You've probably heard the news bulletin that Saturday's Investec Derby (Gr.1) is still pretty much a race without a favourite; well, let's put it this way: yesterday afternoon on Betfair, Dante (Gr.2) winner Wings of Desire was favourite at 5-1. Aidan O'Brien has seven of the 18 entered at the six-day stage, and to further complicate things, the Prix du Jockey-Club French Derby (Gr.1) is due to be staged over 2100 meters Sunday at Chantilly. That race had 27 entered Monday at the first forfeit, and even though that number will be reduced through other forfeit stages, as of Tuesday afternoon a total of 36 different horses had been entered for either or both of the two races. Aidan O'Brien has 10 of those, seven of which were entered in both races, with another three just entered for France.
Eight of Aidan's 10 entries are by Galileo, and the Niarchos family's Ulysses makes nine by him, including seven of the 18 horses entered for Epsom. Galileo's half-brother Sea The Stars has three at Epsom and one in France.
At the time of writing, Lady Bamford's Wings of Desire, a full-brother to Group 2 winner and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr.1) second (beaten a dirty nose by Postponed) Eagle Top, looked like he was regaining favouritism for Epsom from the presumed Coolmore number one, US Army Ranger. Wings of Desire got up to defeat the presumed Coolmore number two, Deauville in the traditionally best Derby trial, the Dante Stakes (Gr.2) at York. Frankie Dettori, who rides for trainer John Gosden when not required for his retainer by Al Shaqab, had been expected to ride Foundation in the Dante, but when he jumped ship to ride a colt who had just broken his maiden, it's best to pay attention. Up until yesterday afternoon US Army Ranger, who had narrowly defeated stablemate Port Douglas in the Chester Vase (Gr.3), had been co-favourite with Wings of Desire, the assumption being Ryan Moore would choose him to ride at Epsom from among the Coolmore battalion.
On Tuesday, in an unexpected turn of events, US Army Ranger drifted, although just to 6-1 second favourite, while Deauville was shortening. Idaho, who has shown promise while placing in the two key Irish preps this year when not ridden by Moore, was the third Coolmore candidate trading around 20-1 or under, as Port Douglas also drifted, suggesting he could possibly be headed to France. But trying to read those runes is pretty dicey; suffice to say Ryan Moore's selection is liable to go off second choice at Epsom to Wings of Desire, who did win the Dante and probably is the rightful favourite; he did win it like there was improvement to come, just as US Army Ranger had suggested at Chester.
- Bill Oppenheim / Thoroughbred Daily News