Saxon Warrior imposing, but balancing play in Epsom Derby

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

June 1st, 2018

Ever since an impressive victory in last month's 2000 Guineas (G1), SAXON WARRIOR has been heavily backed to take the second jewel in the English Triple Crown, Saturday's Epsom Derby (G1), and has been talked of as being that rare individual that could be a viable candidate to sweep the Crown itself. Saxon Warrior has long been considered as such by his Coolmore connections, whose Camelot fell a bit short in 2012 of being the first since Nijinsky in 1970 to attempt and win the Crown in the St Leger (G1) over 1 3/4 miles.

While still trading around even-money or slightly under for the Derby, there's been speculation in recent days that perhaps he might not as dominant as has been virtually perceived these last several weeks. Though by a confirmed stayer in Deep Impact, Saxon Warrior's dam Maybe, despite being by Galileo, failed to see out 1 1/2 miles in the Epsom Oaks (G1), leading some to think he's no sure thing to stay the distance himself.

The prevailing soft ground at Epsom this week, though drying as the race approaches, has been another  concern, as has been Saxon Warrior's drawing of stall 1, a post that has yielded only three winners since the starting gate came into use in the Derby around a half-century ago.

No matter whether you remain an optimist about Saxon Warrior or have joined the pessimism bandwagon, the bottom line is that he's un-bettable at his current price in the Win pool.

I admit to having mixed feelings about Saxon Warrior myself. Perhaps I wouldn't if I didn't think there was at least one other viable win contender. Since they're there, the best course of action seems to balance my play.

YOUNG RASCAL, the general second choice in the field, has come on strongly this year with a dominating maiden score at Newbury and a half-length win over this trip in the Chester Vase (G3). The margin was more comfortable than it appears on paper, and with just three starts behind him he has plenty of scope for improvement.

KNIGHT TO BEHOLD is one who could could sneak into the frame at a price. The son of 2009 Derby winner Sea the Stars ran off with the Lingfield Derby Trial (a prep that has admittedly seen better days), building up an insurmountable lead when other pace failed to materialize. He's not one-dimensional, but chances are he will be near the front early, which wasn't an entirely negative strategy in the conditions Friday in the Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom Oaks.

Obviously bred to stay, Knight to Behold is trained by Harry Dunlop, whose father John trained Derby winners Shirley Heights (1978) and Erhaab (1994).

My primary play will be a straight Exacta of Saxon Warrior (#8) over Young Rascal (#11). I will, however, do a saver Win bet on Young Rascal and a saver Exacta of him over Saxon Warrior. In the Trifecta, I will use Saxon Warrior and Young Rascal in the top two slots and keying Knight to Behold (#5) in third.

The Derby will be run as Race 5 on the Epsom Downs card Saturday, with a post time of 11:30 a.m. (EDT). The race can be watched and wagered on at FREE Brisnet past performances are available here.

Happy Derby Day!

(Photo courtesy of Jockey Club Twitter)