Duke and Mondammej can trouble the judge

Derby day is here! This really is one of the great occasions in the racing world and I can’t wait to watch it unfold.

The first race of interest is the Cazoo Diomed Stakes (15:10) and the one I like is the Paul and Oliver Cole-trained Duke Of Hazzard. The five-year-old failed to get his head in front last season, but consolidated his position as a high-class performer with a couple of very good efforts in defeat.

Interestingly, he underwent a breathing operation over the winter months and one suspects he was thought to be in need of the run on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot. His usual blinkers and tongue tie were both left off and the manner in which he faded in the closing stages suggested he was short of peak fitness. With the blinkers and tongue tie now reapplied, a much better run seems highly likely to be forthcoming.

While Duke Of Hazzard has never run at Epsom, the notable liking he has shown for Goodwood suggests that he is well equipped for some of the challenges Epsom present and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he proved notably effective around there. He is well drawn and the likely pace setter is drawn beside him, so he could well get a very nice tow into the race. A big effort from him would not surprise.

Big run expected from quirky sprinter

The World Pool “Dash” Handicap (15:45) is well-renowned as one of the toughest handicaps of the year to solve. It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out why that is, given it involves 20 sprint handicappers barrelling down one of the fastest five-furlong tracks in the world! Luck in running and indeed the draw can play a major role in sorting out the result.

Having failed to find an answer to the puzzle in time for the Racing Only Bettor Podcast yesterday, I put my shoulder back to the wheel and have come down on the Anthony Brittain-trained Mondammej.

Now, backing sprint handicappers can often be a case of all duck or no dinner, but that is particularly true with Mondammej, as he is quirky, tricky and far from consistent. The proud owner of a Timeform squiggle, he is a highly-strung individual and often compromises his chance by missing the kick.

However, there is a lot of talent in there when he consents to show it. He bolted up off a mark of 79 at Pontefract in April and showed that his revised mark is still fair when going very close in a competitive five-furlong handicap at York on his penultimate start despite not getting much luck in running. While he ran below form back at York last time, the rain-softened ground seemed to be against him.

The pace never seems to be strong enough for Mondammej, but this will be fast and furious from the outset and having such pace to aim at promises to suit him. He appeals as being drawn in the right part of the track and granted too much rain doesn’t fall, he is one that could run a big race if he gets some luck.

Ballet should win Derby but Lights can run a big race

As regards the Cazoo Derby (16:30), I don’t have a strong enough view to justify a selection, but I’ve long been a fan of Bolshoi Ballet and he really does look to have an excellent chance of justifying favouritism. He is a very straightforward ride and shouldn’t have any issues with trip, track, ground or draw.

At bigger prices, the Joseph O’Brien-trained Southern Lights would have finished second to Bolshoi Ballet last time but for being denied a clear run. He is open to more improvement and could be a player at a big price.