Kinane to land second Derby aboard Irish challenger
Hong Kong favourite Mick Kinane looks set to be the star of the show tonight as he bids for Vodafone Derby success aboard Galileo. Kinane, twice a Derby winner here and once around the famous Epsom Downs aboard Commander In Chief eight years ago, has outstanding claims in the 2,400-metre race, which will be beamed live to Sha Tin at 10.50pm.
The Derby lacks its usual depth, with the 12-runner field the smallest since Nashwan won in 1989, but Galileo has outstanding claims.
Kinane talked in glowing terms about him during his winter stint here, and Galileo has done nothing this season to suggest the jockey's faith is misplaced. He won on his seasonal debut over a mile on soft ground and then showed he could handle faster conditions and a longer trip with victory in Ireland's main Derby trial over 2,000 metres. He is untested over 2,400 metres, but so are most of the runners, and he looks likely to appreciate the trip more than most.
Galileo is bred to be something special. He is by Sadler's Wells, the leading sire in Europe and one of the best in the world, and his dam is Urban Sea, the part Hong Kong-owned winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1993.
The ground - which is predicted to be good to firm - should not trouble Galileo and he is drawn 10, the starting gate for five of the past 15 winners. Normally a middle-to-high number is best at Epsom, but this effect may be negated this year by the small field.
The colt is bidding to give trainer Aidan O'Brien his first Derby win at Epsom to continue the marvellous tradition of the famous Ballydoyle stables under Vincent O'Brien, who won the Derby six times. The two O'Briens are not related, but they share the same ability to have a horse primed for the big occasion.
The hot favourite in Britain is Golan, the brilliant winner of the 2,000 Guineas. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt is the proven class horse in the race, but Guineas winners are often found out at Epsom, with Nashwan the only horse to do the double in the past 20 years. Golan's profile is similar to Entrepreneur, the 1997 Guineas winner who finished only fourth at Epsom and raced just once more. Like Entrepreneur, Golan found his form on the gallops in the spring before scoring at Newmarket after heavy support in the market. And, while Golan looks a probable stayer, his sire Spectrum failed in the Derby before later winning in Group One company over 2,000 metres.
Golan's stablemate Dilshaan may pose a bigger threat to Galileo. A Group One winner as a two-year-old, his return to action was delayed but he made up for lost time with victory in the Dante Stakes, one of the main Derby trials and run over a fraction more than 2,000 metres. But there are doubts over his stamina and his ability to handle fast ground.
Barry Hills, who has endured rotten luck at Epsom with four Derby second places, is four-handed this year, with Perfect Sunday his main chance according to the British bookmakers. There is growing confidence behind Richard Hughes' mount, and the son of 1990 Derby winner Quest For Fame has a lot in his favour. He has won over the Derby trip and handled the track well to win the 2,200-metre Derby trial at Lingfield, a course with similar undulations to Epsom and a race which often proves a good guide to the big race.
Michael Hills, the trainer's son, had the choice between the stable's other three runners and plumped for Storming Home over Chancellor and Mr Combustible. Storming Home ran a solid third to Dilshaan last time and could turn the tables with a fast pace over the longer trip. Chancellor's best form is on wet tracks and he looks one to miss, while Mr Combustible appears to lack the class but does stay the trip.
Putra Sandhurst looks a live outside hope for former dual Hong Kong champion Philip Robinson and trainer Michael Jarvis, who landed the 1,000 Guineas last month with Ameerat. The son of Royal Academy was second to Perfect Sunday at Lingfield but has plenty of improvement to come and looks a certain stayer.
Tobougg appears to be a long price in Britain given his undoubted class - he won two Group Ones as a two-year-old - and the fact that Frankie Dettori is on board. But he disappointed in the 2,000 Guineas and may not have trained on, so there is no reason to expect a better showing here.
Sunny Glenn, King Carew and Cashel Bay can be ignored in a rather thin-looking event by Derby standards.
The key to betting strategy in Hong Kong is the prices relative to those available in Britain. Galileo may not be great value here, whereas Dilshaan may be a much bigger price than he is in Britain. If he stays, Golan's turn of foot should be decisive, and he cannot be left out of multiples.
They are the big three, with Putra Sandhurst the best value shot ahead of Perfect Sunday and Storming Home.