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Guineas hero primed for the Derby distance

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English King, with Tom Marquand on board, winning at Newcastle last November

English King, with Tom Marquand on board, winning at Newcastle last November

English King, with Tom Marquand on board, winning at Newcastle last November

In 'The Language of Horse Racing', author Gerald Hammond says that in a 16-runner race, "there will be one winner and 15 excuses".

Often described as the ultimate test of the thoroughbred, the Derby (4.55, Epsom) is the type of race where you're either good enough or not - and hopefully, we get a fair running and no excuses after this year's renewal, which, as it happens, has 16 runners.

It seems that Aidan O'Brien is always breaking records, but if one of his six runners is victorious, he'll become the only trainer to have won the greatest Classic eight times - which would be something really special, even for O'Brien's standards.

I'm struggling to make up my mind on which is the best of his entries, however, so I'll wish him well without having a bet on one of his horses.

Drifted

The favourite, English King, trades around 7/2 (drifted from 2/1) and while he won his Derby trial at Lingfield with ease, his price is still a little short for me since Frankie Dettori has been confirmed to ride.

It takes an exceptional horse to win the Derby and the one with the best form in the book by far, Kameko, is tipped around 5/1.

Having won two Group One races, including the 2,000 Guineas last time out, his class is not in question, but with both of those victories at the mile distance, concerns have been raised that he won't get the mile-and-a-half trip.

But I think those doubts are built into his price and he offers a bit of value this afternoon.

While there are stamina doubts about his dam's side, his sire, Kitten's Joy, has produced a number of winners at this distance and actually won a Belmont Park Group One at this trip himself, so I think it's worth giving Kameko a chance.

Trainer Andrew Balding said Kameko came out of the Guineas "fantastically well" and I've a feeling the market is not giving this improver the credit he deserves.

I won't win any prizes for originality for backing Love in the Oaks (3.40), but Aidan O'Brien's Galileo filly is a cut above the rest and is a worthy favourite at 6/5 or thereabouts.

O'Brien has always felt she'd be an Oaks horse and watching her kick on beautifully in the final furlong of the 1,000 Guineas suggests she'll get the trip no problem.

The biggest threat to the bet comes from Frankly Darling, currently trading around 2/1 for John Gosden and Dettori.

A winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, she's proven at the trip and is bound to go close - but I reckon the favourite is just that little bit tougher, and can get the better of her rival in what could turn out to be a cracker of a race.

My biggest bet of the day, however, won't be on one of the Classics, it's on Cloak Of Spirits, which is 2/1 at the time of writing in the Fillies' Group Three Princess Elizabeth Stakes (4.15).

She was second to Love in the 1,000 Guineas and while her fifth place of seven in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last time proved she's a little out of her depth right now in Group One company, this is two steps down in grade, which is significant. That experience in some top-level races will definitely stand to her.

Progressive

Unbeaten in two runs, Fooraat is marginally ahead of the selection in the early markets but while she looks progressive and offers more to come, those races she won were fairly minor, so it's the opposite situation to the selection, and Fooraat must take a big step up in grade. That won't be easy and she's a little short in the betting by my calculations.

In the six-runner Listed Investec Surrey Stakes (2.25), the John Quinn-trained Safe Voyage is the one to side with around 5/4. With nine wins from 24 races, including the Group Three John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock last year, the seven-year-old is paying his way and was placed in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October.

He may have been in need of the run when runner-up on his seasonal reappearance in a Listed race at Haydock last month, but he shaped like he retained his ability and this looks well within his range.

Finally, on paper, it looks like Enable is the one they have to beat in tomorrow afternoon's Coral-Eclipse staging at Sandown (3.35) and I was going to back her until I read Gosden's comments about her taking longer to get fit now that she's six, and that she'll improve for the run.

Reading through the lines, it's a bit of a warning that this first step in her bid for another Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe may not be as straightforward as last year, and makes her price of evens seem a little tight.

Instead, Ghaiyyath is the obvious one to side with at 9/4 in a race which is not open to three-year-olds this year.

Charlie Appleby's charge is a globetrotter, and his success in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket last time was his first race in Britain since 2017.