Hanson: Longshot play for the 2023 Epsom Derby

June 2nd, 2023

My colleague Kellie Reilly assembled an excellent overview of the field for Saturday's Derby (G1) at Epsom, breaking down the participants by final prep. To give you an idea how contentious this group of 14 is, I wouldn't be utterly shocked to see any one of 10 or so reach the famed winner's enclosure.

Finding the Lingfield Derby Trial the most intriguing of the preps, I'll be siding with the longer-priced of the two contenders out of that race, #13 Waipiro (15-1), who finished second to Military Order, the probable second or third choice in the wagering on Saturday.

Although Military Order was going best at the end of that 1 1/2-mile trial after Waipiro took a serious run at him, the winner arguably enjoyed a more favorable trip. More significantly, the race was held over an all-weather surface after the turf course was deemed unusable after repeated bouts of heavy rain.

Perhaps Military Order would have proven best regardless of surface, given his status as the even-money favorite. On the other hand, Waipiro had already lost over an all-weather surface before, in his debut at Kempton, and clearly relished grass in his only other try on that surface two starts ago over 1 1/4 miles at Newmarket.

Waipiro has raced prominently in both starts this year, suggesting that with a clean start and minimal trouble he will be within striking range for most of the opening mile of the Derby. While he wouldn't want to race too closely if the pace is a strong one, being in close proximity to the speed as it begins to fold could be an advantage. And with dry weather of late, the ground figures to be fairly quick, turning the race into less of a stamina test than it would otherwise be if run over bottomless ground.

Regardless, being a son of Derby winner Australia and having finished well at Lingfield, distance and stamina don't figure to be much of a concern for Waipiro. Although he lacks the depth of experience the top three betting choices have, he appears to be a colt quickly on the rise and the price figures to be generous. He has a nice turn of foot, as he showed in his season opener at Newmarket and also to a lesser extent at Lingfield.

In a seemingly wide-open Derby, Waipiro is the play in the 15-1 to 20-1 range.