In some respects, seasoned punters will tell you it’s easier to pick out winners on the flat than it is over jumps – quite simply, the fastest horse or the one with the best engine will triumph more often than not.
But then you can flip it over and look at the other side of the coin: without jumping prowess as one of our handicapping variables, doesn’t that make it more difficult to pick out a winner on the flat?
Happily, some of the bigger races like the Investec Derby have stacks of useful stats and trends that can be used to shortlist potential bets, and in that vein we thought it timely to consider who might prevail in the 2020 edition of the race based upon these historical patterns.
Stat: 12/18 Derby winners won last time out
Stat: 16/18 Derby winners won or finished second last time out
It kind of goes without saying, but the vast majority of recent Derby winners have shown form in abundance prior to their victory.
That keeps many at the head of the market in the hunt, with favourite English King – winner of the Derby Trial Stakes, very much in the game alongside Kameko, Russian Emperor and Vatican City.
This trend does preclude Mogul, fourth in the King Edward VII Stakes,
The Recency Effect
Stat: 17/18 Derby winners had run in the past five weeks
The coronavirus pandemic has made satisfying this criteria slightly more tricky, but typically the most recent Derby champions have been active prior to their win.
All of the main contenders for the 2020 edition satisfy this trend, with the likes of English King and Kameko active within the past four weeks.
Stat: 16/18 Derby winners had raced no more than five times before
Keeping fresh is key to the success of a Derby winner, and there have only been a couple of ‘grizzled veterans’ that have prevailed in contemporary times.
So we’re looking for contenders who have been involved in five races or fewer in the past.
Based on that criteria, English King (three) is easily in the mix and Kameko (five) just about remains on the shortlist. Russian Emperor (four), Vatican City (three) and Highland Reel (four) also remain, but Pyledriver – winner of the King Edward VII Stakes – has had six prior outings and is thus struck from the contenders.
Stat: 16/18 Derby winners had gone off at odds of 7/1 or shorter
It’s no surprise that the most fancied horses have typically prevailed in this high-quality renewal, and the weight of history suggests that is a trend that will continue on Saturday – despite Masar (18/1 in 2018) and Wings of Eagles (40/1 in 2017) being relatively fresh in the memory.
If we use 7/1 as our guide price, then only three remain on our shortlist: English King, Kameko and Russian Emperor.
Stat: 16/18 Derby winners had won a Group race before
Clearly, winning a Group renewal is the most obvious marker of quality – and thus identifies a potential future Derby champion.
Interestingly, English King is yet to win a Group standard race, and so the favourite is removed from our shortlist.
Kameko has two Group 1 wins to his name – the 2,000 Guineas and the Futurity Trophy Stakes, and Russian Emperor took down the Group 3 Hampden Court Stakes.
So there you have it: based on the trends, the 2020 Investec Derby champion will be either Kameko or Russian Emperor!