Whilst I tend to focus on the proper action over jumps, I still take an interest in the big flat action and the openness of this year’s Derby has piqued my interest to say the least. I would be one of the first to confess to being slightly annoyed by the endless hype and interest surrounding the offspring of Frankel, but that is the world we find ourselves in and I do find myself drawn to one of his progeny in the Derby, namely the Martyn Meade colt EMINENT (114+).
Plenty has been written already about the relative weakness of this year’s Derby trials and the lack of a main candidate to emerge from them. But I think this has thrown up an opportunity, and everyone is forgetting that in the build-up to the 2000 Guineas it was being billed as one of the hottest renewals for a few years. Churchill was the winner of course, and the form looks strong with the well touted Al Wukair and Barney Roy filling the places in behind him. Happily there is only one horse set to run in the Derby that ran in the Guineas, and I think Eminent has plenty going for him to be a factor in the big race at Epsom.
First factor is the ratings themselves. I only keep crude ratings for flat races, but on my numbers he actually comes out top of the expected line up:
|Cliffs Of Moher||111+|
|Wings Of Eagles||106|
With the trials failing to throw up a “clear” Derby candidate, it is worth remembering that the 2000 Guineas is a historically significant Derby trial in its own right. Eminent was beaten just over 3 lengths in sixth in this years running, and I went back over the 2000 Guineas since the turn of the century and focused on horses that finished in the first five lengths “zone” in the mile classic. 20 horses that finished in that zone (including winners) went onto run at Epsom, and of these 5 won the race, with a further 5 finishing in the first 3. Another 2 finished fourth, highlighting the strength of this race as a Derby trial in its own right. With the perceived weakness of the traditional Derby trials this year I think it is being somewhat forgotten that the 2000 Guineas is a good trial itself and this years was a strong renewal and thus Eminent deserves high consideration.
The second factor to consider is the manner of his running in the 2000 Guineas. On the face of it 6th was a disappointing run, but the race was certainly not run to suit with it being a slow pace that developed into a sprint finish. Unsurprisingly the speed horses came to the fore, but up to that point Eminent featured prominently before coming home under a considerate ride, only just being run out of 5th in the closing few strides. On Topspeed figures in the Racing Post, Churchill was awarded the lowest rating since Footstepsinthesand won in 2005, highlighting the lack of pace in the race and slow overall time as a result. Eminent won the Craven over the same course and distance prior, but the lack of pace in the Guineas certainly counted against him and highlighted the need for him to step up in trip. Interestingly, I watched that Craven run a few times and it is noticeable how long it takes to pull Eminent up after the line after a strongly run race over a mile, suggesting that going up in trip should suit and bring further improvement. The fact that he can run to a mark of 114 in a race over a trip short of his best shows that he can be a live contender when stepped up further. Put simply, Eminent had the race go completely against him in the Guineas and still clocked a decent rating…going up in trip should bring improvement and put him right in the mix in the Derby.
This all ties in with the next factor which is his pedigree screams out that he should be a better horse going up in trip. He is a half-brother to a 6f horse, but his dam You’ll Be Mine suggests that the Derby trip should be within his compass. She is a half-sister to Diamondsandrubies who won the Pretty Polly stakes over 10f, and was a Cheshire Oaks winner and fourth in the Oaks itself. Their mother was Quarter Moon, who herself was second in both the English and Irish Oaks and a sister to Yesterday who was also 2nd in the Oaks. As you can see we don’t have to go back far on the dam side to find plenty of evidence that the mile and half is well within Eminent’s genetic make-up. We are of course yet to see evidence of how Frankel is going to influence his progeny, but I always felt he was most impressive in his Juddmonte win over 10f, and that the mile and a half would’ve been no problem. This middle distance pedigree ties in with the impression Eminent gave that the extra distance will suit when being hard to pull up in the Craven, and seemingly outpaced in a sprint finish to the Guineas.
The final factor is his form. I’ve already highlighted that he comes out at the top of my ratings of the Derby runners, and the form of his races stacks up well. He won a Newmarket mile maiden by 2.75 lengths in September, with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 10th all subsequent winners. Put away for the winter he returned to win the Craven in a fast time, and the form of that race already stacks up well. He beat Rivet by 1.75 lengths, who went onto run a great race in the French 2000 Guineas finishing a close 3rd having set the running (clear of the 4th). Benbatl was 3rd who went onto run a close 2nd in the Dante and Larchmont Lad was 5th who subsequently just got beaten a head in a Listed giving weight to a progressive rival. War Decree was 6th who had previously won a Group 2, and even the last placed Gulliver just got beaten a length off 90 in a Windsor handicap when slowly away recently. Eminent then of course went onto finish 6th in a red hot renewal of the 2000 Guineas, where the race wasn’t run to suit, but he was bang in contention before the sprint finish paid its toll. He needs to go up in trip, where further improvement should be found and can readily be a 120+ horse as a result. In an open Derby that should put him right in contention.
Of the competition, Cliffs Of Moher would be the one I’d fear most. He should come on for his comeback run in the Dee Stakes, and the form and time of his maiden win last year was good. O’Brien is set to be mob-handed in the Derby with seven runners, and Churchill is probably their standout colt this year. Cliffs Of Moher has largely been found by the market though and will probably go off favourite. I would be more interested at the prices in the Stoute horse Mirage Dancer who ran an eye catching race in 4th. It wasn’t long after the line that he was past the winner and I can see him running a big race at Epsom.
Also, don’t discount Best Solution who won the Lingfield Derby Trial well. He probably has less scope to improve compared to others in the race but rates well and is a decent horse in his own right. I would be less keen on Cracksman, a lot has been made of his form being franked by Permian but I didn’t feel that he handled the track that well that day and only just got up to win and on a line through Benbatl, Eminent should have the beating of the Gosden horse.
Conclusion: EMINENT has the best form in the race, and should improve for the step up in trip. The traditional Derby trials haven’t thrown up a clear candidate and Cliffs Of Moher heads the O’Brien battalion. It may be that Mirage Dancer emerges as the best horse from the trials after getting no run at Chester.
2. MIRAGE DANCER
3. CLIFFS OF MOHER
4. BEST SOLUTION
PS. If the Andre Fabre horse Waldgeist turned up he would be a live outsider. He was second in the Prix Greffulhe, remember Pour Moi won that race before Derby success, but I would wait and see that he shows up before considering him as he surely must be more likely to run in France. He had Best Solution, Capri and Douglas Macarthur in behind him in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud last year.