Early Favorites for the 2020 Epsom Derby, UK’s Richest Horse Race

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William Buick celebrates aboard Masar after winning the 2018 Epsom Derby. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/WB)

It may be approaching winter, and our thoughts are probably more on the holidays than next June, but the countdown is already on for the 2020 Epsom Derby. It has a £1.6 million purse, making it the U.K.’s richest race.

That’s nowhere near the $16 million that is on offer in the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series in Florida this January, or the big prizes at the recent Breeders’ Cup. But winning the Epsom Derby carries enormous prestige. With less than seven months to the big race, let’s look at the leading contenders for the 2020 Epsom Derby.

Pinatubo is the Clear Favorite

In 2018, trainer Charlie Appleby won the Epsom Derby with the Godolphin-owned Masar (pictured). He ends this current year with the favorite to win the 2020 staging of the English classic residing at his stables.

Pinatubo is 13-2 to win at Epsom next year, having ended the 2019 season winning all six of his races. Not many potential Epsom Derby winners make their racecourse debut on a May evening at Wolverhampton. That’s what Pinatubo did, but his second race was on a track that will become a lot more familiar to him in 2020. He kept his unbeaten record with a win in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom on Oaks day.

His winning run continued when posting an upset in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot. Pinatubo went off the second favorite but beat Lope y Fernandez (trained by Aiden O’Brien) by 3 ¼ lengths.

In July, Pinatubo stepped up in class when racing in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He quickened and went clear from Positive, who has since won a Group 3 stakes. James Doyle had been in the saddle for his first four races, but for the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at The Curragh, William Buick (who had been out for 12 weeks with a concussion) took over the mount. Pinatubo was again in great form, winning by nine lengths.

The Racing Post subsequently described Pinatubo as a “Ferrari of a racehorse,” though the way he’s going, Mercedes might be a better description. Timeform was impressed too, rating him as the second-best 2-year-old of the modern era with only Celtic Swing beating him. His season ended with another Group 1 victory, this time in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. After another impressive win, lasting out the mile and a half at Epsom looks very much possible as his sire Shamardal won the French Derby.

From All-Weather to Epsom?

Andrew Balding has never trained the winner of the Epsom Derby. He’ll be looking forward to doing that next year, though, hopeful that Kameko can give him that first win. Two of Kameko’s four races have been victories, but it could so easily have been all four. His only two defeats were by a neck and a nose.

Kameko ended the season with a win in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes. That was on an all-weather track, though, and he did drift right in the final furlong. You can get odds of 14-1 on Kameko winning the Epsom Derby in 2020.

O’Brien Bids to Make History

Aiden O’Brien has trained the winner of the Epsom Derby on seven occasions. That’s the record number of wins, and he shares it with Robert Robson, John Porter, and Fred Darling. He trained the winner of the 2019 Epsom Derby in Anthony Van Dyck, and his best chance of winning again in 2020 is Mogul.

Mogul won two of his four races this season topped by victory in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Golden Fleece Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown. He didn’t follow up that success though and finished fourth, nearly four lengths behind Kameko at Newcastle. Mogul’s sire is Galileo, who won the Epsom Derby in 2001, so the chances of this colt staying the mile and a half look very strong indeed. It’ll be interesting to see just what improvement he can make over the longer distance. Mogul is currently 14-1 to win the 2020 Epsom Derby.

A Ride on Palace Pier

Frankie Dettori has won a whole host of top races in his career. However, he’s only won two Epsom Derby races, the last being aboard Golden Horn in 2015. He’s ridden Palace Pier in both of his races. Both resulted in wins at Sandown, though he hasn’t raced at group stakes level yet. Trained by John Gosden, there might be a concern over Palace Pier’s ability to stay the Derby distance as his sire is Kingman, who was a top miler. You can get 25-1 on an Epsom Derby victory.

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