Who will win the Derby? Your guide to this Saturday's big £1.5m race at Epsom

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It was revered, late trainer Peter Walwyn who once said: "The tradition and history behind the Derby, as with the Grand National, are so powerful that I get a cold shiver down the spine every time I go to Epsom, one of the foremost shrines of racing."

Well, the time has come for more spines to shiver and tingle, and for another horse, jockey, trainer and owner to add their names to that history.

For the great race, the king of all the Classics, struts its stuff for the 245th time on the rolling Epsom Downs this Saturday.

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Sixteen runners tackle the unique course for the richest race in Britain, sponsored by Betfred and carrying £1.5 million in prize money. Due off at 4.30 pm, it is being shown live on ITV.

Auguste Rodin, ridden by Ryan Moore, sweeps to victory in last year's Betfred Derby at Epsom Downs, collaring the leader King Of Steel, who finished second. (PHOTO BY: Warren Little/Getty Images)Auguste Rodin, ridden by Ryan Moore, sweeps to victory in last year's Betfred Derby at Epsom Downs, collaring the leader King Of Steel, who finished second. (PHOTO BY: Warren Little/Getty Images)
Auguste Rodin, ridden by Ryan Moore, sweeps to victory in last year's Betfred Derby at Epsom Downs, collaring the leader King Of Steel, who finished second. (PHOTO BY: Warren Little/Getty Images)

Finding the winner of the Derby is never a straightforward task. No-one can predict for sure how the inexperienced 3yo colts will handle the climbs and descents, the steep undulations and the pronounced camber of Epsom, or whether they will stay the 1m4f distance.

But it's been made even more complicated this year by the anomaly that the three most impressive winners of the spring trials are all absent.

Citing those very fears about track and trip suitability, connections have made the sad decision to bypass the race with Economics, who landed the Dante Stakes at York by six lengths.

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Meanwhile, the classy Hidden Law suffered a fatal injury seconds after sluicing up in the Chester Vase, and Arabian Crown met with an injury setback after powering home at Sandown.

Champion 2yo City Of Troy is Saturday's favourite and aiming to give trainer Aidan O'Brien (right) his tenth Derby success (PHOTO BY: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)Champion 2yo City Of Troy is Saturday's favourite and aiming to give trainer Aidan O'Brien (right) his tenth Derby success (PHOTO BY: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Champion 2yo City Of Troy is Saturday's favourite and aiming to give trainer Aidan O'Brien (right) his tenth Derby success (PHOTO BY: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The contest now revolves around CITY OF TROY, champion 2yo last season but shock flop when 4/6 favourite for the Qipco 2000 Guineas earlier in the season. Can history repeat itself because, 12 months ago, stablemate Auguste Rodin bombed in similar fashion in the Newmarket Classic only to win a top-class Derby?

In pursuit of his tenth Derby success, O'Brien also saddles the unbeaten LOS ANGELES, a big colt who was good enough to win a Group One race only seven weeks after his debut as a juvenile and who looked very professional on his seasonal reappearance. He might make stable jockey Ryan Moore regret his decision to stick with City Of Troy.

Given the apparent, open nature of Saturday's race, it has attracted a posse of outsiders chancing their arm. No fewer than ten of the runners are set to go off at odds of 16/1 or bigger, the pick of which could be in-form trainer Richard Hannon's VOYAGE, who has won only a maiden but did it in breathtaking style.

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A notable negative for Voyage is that only three colts in the last 51 years have won the Derby after not racing as a 2yo. But a similar hoodoo was smashed in the 2000 Guineas when Notable Speech ended a record spanning 86 years!

The unbeaten Los Angeles (centre) is one of the leading fancies for Saturday's big race. (PHOTO BY: Getty Images)The unbeaten Los Angeles (centre) is one of the leading fancies for Saturday's big race. (PHOTO BY: Getty Images)
The unbeaten Los Angeles (centre) is one of the leading fancies for Saturday's big race. (PHOTO BY: Getty Images)

Voyage fulfils a lifetime ambition to have a runner in the Derby for his admirable owner Julie Wood, whereas AMBIENTE FRIENDLY aims to fulfil a lifetime ambition to have a winner in the Derby for his 90-year-old part-owner, Bill Gredley. I am old enough to remember Gredley's distinctive yellow and black colours being carried to victory in the 1992 Oaks, the fillies' equivalent, by User Friendly, and his current star advertised his claims for Saturday with an easy victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial.

However, it is a fact that the last 14 Derbys have been won by only three trainers (O'Brien, Appleby or Sir Michael Stoute), and the hopes of Wood and Gredley can be countered by a similarly sobering stat that only one British-based owner of a British-trained horse has taken home the spoils in the last 18 years -- Anthony Oppenheimer with Golden Horn in 2015.

Coincidentally, Golden Horn is the sire of Voyage and one of four former Derby winners represented by their offspring in Saturday's renewal -- the others being Galileo, Camelot and Sea The Stars.

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But with Stoute not represented, should we hone in on Appleby's sole runner, ANCIENT WISDOM, to spike the guns of O'Brien? The mount of champion jockey William Buick, he carries the hopes of powerhouse owners Godolphin in the absence of their aforementioned, ill-fated trial winners, Hidden Law and Arabian Crown.

Ancient Wisdom, ridden by champion jockey William Buick, is expected to go close, especially if the ground at Epsom is on the Soft side (PHOTO BY: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)Ancient Wisdom, ridden by champion jockey William Buick, is expected to go close, especially if the ground at Epsom is on the Soft side (PHOTO BY: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Ancient Wisdom, ridden by champion jockey William Buick, is expected to go close, especially if the ground at Epsom is on the Soft side (PHOTO BY: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

He is certain to improve massively for his second in the Dante, is sure to appreciate the step-up in trip and, on his 2yo form, he has the beating of several of Saturday's opponents, including DANCING GEMINI, who is fancied in some quarters after his fine second in the French 2000 Guineas three weeks ago.

Ancient Wisdom does definitely prefer juice in the ground, but the going at Epsom is on the Soft side after a raft of showers.

The draw is also on the Godolphin colt’s side. Curiously, nine of the last 11 Derby winners have been berthed in stalls seven to 12, and he is in 11. Can we really narrow down Saturday's Classic to him and this quintet – Dallas Star, Macduff, Euphoric, God’s Window and Bellum Justum?

I doubt it. Good luck!