Legend of Galileo grows after weekend at Epsom

The legend of Galileo grew even more last Saturday in the Epsom Derby (G1) in England. Six of the 13 starters were sired by the 2001 Derby winner and most of the others were his sons or grandsons. Usually, the most competition for a top sire comes from their own sons, but Galileo has withstood the likes of Frankel, New Approach, and Australia to maintain his spot at the top.

In Saturday’s renewal, the hot favorite was Sir Dragonet, a son of Camelot, that looked sensational when winning the Chester Vase (G3) in only his second career start; and here he was 23 days later trying to win the “Blue Riband of Turf.” He drew post 13 and raced wide throughout with Ryan Moore. Coming out of Tattenham Corner and heading uphill to the finish, there was a wall of horses across the track and Seamie Heffernan had no room with Anthony Van Dyck.

Heffernan, who has ridden the likes of Highland Reel for Aidan O’Brien, patiently waited for room to develop and resisted the temptation to go outside. When the four leaders stayed in the middle of the track, Heffernan made his commitment to the inside and had Anthony Van Dyck in full stride. The winner of the Derby Trial at Lingfield three weeks earlier when ridden by Ryan Moore was plenty fit for the race to the wire and surged to a half-length win as the fourth choice in the wagering.

The place photo was impossibly close as Madhmoon was a nose ahead of Japan, who was a short head in front of Broome, himself a short head in front of Sir Dragonet. The final tally showed five of the top six trained by Aidan O’Brien and two of the top three sired by Galileo.

Galileo’s best son at stud is Frankel, but he did not have a classic winner in his first three crops to race. Frankel’s offspring have not had his brilliance but seem to have even more stamina so they seem to be more like Galileo than Frankel himself. Finally, in Friday’s Epsom Oaks (G1), Frankel sired his first classic winner when Frankie Dettori gave Anapurna a brilliant ride to hold off Pink Dogwood.

Willing to sacrifice getting bottled up on the inside, he saved ground with her and it looked like it was a fatal mistake when Ryan Moore produced Pink Dogwood on the outside. Dettori found room for Anapurna and the race was on in the Oaks. We’ve seen this match many times and you rarely see Ryan Moore get outfinished heading to the wire, but here was Frankie coming back on the inside to prevail by a neck. It was the typical training job from John Gosden as she began her career with two races on synthetic tracks, had a win in her turf debut and was fit and ready for the Oaks. Being out of a dam by Montjeu, she is truly bred to run all day.

Not that there was a track bias in Friday and Saturday’s races at Epsom, but in the Coronation Cup (G1), run at the same distance as the Oaks and Derby, Andrea Atzeni came up the inside aboard Defoe to win by a half-length over O’Brien/Moore/Galileo’s Kew Gardens. I know that a lot of the riders say they do not want to draw inside for fear of having traffic, but all three Group 1s going the classic distance were won by riders that saved ground.


(c) Alan Wright-focusonracing.com

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Epsom Derby: Sir Dragonet to arise; Bangkok the better price

If racing were purely a game of chance, Coolmore’s prolific trainer Aidan O’Brien would have a roughly 54 percent chance of winning Saturday’s Epsom Derby (G1) as he saddles seven of the 13 entrants. Being a sport of skill and talent, however, some of those seven have stronger chances than others.

FREE Brisnet Past Performances for Epsom are available here

O’Brien has won with favorites and longshots in this progenitor of all the great three-year-old races in the world. He might even take it this year with a horse who until five weeks ago had never run in a race.

Unlike the Kentucky Derby, which until Justify last year had placed a premium on some semblance of juvenile form, the Epsom Derby has occasionally yielded a winner without a two-year-old foundation. It’s been rare, to be sure, but there’s never been an unofficial “rule” against it as it was for more than a century in Kentucky.

#11 SIR DRAGONET (5-2), described as a somewhat lackadaisical morning horse, has surprised connections thus far with a 14-1 upset of his Tipperary debut on April 25, followed by an eight-length tour de force in the Chester Vase (G3) 13 days later over the approximate Derby distance. He’s now the most fancied of the Coolmore contenders.

By near Triple Crown-winning sire Camelot, Sir Dragonet is from the family of the legendary Arc (G1)-winning broodmare Urban Sea (dam of Sea the Stars and Galileo). You can’t get more royal than that.

I get that Sir Dragonet perhaps isn’t the best bet in this year’s Derby. Both of his runs have come on soft ground–Chester was especially boggy–and good-to-firm conditions will exist at Epsom Saturday. That relative lack of experience and foundation also comes into play, which makes his current odds rather unattractive. However, he’s one of the few in the field that has passed the eye test of a potential Derby winner, arguably an above-average one.

#2 Bangkok (8-1), after a so-so two-year-old campaign, has stepped up to win a Doncaster maiden over #13 Telecaster (9-2), who subsequently impressed in the Dante (G2), and then smoothly take the Classic Trial (G3) at Sandown. Of the two Bangkok will be a better price.

#1 Anthony Van Dyck (6-1), another from the Coolmore juggernaut, found nice ones like Quorto and Too Darn Hot a bit much last season, and he didn’t have a great trip when drawn poorly in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs. However, his victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial was a solid piece of work and he shouldn’t be overlooked for a piece.

#9 Madhmoon (10-1) is an interesting longshot though not certain to get the distance. He defeated #3 Broome (4-1) over a mile at Leopardstown last September, was second in the 2000 Guineas Trial over the same course when stepping down in trip in early April, and last time was a coming-on fourth in the 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket when unfavorably traveling down the middle of the course. It would be a great story if octogenarian Kevin Prendergast could get a Derby prize that has eluded both him and his legendary late father.

Here’s how I’ll play the Derby:

Sir Dragonet (#11) to WIN

EXACTA: 2,11 with 1,2,9,11

Post time for the Derby is 11:30 a.m. (EDT) Saturday morning. Watch and wager at Twinspires.com.

Sir Dragonet wins the Chester Vase (c) Dan Abraham/Focusonracing.com

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