Cut from the proper Cloth, 'Stars' the Epsom Derby pick

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

June 3rd, 2016

After watching Diamond Pour Moi being pulled up about halfway through Friday's Oaks (G1) at Epsom, I chose to take a cue from some British musicians of yore who once said:

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down

The Derby (G1) has always been a kinder race to my wallet than its older sister, so I turn the page to Saturday's 1 1/2-mile classic, which is seemingly wide open this year.

Ever since I watched a replay of the Prix Greffulhe (G2) at Saint-Cloud nearly a month ago, CLOTH OF STARS has been at or near the top of my Derby watch list. After going through the race more in depth this week, his prep remains the most visually impressive I've seen and I find no reason to jump off his bandwagon.

Generally the third choice in wagering overseas, which perhaps would have been higher if not for some Derby defections in recent weeks, Cloth of Stars, like Diamond Pour Moi on Friday, comes across as sort of a wise-guy choice for the Blue Riband. There are good reasons for that, though.

From the connections -- trainer Andre Fabre and jockey Mickael Barzalona -- that won the Derby five years ago with Pour Moi, Cloth of Stars has followed the same route to Epsom as that colt. Bettering Pour Moi's third-place finish by taking the Prix la Force (G3) to start the season, Cloth of Stars made it two-for-two with a 2 1/2-length score in the Greffulhe over Robin of Navan, a rival that had beaten him by comfortable margins twice late last fall.

While Robin of Navan would have been a longshot here (he's about 8-1 for Sunday's French Derby [G1]), I simply like the fact Cloth of Stars showed enough improvement to turn the tables in comfortable fashion. He's also proficient on soft ground, and there's still a 50 percent chance of more precipitation at Epsom Saturday after Minding completed 1 1/2 miles in a pokey 2:42.66 on ground labeled good-to-soft in the Oaks Friday.

While Cloth of Stars doesn't have the explosive turn of foot Pour Moi had, he does have an excellent pedigree to step up an extra quarter-mile. By a Derby winner (Sea the Stars), he is out of a full sister to Oaks winner Light Shift and a half to Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) winner Shiva. This is also the family of U.S. grass champion Main Sequence, who finished second in the 2012 Derby.

The Godolphin blue has not yet shined in the Derby winner's circle. They have Cloth of Stars as well as the capable MOONLIGHT MAGIC on Saturday, but I like Cloth of Stars' chances more.

The longshot that intrigues me most in the Derby is IDAHO, who came on late to grab minor shares in the Ballysax (G3) and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (G3) at Leopardstown for his Coolmore connections. Obviously not as well fancied as that outfit's other Derby entrants, he does appear the sort who will relish the extra ground at Epsom.

A full brother to last year's Secretariat (G1) and Hong Kong Vase (G1) winner Highland Reel, Idaho might also be the kind to peak in the second half of the season. However, I'm including him in my exotics plans with Cloth of Stars and putting a bit of a saver on him to win as well.

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