Investec Derby 2019: Behind the enemy lines with Unibet’s Ed Nicholson

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WHO will win the 240th running of the Investec sponsored Epsom Derby? Well I’m not sure at this stage any of us even know what will start favourite for the big race!

This time last year was oh so very different as 2,000 Guineas hero Saxon Warrior was odds-on to complete a famous double with many prematurely calculating their Triple Crown winnings believing the Epsom Classic was a mere penalty kick on the road to the St Leger.

Wings Of Eagles triumphed at 40-1 in the 2017 renewal
PA:Press Association

But this year’s Epsom renewal reminds me of the 2017 race.

I remember being interviewed on Radio5 Live as the horses cantered to the start with 9-2 the field being readily available with 15 minutes to go before post time.

Eventually it was Cracksman who returned the 7-2 favourite but the race itself went to Aidan O’Brien’s Wings of Eagles at 40-1 – one of six trained by the master of Ballydoyle that year.

At this year’s Breakfast With The Stars media morning, O’Brien revealed he may have even more runners in the race this year – with seven being mentioned.

Not quite his own personal best as his record in the race is an almost unbelievable eight in 2007. And he didn’t even win that year!

Sir Dragonet has been supplemented for the Derby at a cost of £85,000
PA:Press Association

Such is O’Brien’s dominance of the Derby market this season – he has four of the first six in the betting – Unibet make him just 1-3 to win the race for a 7th time, 10-1 he saddles the 1,2,3 and 11-4 he is responsible for the first two in the race  – as he was in 2002 and 2017.

This season most of the Investec Derby trials have been swept up by the O’Brien team and he must have a handle on most form lines – so it is no surprise he has the favourite for the race in the form of Sir Dragonet at 3-1 who is the most interesting of O’Brien’s possible runners.

Seemingly discarded from Derby calculations (connections didn’t see the necessity in stumping up £1,100 to keep him in the race) he made a winning racecourse debut on April 25th, yet just 13 days later he had won the Chester Vase and was down to 8-1 with Unibet to win the 2019 Investec Derby.

After connections stumped up the £85,000 to supplement him on Monday, he is now as short as 3-1.

Aidan O’Brien could run SEVEN in the Derby alone
PA:Press Association

Some have suggested he is too inexperienced for the Epsom race after making his debut in late April – but the stable’s 2013 Derby winner, Ruler of the World, had the same profile – albeit he won his maiden seven days earlier.

For me, a larger question mark is his ability to cope with fast ground as conditions will be very different to what he encountered at Chester.

Anthony Van Dyck is aiming to become the first horse since High-Rise in 1998 to complete the Lingfield Derby Trial/Investec Derby double, and only the eighth ever.  

The son of Galileo had very good two-year-old form and seemed to benefit from the extra distance at Lingfield and goes to Epsom with decent chances.


He is currently available at 6-1 with Unibet. A concern to me is that recently this Lingfield Derby trial has been a rather poor one for pinpointing Derby class contenders, relative to the other trials around the same time at other tracks.

This century, of those who have finished in the first three at Lingfield who have gone onto Epsom to contest the Derby, none have won, and just 3/29 have been placed (Main Sequence 2012; Aqualeem 2007; Walk in the Park 2005).

The Dante on the other hand has proved to be a much more reliable and robust Derby trial.

Since 2000 37 horses who have finished 1st,2nd or 3rd have contested the Derby and no less than 14 have been placed – five of those winning the Derby itself; Golden Horn in 2015; Workforce in 2010; Authorised in 2007, Motivator in 2005 and North Light in 2004.

Telecaster landed the Dante Stakes beating hot favourite Too Darn Hot
PA:Press Association

This year’s renewal has been knocked by some, but I would be confident that as in most seasons this year’s Dante will prove to be one of the more reliable trials.

To many, Too Darn Hot’s shock defeat at the hands of Telecaster, with 4 lengths back to the third, Surfman, signalled a poor renewal of the race.

But having spoken to Roger Varian I sensed that the third is very well regarded and thought more than capable of holding his own in the very best of Group 1’s later in the year.

Telecaster was given a brilliant ride by Oisin Murphy that day to fend off Too Darn Hot and despite showing great speed, Telecaster’s breeding suggests he will be at least as effective at the extra distance, if not better for it.

Many, including his trainer Hughie Morrison are questioning the gap of just 16 days from Dante to Derby.

Derby odds

  • 3-1 Sir Dragonet
  • 9-2 Broome
  • 5-1 Telecaster
  • 6-1 Anthony Van Dyck
  • 8-1 Bangkok
  • 9-1 Japan
  • 12-1 Madhmoon
  • 20-1 Circus Maxiumus
  • 25-1 Norway, Surfman
  • 33-1 Cape Of Good Hope, Line Of Duty
  • 40-1 Sovereign, Humanitarian
  • 250-1 Hiroshima


Check out the latest odds for the Derby with Unibet right here

It is undoubtedly a tight turn around, but it has been done before – in fact Telecaster’s sire New Approach did it himself in 2008 having finished a head second to Henrythenavigator in the Irish 2000 Guineas with just a 14 day turnaround – while his dam Shirocco Star also turned around a 14 day return to the track when finishing a neck second to Was in the 2012 Oaks having placed a short head second at Newbury two weeks earlier.

Telecaster was 20-1 with Unibet for the Derby before winning the Dante Stakes at York, on the back of a scintillating 9 length victory at Windsor in April.  

He was immediately cut to 10-1 after his Dante success and now resides at 5-1 after being supplemented.

Bangkok, himself a son of a Derby winner in Australia, took Sandown Park’s Classic Trial following victory in 32Red Casino maiden stakes at Doncaster on March 30th where he beat Telecaster – the pair 9 lengths clear of their field on Unibet Lincoln day.

Can Bangkok (Right) and Telecaster both fight out the finish once again

Many of us at Doncaster that day thought that if we had seen a subsequent Group 1 performer at Donny it was either Auxerre in the Unibet Lincoln or Invincible Army – but it could well be that Bangkok or Telecaster – or both – could be the Group 1 horses we saw that day instead.

If either of them wins the Derby we’re changing the title of the race next year to ‘classic trial’ – surely a first for a maiden race!  

Bangkok is improving all the time and trainer Andrew Balding told me that the horse represents his best ever chance of winning the race.

It would be wonderful for racing if the family name Balding won this great race some 38 years after Ian Balding, Andrew’s father, saddled Mill Reef to victory, while it would also mark an amazing postscript to horses racing in the blue and white colours of 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City’s late chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

It was just two years ago that he started his King Power Racing team.

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