Traditionally, the best trial for the Derby is the 2,000 Guineas, which explains why Kameko is the new ante-post betting favourite for the UK’s most prestigious Flat race. The winner of the first Classic of the season at Newmarket last Saturday is now a best-priced +400 with BetOnline to win the Blue Riband of the Flat at Epsom Racecourse on the first Saturday in July.
Anthony Van Dyck won the Derby last season having taken out the Lingfield Trial. English King was an impressive winner of that race last Friday and is now a leading contender for the Derby. The market will take better shape after some key trials at Royal Ascot, but it will take a good performance in a prep race to see any horse standout like English King at +500.
‘Placed in the Guineas wins the Derby’ is a popular saying, so that gives Pinatubo a chance at Epsom. However, current odds of +3300 suggest the horse will not run in the Derby and has an alternative target. Pinatubo can be backed at +187.5 to win the St James’s Palace Stakes on the Saturday of Royal Ascot. That race appears to be the most viable option for the champion juvenile of last season.
Pinatubo did not run a bad race in the Guineas, but he did not produce the devastating turn of foot that helped him go unbeaten in six races as a two-year-old last season. The jockey did not look comfortable over the final three furlongs and it now appears the horse will not get further. The St James’s Palace Stakes race is run over seven furlongs and 213 yards, while the Derby is one mile and four furlongs.
Wichita is the current ante-post favourite for the Ascot Group 1 highlight. The Aidan O’Brien horse finished a neck behind Kameko but a length ahead of Pinatubo in the Guineas. The winner only headed Wichita inside the final furlong but was better value for the short-distance win. The Newmarket race points to Kameko going up in the distance and Wichita and Pinatubo running in the major mile races over the rest of the season.
Pinatubo had the highest rating for a two-year-old for 25 years last season. The one-month delay to the 2,000 Guineas gave Kameko more time to catch up physically. Pinatubo did nothing wrong at Newmarket, but Kameko made more progress from two to three. Kameko’s highest Racing Post Rating (RPR) last season was 117, while Pinatubo posted a best figure of 128. The race conditions and date allowed Kameko to produce 122 at Newmarket, where Pinatubo ran to 118.
At the current best prices, the combined odds for Kameko or English King to win the Derby are +200. That makes the field -300.03, which is a lay rather than a back price. The Flat season has not followed its regular pattern and Kameko and English King have delivered in the Derby prep races that matter most. O’Brien may be training an unexposed contender, but his usual trial routes are not available. Mogul is the favourite for the Irish version, but that’s seven days before Epsom.
Kameko has an excellent chance to win the Derby. The horse is now proven at the highest level, although he has not run beyond the mile. He was not stopping at the line in the Guineas, but 12 furlongs around Epsom is a different proposition. The Lingfield Derby Trial is only a Listed race, but the distance is one mile and three-and-a-half furlongs.
So, Kameko has now won a Classic, but English King has excelled at near the Derby distance. Class would usually prevail and the best horse wins the Derby, but English King raced clear inside the final furlong at Lingfield and gets the vote ahead of Kameko. That said, the shape of the betting market could change before July 4, especially if Mogul produces something special in Ireland.