Belfast Telegraph

The Punter: Christmas in June for bookies as St Nick bows out

The Derby picture has taken a dramatic turn following the withdrawal of St Nicholas Abbey, the long time ante-post favourite.

Mind you, the warning signs had been flashing for several days that all was not well with the three-year-old regarded as the best in the Coolmore camp.

The layers have been spared a seven-figure sum liability on ante-post wagers, so they will not be too disappointed by Abbey’s non-appearance at Epsom.

Those punters who took the option of ‘non-runner no bet’ in the last week, will have escaped any loss.

William Hill spokesman David Hood said: “St Nicholas Abbey had been the long-time favourite for the Derby ever since his win in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October.

“Of course, ante-post liabilities are only a fraction of what is incurred on the day, but we estimate that punters would already have stood to win in excess of £3million throughout the industry if Abbey had won.”

A downpour of support for Jan Vermeer in the betting market spoke volumes but let’s not forget that when it comes to winning the big one, trainer Aidan O’Brien is by no means the king of Epsom.

He filled second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh last year behind the imperious See The Stars and O’Brien was stunned that he was not numero uno with Fame And Glory who returns to Epsom as favourite for Friday’s Coronation Cup.

It is eight years since he was successful with High Chaparral and he is keen to put that right and hence goes triple-handed with Vermeer, Midas Touch and Cape Blanco.

Now while Vermeer won the Gallinule Stakes in fine style, in all honesty he did not beat much.

Strictly speaking, the form of Cape Blanco is much better, having won the Dante Stakes at York, while Midas Touch proved successful in the Derrinstown Derby Trial, so often the route to Epsom glory.

There is a doubt in the stamina department regarding Blanco but then that’s the case with so many when it comes to the Derby and the undulations of the track.

O’Brien’s horses have not been sparkling of late and of the trio, I would prefer Midas Touch, although Johnny Murtagh’s decision to stick with Jan Vermeer will influence punters.

However, in what has an open look to it, it can pay to take a chance on Workforce who was second in the Dante behind Cape Blanco.

That was only his second race and nothing went right for him on the fast ground. The experience will have done him a power of good and a recent gallop around Lingfield, which is similar to Epsom, delighted trainer Sir Michael Stoute and champion jockey Ryan Moore.

“He worked well, and we wanted to give him that experience of going down a slope,” said the trainer, who has won the Derby with Shergar (1981), Shahrastani (1986), Kris Kin (2003) and North Light (2004).

Workforce has room for loads of improvement and while no horse placed in the Dante has gone on to win the Derby, there is always a first time.

Moore is also chasing his first Derby victory and odds of 5-1 are about right. Each-way should save the stake.

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