They call it the Derby for a reason—it’s the father of all Derbys, the race that started it all way back in 1780.
Officially called the Investec Derby (G1) and held over 1 1/2 miles at Epsom, the great race has been dominated in recent years by Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has conditioned six winners since 2001. In his quest to secure a record-equaling seventh win in the Derby, Aidan O’Brien will send out seven of the 13 entrants in the 2019 edition of the race, scheduled for June 1 at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Leading O’Brien’s contingent is #11 Sir Dragonet, an undefeated son of O’Brien’s 2012 Derby winner Camelot. Sir Dragonet was an easy debut winner traveling 1 9/16 miles April 25 at Tipperary, then wheeled back over the same distance May 8 to crush six rivals in the Chester Vase Stakes (G3) by eight lengths. O’Brien’s go-to jockey Ryan Moore will be in the saddle, and at least one or two of Sir Dragonet’s half-dozen stablemates figure to be employed as pacemakers to give Sir Dragonet’s late rally the best chance at succeeding.
#3 Broome, O’Brien’s easy winner of the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes (G3) at Leopardstown, and #13 Telecaster, an upset winner against a high-quality field in the Dante Stakes (G2) at York, will be the other favorites in the wagering. But the Derby hasn’t been kind to favorites as of late, with winners starting at 16-1, 40-1, 13-2 and 7-1 over the last six years. So rather than hash out the obvious merits of the favorites, let’s dig a little deeper and look for longshots.
What’s to stop #2 Bangkok from challenging for victory in the Derby? He went 0-for-3 as a juvenile, but kicked off 2019 by defeating Telecaster in a Doncaster maiden race and followed up with a deceptively easy victory in the 1 1/4-mile Classic Trial (G3) at Sandown. In the Classic Trial, Bangkok decisively pounced to the lead when given his cue by jockey Silvestre de Sousa and might have had something left at the finish.
As a son of 2014 Derby winner Australia, Bangkok is bred to handle 1 1/2 miles, and Silvestre de Sousa is among the leading riders at Epsom, striking at a 23% rate over the tricky course. Betting all his mounts to win since 2015 would have yielded a healthy return on investment.
#7 Japan and #4 Circus Maximus are two of the longer-priced O’Brien runners, but their credentials are solid. Japan won the Beresford Stakes (G2) in the fall, and while he could only finish fourth behind Telecaster in the Dante, that was Japan’s seasonal debut and he should move forward in the Derby. Circus Maximus fared better in his 3-year-old debut, when he claimed the 1 9/16-mile Dee Stakes at Chester, and he’ll have jockey Frankie Dettori in the saddle.
The Derby is a great race to watch simply as a sporting event, and fans of Royal Ascot are advised to keep an eye on the results in case any Derby runners wheel back for Ascot’s prestigious five-day meet in mid-June. But if you want to have a rooting interest in the outcome of the Derby, let’s shoot for something other than a favorite-laden score and play Sir Dragonet, Bangkok, Japan and Circus Maximus in the exacta:
$4 exacta: 11 with 2,4,7 ($12)
$4 exacta: 2,4,7 with 11 ($12)
$1 exacta: 2,4,7 with 2,4,7 ($6)