Derby Q & A – David Johnson
Derby Q & A – David Johnson
Sporting Life


Timeform Flat editor David Johnson answers our Investec Derby questions.

What did Timeform make of Camelot’s performance in winning the QIPCO 2000 Guineas?

David Johnson: What impressed us was the fact he was able to fulfil his potential over a mile – that was our question mark going into Newmarket. He looked really good winning the Racing Post Trophy but it was a question of whether he’d be effective at the trip at three. It’s very different doing it off the sort of gallop he did at Doncaster and then doing it against battle-hardened milers in the 2000 Guineas.

We always felt he had the prospects of making up into a top class three-year-old but whether he’d get away with it in the Guineas we were slightly doubtful. The fact he’s passed that test means it is all systems go for the Derby.

He has a weight-adjusted Timeform rating of 137p. Would that be good enough to win an average Derby?

DJ: Not quite. The average Derby-winning rating over the last five years has been 143 so he has a little way to go, in fact the weakest race was last year’s renewal which still required an adjusted figure of 139 for Pour Moi to win it. Camelot definitely has to build on what he has achieved so far but you’d think he’d be capable of that stepping up in trip.

What did you make of Bonfire’s performance in the Dante?

DJ: On the figures it’s the second best form in the Derby and by a long way. He’s on an adjusted Timeform rating of 135p which has him five pounds clear of Main Sequence and Imperial Monarch.

It was a case of Bonfire doing what he had to do at York. It wasn’t quite as informative a race as it promised to be with Ernest Hemingway and Mandaean disappointing but Ektihaam, who ran second, is a nice colt. It was hard to assess his Newbury win and, to be fair to Bonfire, he’s had to find a bit more than some people expected to beat Ektihaam but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the form.

The trouble with Bonfire is he’s up against a potential top-notcher in Camelot and there has to be some concern too as to how he’ll handle the build-up. I was at York and saw him playing up, he was reluctant to come out on the track at one stage. The preliminaries are a long, drawn-out process at Epsom and it wouldn’t surprise’me if Bonfire was a late drifter depending on how he handles them.

In terms of form coming into the race he’s second best but I’m umming and ahhing about whether he’s going to stay. The official Timeform view is he will but it wouldn’t surprise’me if we changed that after the Derby.

He wasn’t stopping at York which gives you hope and there’s stamina influences on the sire side but the dam side is more speed orientated. You look at Camelot and think he’ll improve for the step up to a mile-and-a-half, with Bonfire you hope he can match the level he’s already shown at shorter trips.

What else is in the shake-up?

DJ I like Main Sequence. He might not be good enough to win a Derby but we don’t know that yet and all he has done is keep improving. He was really unfancied when he won first-time-up at 50-1 and caught connections by surprise and I was impressed with him at Newmarket first-time-out.

The trials at Lingfield this year were on the all-weather so perhaps may not be as significant as can be the case but Main Sequence covered the course-and-distance in a much quicker time than Vow did yet it was the filly who everyone was talking about afterwards.

Main Sequence and Shantaram pulled a long way clear of the remainder and the runner-up is an interesting horse for big races later in the year. In the end the winner beat him quite readily and he just keeps doing enough. He’s not a flashy horse, he isn’t overly-impressive, but the better race you put him in, the better he’ll be. He’s the most interesting among the ‘best of the rest’ in this year’s Derby.

Should Camelot be as short as 4-7 for the Investec Derby

DJ: I’m not looking to back him at that sort of price but you can see why he is relatively short. On pure form it’s difficult to argue he should be long odds-on and, in theory, he should be bigger but I thought he was a dreadful price going into the Racing Post Trophy on the back of a win in a terrible maiden.

However, sometimes you have to accept a horse’s reputation is ahead of his form and hopefully Camelot will bring the two together at Epsom.

Investec Derby – Betfair bet: 1.68 Camelot, 7.2 Bonfire, 13.5 Main Sequence, 17.5 Astrology, 19 Imperial Monarch, 22 Thought Worthy, 85Rugged Cross, 90 Mickdaam, , 100 Cavaleiro, 150 Tower Rock, Father Of Science, 350 Minimise Risk

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