Investec Derby Festival 2019 | Handicappers Blog

04 Jun 19

Seventh heaven for O’Brien

Mark Olley breaks down the Group 1 action from Epsom, starting with a record-equalling seventh Derby success for Aidan O’Brien courtesy of Anthony Van Dyck…

Anthony Van Dyck and Seamie Heffernan wins from the field

The 2019 Investec Derby had an incredibly open look to it pre-race, both on official ratings where just 5 lbs separated the top six contenders, and in the betting where Sir Dragonet was sent off the 11/4 favourite. This resulted in a thrilling race where just 0.6 of a length separated the first five home.

Anthony Van Dyck was rated 118 as a two-year-old, when successful at Group 2 level and placed twice in Group 1 races (second in the National Stakes and third in the Dewhurst). Having run seven times as a juvenile, including a trip to America for the Breeders’ Cup, he was nothing if not battle hardened and this toughness stood him in good stead on Saturday where he came up against some less experienced rivals. The sectional times for the Derby suggest he used his energy in an optimum manner and in rating his winning performance at 118 I believe he didn’t need to improve upon his two-year-old form.

To put that figure into context, Wings Of Eagles (2017) and Ruler Of The World (2013) were rated 119 when coming out on top in similarly tight finishes and they were previously the lowest performances in the Derby this century.

Madhmoon had finished fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last month and it could be argued that he was a slightly unlucky loser at Epsom. Towards the rear when stumbling slightly coming round Tattenham Corner, that seemed to galvanise him into action (made a sweeping move) and he ran the fastest two furlongs of any horse at any stage of the race. He clearly didn’t expend his energy as evenly through the race as Anthony Van Dyck and that may ultimately have been the difference. He emerges with a rating of 117, the same as Japan, Broome and Sir Dragonet who all finished upsides.

As the first six home are all trained in Ireland the job of publishing official ratings fall to my Irish colleague Garry O’Gorman and he has confirmed the above figures.

Anapurna and Frankie Dettori winning The Investec Oaks

The previous afternoon’s Investec Oaks was won by Anapurna who, like Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, had won her trial at Lingfield and completed a notable classic double for the Surrey venue.

Comparisons with Anthony Van Dyck don’t stop there as sectional times for the Oaks suggest she also ran an optimal race. She is clearly a fast improving filly and her new rating of 113 matches the five-year race standard. Was and Casual Look were also rated 113 when winning in 2012 and 2003 respectively.

There were interesting aspects to the performances of several of the beaten horses. Runner-up Pink Dogwood ran an exceptionally fast furlong split with three furlongs to run. It took her into the lead but she couldn’t quite hold off Anapurna late on, the latter having run a more evenly paced race.

Fleeting found herself a long way off the lead and like Pink Dogwood really accelerated with three furlongs to run. She ran the fastest final furlong but the front two were just beyond her reach. Both of these Aidan O’Brien-trained fillies clearly have abundant talent and I would be surprised if they don’t win major races.

Defoe and Andrea Atzeni win the Investec Coronation Cup 

Another filly worth mentioning is Mehdaayih who was supplemented for the race after running away with the Listed Cheshire Oaks. She endured a nightmare run up the straight, notably when hampered over a furlong out, and must be given another chance.

The Investec Coronation Cup was also run on Friday and Defoe gained a deserved first Group 1 success.

Salouen, who went so close to beating Cracksman in this race last year, and Communique pestered each other for the lead and this set things up for the more conservatively ridden pair of Defoe and Kew Gardens. Kew Gardens (120) won last year’s St Leger over 14f and when he hit the front entering the final furlong I didn’t expect to see him outstayed, but Defoe had gone an even pace throughout and that meant he finished best of all. His new rating of 118 is a career best.

Kew Garden’s rating comes from his St Leger win and his efforts around a mile and a half are more in line with the 117 I have him performing to here.