Hanson: Handicapping the 2022 Epsom Derby
Sir Michael Stoute has trained the winner of the Epsom Derby five times, the first being the immortal Shergar 41 years ago. He has the strong favorite in Saturday's renewal in #2 Desert Crown, a veteran of only two starts, but one who has barely broken a sweat and has given the generally tight-lipped conditioner a bit of a twinkle in his eye, according to those that have followed him closely for decades.
Although Desert Crown might be the most likely winner, there are at least a half-dozen other worthy contenders in the 1 1/2-mile classic. From a value perspective, we'll be keeping an eye on #16 Westover (15-1) for Juddmonte and trainer Ralph Beckett.
Twice first and twice second from four starts, Westover enters off a narrow victory in the 1 1/4-mile Classic Trial (G3) at Sandown. What made the performance appealing to this eye was how nicely the colt settled while racing in a pocket behind the speed, his response when called upon from jockey Rob Hornby, and the way he tackled the uphill climb to the wire (similar to what he'll encounter at Epsom). The runner-up, Cash, is a potentially nice horse who unfortunately misses both Epsom and the French Derby (G1) at Chantilly this weekend.
If able to reproduce that kind of trip around Epsom on Saturday, Westover might see out the distance a lot better than many suspect. He's a son of Frankel, who sired last year's Derby winner Adayar and various other classic types at both middle and staying distances, but is out of a Lear Fan mare. Lear Fan was a miler himself, but is by Derby winner Roberto, and his daughters produced the likes of Kitten's Joy and Johar, both Grade 1 winners at 1 1/2 miles.
Westover is our win play, and we'll use him in exacta wheels with Desert Crown and #13 Star of India, a member of the Aidan O'Brien-trained Coolmore brigade who seemingly took a significant step forward in winning the Dee S. at Chester last time.