Epsom Derby Preview
This week has seen the Derby market move in every way imaginable, with the loss of the winter favourite St Nicholas Abbey and the elevation of Jan Vermeer to the top of the betting.
Since routing his 2yo opponents in the Racing Post Trophy last October, the Ballydoyle star player was expected to be St Nicholas Abbey.
Even when O'Brien's supporting cast expanded seemingly every week, the Derby picture seemed to evolve around this exceptional racehorse.
However this all changed...
Tuesday's news of a muscle disorder saw the Ballydoyle phenomenon removed from the betting, although the writing was on the wall as he had already been usurped at the head of the market by stable mate Jan Vermeer 2/1.
Jan Vermeer has attracted support after winning the Group 3 Gallinule stakes at the Curragh in little more than first gear, and was strongly backed from 16-1 with Hills, down to the favourite's mantle.
With Dante winner Cape Blanco now destined for France as well, the Derby looks a little more open.
Prince Khalid Abdullah will be hoping to add more silverware again this year, with the Sir Michael Stoute trained Workforce (9/2).
Having won the Classic, the 1000 Guineas controversially already this year with the Head-Maarek trained Special Duty, Abdullah would be ecstatic if he could give him a third Derby winner, and preferably without a heated photo finish.
Currently, second favourite in the betting, Workforce bids to give his Newmarket based trainer his third victory in the race, having consecutively won the race with both Kris Kin (04) and North Light (05) respectively.
Workforce may not have as much experience as his rivals, having seen a racetrack only twice, but after finishing second to Cape Blanco in the Dante, this horse is sure to know his job come Derby day; and ticks a lot of the boxes for the mile and half test that Epsom asks of a horse.
A shrewd bet may well prove to be Henry Cecil's Bullet Train (7/1), another Abdullah entry.
With Cecil, slowly running out of fingers on which to count his Oaks victories, another Derby to sit alongside would be very welcome for the Master of Warren Place.
Bullet Train won the Lingfield Derby trial as impressively as any other trial winner this year, and has a pedigree that could provide the perfect marriage with Epsom and its undulations.
Cecil's last Derby was with Commander in Chief in 1993 in the same owners colours and 7-1 just might seem a bit too big come Derby day.
Mahmood Al Zarooni, the new recruit to Godolphin training ranks is bidding to make an instant presence in the UK and has supplemented Rewilding (7/1) with smart miler Buzzword (50/1), bidding to inject some pace into the race.
Saeed Bin Suroor, primary Godolphin trainer is singlehanded with Al Zir (20/1) and the booking of Kieren Fallon proves that Al Zir is definitely not a horse to be ignored.
This $1.6 million two-year old purchase has proved his class already over the shorter trip and has both form in the book and a serious pedigree to match.
Bin Suroor has waited a long time for another Derby winner since the unbeaten Lammtarra lifted the trophy in 1995.
And so, a little after 4pm on Saturday, another champion will be crowned. Whether it's an English, Irish or UAE trained winner is anybody's guess.
But, a top class field and the excitement of the Epsom Derby should prove to be nothing less than spectacular once again.
(Written by Joe Goldring)