DONCASTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22: Joseph O'Brien riding Camelot win The Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster racecourse on October 22, 2011 in Doncaster, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
On Saturday morning, Epsom Downs will present the Group 1 Epsom Derby (post time: 4:00pm British Time; TV: HRTV, TVG), otherwise known as the Investec Derby, or simple "The Derby". (And, for us Yanks, that's Derby pronounced as 'Dah-bee'.) First run in 1780, the Epsom Derby is the most prestigious of all Classic races in England and one of the most important races in the world of thoroughbred horse racing.
Camelot (GB), winner of the Group 1 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on the first Saturday in May, leads the field of nine in the Derby and is the odds-on favorite with most bookmakers in the U.K. Camelot, trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by his son, Joseph O'Brien, is a perfect three-for-three in his young career, with a win in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy to go along with his Guineas triumph. The favorite is a son of Montjeu (IRE) out of a Kingmambo mare (Tarfah).
The second choice with many U.K. bookmakers is Bonfire (GB), a winner in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York in his last start. Bonfire is a son of Manduro (GER) out of a Night Shift mare (Night Frolic (GB). You might remember Manduro from the 2007 racing season when he won all five of his starts, including three Group 1 wins at Deauville, Royal Ascot and Longchamp. As is the case with many German-bred horses, Bonfire has a ton of stamina in his pedigree, especially on the top half.
For those interested in the pedigree side of the race, there are two horses in the field that are
Main Sequence was bred in Kentucky and is an undefeated son of Aldebaran out of a Pivotal (GB) mare (Ikat (IRE). He won the Group 3 Derby Trial at Lingfield earlier this spring.
- Thought Worthy is a Pennsylvania-bred son of Dynaformer our of a Diesis (GB) mare (Vignette). He recently won a listed stakes race at Newmarket.
Below are the entries, post positions and current best odds (via Racing Post) for the 2012 Investec Derby, along with a profile of the Epsom Downs course.
|1||7||Astrology (IRE)||R. Moore||A.P. O'Brien||8/1|
|2||8||Bonfire (GB)||J. Fortune||A. Balding||5/1|
|3||5||Camelot (GB)||J. O'Brien||A.P. O'Brien||4/6|
|4||1||Cavaleiro (IRE)||H. Turner||M. Tregoning||100/1|
|5||3||Main Sequence||T. Duncan||D. Lanigan||10/1|
|6||4||Mickdaam (IRE)||P. Hanagan||R. Fahey||33/1|
|7||9||Minimise Risk (GB)||J. Spencer||A. Balding||150/1|
|8||2||Rugged Cross (GB)||D. O'Neill||H. Candy||50/1|
|9||6||Thought Worthy||W. Buick||J. Gosden||16/1|
Epsom Downs and The Derby
Epsom Downs is a "C" shaped racecourse with all races, except those at five furlongs, running around a large turn. The mile and a half Epsom Derby begins at the very tip of the course on the far side, while races run at ten and eight furlongs begin along the same straight portion of the course. Races at seven and six furlongs start out of the chutes at the top of turn.
Races at five furlongs are run on the straight downhill course, considered one of the fastest five furlong courses in the world.
Satellite photo via Google Earth.
The Derby begins at the lowest point of the Epsom Downs course and proceeds uphill for approximately four to five furlongs. When the horses reach the highest point of the course (roughly 150 feet above the lowest point), the ground levels for a brief period of time before heading into the famous Tattenham Corner and the downhill sprint for the final four furlongs (see photos below). With approximately a half a furlong to go, the course takes another twist and begins an uphill climb to the wire.
Despite the final uphill climb and the stamina it takes to stay on till that point, the winning move will most likely come as the field rolls off Tattenham Corner and engages in the sprint downhill towards the wire. The horse that is able to separate from the pack during this portion of the race will likely have a tactical advantage on the rest of the field during the final stages.
Below are photos I took at Epsom Downs in the spring of 2011.