At the beginning of this week the ground at Epsom was described as good, good to soft in places, and if the weather forecast is correct, the meeting is likely open on good ground.
On very soft going at Epsom the runners tend to migrate towards the stands’ side rail, favouring those drawn high, but they’re likely to stay far side this year.
14:00 - Cazoo Woodcote British EBF Stakes
Friday’s seven-race card commences with the six furlong Cazoo Woodcote British EBF Stakes, a conditions contest for two-year-olds. Traditionally, it has been difficult to win this race on the back of just a single previous outing but subsequent triple-Group One winner Pinatubo did so in 2019 as did Twaasol in 2020 (albeit when the meeting was held in early July because of COVID).
The last ten winners all won (seven) or finished runner-up (three) in their prep race. The Hannon yard has saddled the first past the post five times in the past ten year (+£4.62 to a £1 level stake at SP). Draw-wise, it usually helps to be berthed low and had we simply backed every horse drawn in stall 1, 2, 3 or 4 we’d have found seven of the last ten winners (from 40 bets) and made a small profit at SP.
Last year, perming the four lowest-drawn runners would have hit the £28.50 Tote exacta (stall 2 beat stall 4), though the Trifecta was scuppered when 33-1 shot Maybury (stall 10) narrowly beat 3-1 favourite Dairerin (stall 1) into third place.
14:35 - World Pool Handicap
The first handicap of the two-day meeting is the Class 2 World Pool Handicap run over the extended mile trip. Last year, early pace was more important that the draw and the winner/runner-up were in the first three throughout.
In reverse order, the running style of the last five winners (according to the Racing Post) was as follows…
Led, headed and tracked leader after 1f, led gain 3f out
Chased leader, ridden to lead over 2f out
Chased leader, closed to press leader over 3f out
Held up in touch in rear
Last year’s winner CORAZON ESPINADO again enters calculations for local trainer Simon Dow and HORTZADAR, runner-up 12 months ago, will be of interest if the field cuts up – all his wins have come in fields of ten or fewer runners.
15:10 - Dahlbury Coronation Cup
The first Group One race of the meeting is the 1m4f Dahlbury Coronation Cup. I shed a tear every time I look at this race as I nearly enjoyed one of the best results of my punting life in the 2018 renewal. I napped Sylvester Kirk’s SALOUEN, sent off at 33-1 from 80-1, only to see him go down by a head to 2-7 favourite Cracksman.
He almost stole it from the front under Silvestre De Sousa and he might have done so had he fully committed to the stands’ side rail, rather than leave a gap for the winner. If only. Cracksman wasn’t the only short-priced favourite to win this in recent years – seven of the last ten winners were at the head of the market.
One of the exceptions was last year’s 8-1 winner PYLEDRIVER, trained by William Muir and Chris Grassick. The five-year-old will be much shorter in the betting when he bids to retain his crown. He has run with credit in Group Ones at Sha Tin and Meydan this year and will appreciate the small field.
Aidan O’Brien has been responsible for three of the last ten winners, though HIGH DEFINITION is 0-7 since his juvenile season and has been beaten by a combined total of 51 lengths in his three runs beyond an extended 1m2f. Frankie Dettori takes the ride on Pyledriver and he’s going to be hard to beat.
15:45 - Cazoo Handicap
The 1m2f Cazoo Handicap provides a good opportunity for David Menusier’s course expert SOTO SIZZLER to follow up April’s City And Suburban Handicap success. The seven-year-old, who was fitted with cheekpieces for the first time that day, got up close home under Ryan Moore to take his form figures at this unique venue to 11221 (three wins and two seconds from five starts). Ryan Moore retains the ride and he’s a must-inclusion for the Tote placepot. His stable won this race last year with 9-2 favourite Blue Cup.
Ralph Beckett’s handicappers are always worth a second look at Epsom – in the past five seasons they’ve landed eight of their 26 starts for a profit of £9.04 to a £1 level stake at SP. Eight of the 18 beaten horses finished second, third or fourth and he's been responsible for the runner-up in the past two years.
VICTORY CHIME chased home Blue Cup 12 months ago and another Menusier/Beckett Tote exacta, which paid £25.20 last year, could be on the cards.
16:30 - Cazoo Oaks
The Cazoo Oaks, the feature race on day one, has been dominated by Aidan O’Brien (six wins) and the Gosden yard (three wins) in the past ten years. Ralph Beckett’s Talent broke the sequence with a 20-1 success in 2013.
O’Brien’s bigger-priced runners are always worth a second look – Was scored at 20-1 in 2012 and Qualify was 50-1 when landing the 2015 renewal (paid £72.10 on the Tote and the exacta with 5-2 favourite Legatissimo outscored the computer straight forecast by £411 to £177).
What a performance! 👏
The exciting EMILY UPJOHN maintains her unbeaten record with a facile victory in the Group 3 @Tattersalls1766 Musidora Stakes, as she breezes clear under @FrankieDettori to score for John and @thadygosden 🏆 pic.twitter.com/afach5K733
— York Racecourse (@yorkracecourse) May 11, 2022
O’Brien has three entered at the four-day stage to John and Thady Gosden’s two but the prize is likely to remain in Britain courtesy of the Gosden’s EMILY UPJOHN, Franke Dettori’s mount, who was hugely impressive in the Musidora Stakes at York.
17:10 - Poundland Surrey Stakes
Favourites have held their own in the seven furlong listed Poundland Surrey Stakes in the past ten years, proving victorious in 2012, 2014, 2019, 2020 and 2021. The last five winners were drawn in stall 4 or lower.
Surprisingly, only seven last-time-out winners have line up in the past ten renewals and three of them won for a profit of £12.30 to a £1 level stake at SP. Only two of this year’s 12 entries were successful in their prep race – BASS PLAYER, who landed a seven furlong Doncaster maiden on his debut six weeks ago and DAWN OF LIBERATION, an easy winner at Goodwood despite starting as the 9-1 outsider of four.
17:45 - Cazoo Derby Festival Handicap
Friday’s action ends with a tricky handicap. This is only the fifth running of the race and, so far, it has paid to race prominently with the winners (in reverse order) described by the Racing Post as…
Tracked leaders, pushed along and headway to lead over 1f out
Tracked leader…led inside final furlong
POCKET THE PROFIT is likely to be popular with Hayley Turner booked but he’ll need luck in running.
Of even greater interest is TOP SECRET from the yard of William Muir and Chris Grassick. They’ve won with six of their 20 course runners in the past five seasons for a profit of £12.75 to a £1 level stake at SP. Eight of the beaten horses made the frame and Top Secret went close at Newbury on his comeback despite a slow start.