RACING'S most revered supporter, Her Majesty The Queen, will wake up this morning to the delight of a right old Derby conundrum!
For if ever there was a Derby for guessing, it's today's magnificent ITV-broadcast Platinum Jubilee Epsom Classic run in memory of the late, great, nine-time victor Lester Piggott.
The reason for this is as the so-called experts tell you who will win, all they have to play with is a host of relatively recent trial winners.
That means an awful lot has to be taken on trust with little to back up the theories. It becomes the stuff of instinct or gut feeling, rather than mathematical calculation. A Cazoo puzzle.
In a field of seventeen there's nothing from the Group 1 Dewhurst, the juvenile race that often throws up a champion elect.
And there's only one horse from the 2000 Guineas, which we know might bring us some class, and Group 1 Vertem Futurity, the two-year-old race at Doncaster which usually stamps a Derby contender. That's Royal Patronage, who was stone bonking last in the latter and well beaten in the former.
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It would be special to win the Oaks after the loss of my hero Lester Piggott
In the mix are the winners of recognised Derby preps in in the Dante (Desert Crown, trying to get Sir Michael Stoute back in the bigtime in the Kris Kin colours), Leopardstown Trial (Stone Age), Newmarket Stakes (Nations Pride), Chester Vase (Changingoftheguard), Ballysax (Piz Badile, riddenby Frankie Dettori), Dee Stakes (Star of India), Sandown Classic Trial (Westover) and Blue Riband at Epsom (Nahanni).
In front of them is a task none of the warriors have faced before over a mile and a half.
And they are on a mission which comes with a warning from Piggott.
Lester once said: "Epsom is a very difficult course. There's a curve in the course early on, a kind of bulge more than a curve, so you have to go fast or get a good forward position by the time you get to that curve, or the horses crossing to it from the right will cut you off and pen you in.
"Then down the hill to Tattenham Corner, which is a race in itself; there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world. It takes a good horse to get round Epsom."
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And there's more than that to contend with.
Piggott added: "There's another trouble at the Derby; it's a big social occasion. A lot of owners want to be represented even if it means running a poor-class horse.
"They often get to the front by the top of the hill going down to the Corner and then start coming back to you. Some years I've ridden in the Derby half the horses shouldn't have been in the race." Oh gosh!
So who wins?
My two against the field at differing odds are Stone Age and Westover.
Stone Age, trained by record eight-time Derby winner Aidan O’Brien and the mount of Ryan Moore, arguably brings the best juvenile form into the race with his second in Group 1 company at Saint-Cloud.
This season he bolted up in a maiden at Navan and won by over five lengths at Leopardstown, sprinting off the bend having made all the running.
Stone Age’s pedigree is good for Epsom. He sire is the great Galileo, who won the Derby in 2001, and on the dam’s side if you go back four generations you get to both Ile de Bourbon and Gay Mecene. Coincidentally, they were first and third in the same Coronation Cup.
Ground conditions are perfect for Stone Age, while his draw is ideal for a horse likely to ridden in the style of a Slip Anchor or Teenoso.
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Last year the Sandown Classic Trial threw up the Derby winner Adayar as well as the super talented pair Yibir and Alenquer.
It’s probably hoping far too much for a repeat of that, but Westover impressed me in Esher back on April 22.
Adayar went on to finish second at Lingfield, while Westover has been absent which I think is the main reason Westover is double digit odds.
However, Ralph Beckett’s son of Frankel is an imposing individual and should have little problem staying a mile and a half under up-and-coming Rob Hornby.
Westover is another blessed with a decent low draw, and he’s definitely got eachway claims on just his fifth outing.
It’s a Derby I’ll be cheering on Stone Age while remembering the legend Lester Piggott, affectionately known as ‘old stone face’.
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