Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

The Punter: Derby picture unclear

Sea Of Stars is the latest rage for the Epsom Derby and confidence is growing that he can become the first horse since Nashwan in 1989 to land the 2000 Guineas-Derby double.

Maybe he will, but at this stage, I would not be rushing to take the 4-1 on offer as there are still one or two Derby clues to be revealed.

First we have the Chester Vase and Dee Stakes over the next two days followed by the Derby Trial Stake at Lingfield on Saturday, the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown the following day and finally the Dante Stakes at York on May 14.

There are still a few pieces to be fitted into the jigsaw before making a definite commitment.

For years, it has been said that the 2000 Guineas is the best trial for the Derby but the stats have not borne that out although New Approach, who finished second last year behind Henrythenavigator, went on to Epsom glory.

However, it is generally the case that Guineas winners do not have the stamina for a mile and a half on the undulations of Epsom.

So what makes Sea Of Stars (pictured right), from John Oxx’s stable different?

He was able to outspeed Delegator on a fast surface and was going away at the end and is a half brother to 2001 Derby winner Galileo, being out of Arc winner Urban Sea.

But the dam has a tendency to produce quality horses that do not relish journeys over 10 furlongs.

Also, Sea’s sire is Cape Cross whose record of producing mile and a half winners is nothing great, although the best of them was 2004 Oaks winner Ouja Board who also won the Eclipse and a Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in the States the same year, plus chasing home Biago in the Arc.

Maybe the Oxx colt will be in that category but the Derby trip remains a journey into the unknown.

Oxx has Mourayan in Sunday’s Derringstown and his performance will give the trainer a sound line on Derby form as Mourayan was beaten last time out in the Ballysax by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Fame And Glory who looks the ideal Derby type.

But the runner-up to Fame And Glory that day, Fergus McIver, was well trounced by an Oxx newcomer, Alaivan, at Gowran Park last Sunday.

Fame And Glory may clash again with Mourayan on Sunday and if he obliges will be a strong fancy for Epsom as this race has thrown up Derby winners Sinndar, Galileo and High Chaparral in successive years. Take the Paddy Power 7-1 price about Fame And Glory now.

Champion Higgins 10-1 for a repeat

John Higgins, winner of the Betfred.comWorld snooker Championship for the third time, is 10-1 for a repeat next year.

However, it should be remembered that few win snooker’s top crown in successive years.

Higgins beat former champion Shaun Murphy 18-9 in a rather low-key final at the Crucible on Monday when the third session was nothing to write home about and with only one decent break of 91 wrecked all those who went long on the number of final centuries.

Higgins joined Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry as the only others to have won three or more Crucible crowns, his first title arriving 11 years ago and the second in 2007.

Hendry and Davis are the only two to have enjoyed back-to-back triumphs since the final moved to Sheffield. Long gone are the days when Joe Davis, John Pullman and Ray Reardon hogged the winners list year in and year out.

Welshman Mark Williams went close to two-in-a-row when losing to Stephen Hendry in the 1999 decider before coming back 12 months later to defeat Matthew Stevens.

It will take some doing for anyone to surpass Hendry’s seven victories which included a nap hand of five on the trot since the tournament reverted back to knockout format in 1969.

This year’s beaten finalist Murphy is also a 10-1 chance while our own Mark Allen, gets a 16-1 quote.

Allen has shown that he is capable of beating the best — after all he ousted last year’s champion O’Sullivan and with a bit of luck could have made the final.

The Antrim lad has done himself proud since joining the professional ranks and at only 23, time is very much on his side in his bid to become Northern Ireland’s third world champion.

Naturally, O’Sullivan heads the market at 7-2 but such a price could not be entertained as it’s always difficult to know what is in Ronnie’s mind about his future in the game. Better to wait and see if he turns up first.

2010 World Snooker Championship (Betfred): 7-2 R O’Sullivan; 7-1 M Selby; 8-1 S Maguire; 10-1 J Higgins, S Murphy; 14-1 A Carter; 16-1 M Allen; D Junhui, N Robertson; 25-1 J Cope, R Day; 33-1 M Fu; 40-1 S Hendry, J Perry, J Trump, R Walder, M Williams. 66-1 bar.

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