2024 Epsom Derby Preview: A Friendly wager

May 31st, 2024

If the Epsom Oaks (G1) is an open affair, then the Derby (G1) is positively puzzling.

There are significant question marks over pretty much every contender for England’s premier classic. It wouldn’t be a shock if a horse at double-figure odds comes out on top.

Epsom Race 6, 11:30 a.m. ET: The Derby (G1), 1 1/2 miles, 3-year-old colts and fillies


  • #1 Ambiente Friendly
  • #11 Los Angeles
  • #6 Dancing Gemini
  • #4 City Of Troy


  • $10 win/$30 show: #1 Ambiente Friendly
  • $10 show: #6 Dancing Gemini
  • $1 trifecta1, 11 with 1, 6, 11 with 1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 12

Part of the reason is that the traditional Derby trials have for various reasons been unclear guides. Chester Vase (G3) winner Hidden Law unfortunately broke down soon after the finish line and had to be humanely euthanised, while the Dante (G2) produced a six-length winner in Economics, who was taken out of the Derby in spring and wasn’t supplemented.

Another important lead-up, the 2,000 Guineas (G1), was meant to be a spring crowning for champion juvenile #4 City Of Troy, but he was one of the first beaten and ended up 17 lengths behind the winner in ninth.

Partly because Hidden Law and Economics won’t be starting, City Of Troy is still likely to contest favoritism, with people remembering his stable companion Auguste Rodin was likewise a huge disappointment in the 2,000 Guineas before winning the Derby.

His trainer Aidan O’Brien will have another horse contesting favoritism in the form of #11 Los Angeles. He kept his unbeaten record when winning the Leopardstown Derby Trial (G3) and should enjoy stepping up two furlongs to 1 1/2 miles, but he was more workmanlike than stunning at Leopardstown and may lack the speed that top Derby horses often need.

Dante runner-up #2 Ancient Wisdom will enjoy the likelihood of rain-affected footing, but it would have been nice to see the juvenile Group 1 winner produce at bit more in the Dante.

With all these doubts, I’m going to go with #1 Ambiente Friendly. He hadn’t looked anything outstanding at two, being well beaten into third by Ancient Wisdom in the Autumn (G3) and an average fourth on return in April at Newmarket. But he was extremely impressive in the Lingfield Derby Trial, showing a nice turn of foot to win by 4 1/2 lengths.

The field at Lingfield admittedly wasn’t strong. But Ambiente Friendly couldn’t have done much more than he did, and in a confusing year he’s worth a shot.

I’m also tempted to a degree by #6 Dancing Gemini. He was a little late clear when finishing strongly for second in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (G1) and though that was over a mile, his sire and damsire were both Derby winners.

Others that could run well without surprising include #3 Bellum Justum, #12 Macduff, and #16 Voyage.


Epsom Race 3, 9:35 a.m. ET: Diomed S. (G3), 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds and up

  • $10 win/$20 show, #7 Sean: Ran some good races on turf in Dubai over winter before failing on dirt. Worth considering back on turf at reasonable odds.