time of writing.
He weakened out of it quickly when asked for an effort at York last month but I’d excuse any sprinter a comeback run after 165 days away – even though he’d won fresh off a break in September – and he’s been dropped right back to the same mark as for that Chelmsford success.
The win came on just his second run after a breathing operation so there’s clearly one or two issues with his wind and if one trainer is going to get to the bottom of them it’s Robert Cowell, who does incredibly well in this division in general.
The horse has only had 10 starts for this yard since switching from France, where he won a couple of times on the all-weather and his nose second to Ey Up It’s Maggie at Leicester in October suggests there are definitely more races to be won with him when back on song.
It’s a leap of faith but the Leicester run came on soft ground so the weather isn’t a massive concern, while Cowell has gone to the trouble of booking Hollie Doyle who could be in a good spot in stall five with Justanotherbottle (one), Fine Wine (seven) and the aforementioned Tees Spirit (10) on breaking from a similar part of the track.
Published at 1600 BST on 03/06/22
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