As we head into May, the British 2022 flat racing season is in full spring. Last month’s Classics races at Newmarket got off to a cracking start and attention is now turning to the Epsom Derby Festival on 3rd and 4th June at the iconic Epsom Downs racecourse.  

One of the most prestigious events in the horse racing calendar, the two 1m4f feature races of the festival – the Cazoo Derby and the Oaks – showcase the best Classic colts and fillies over a middle distance. The Derby itself is the second ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Triple Crown of British horseracing, preceded by Newmarket’s 2,000 Guineas and completed by the St Leger Stakes.  

Both the Derby and Oaks are a true test of speed and stamina and a good performance at the Guineas is typically indicative of a good run at Epsom. If you’re keen to get your ante-post bets in sooner rather than later, here’s a round-up of the best early contenders.  

Early Contenders 

As it always does, Newmarket had a big impact on the Epsom picture, solidifying a couple of early contenders as favourites and introducing us to some bright new names. With the £300,000 Group 1 Oaks set to kick off proceedings on June 3rd and the £850,650 Group 1 Cazoo Derby bringing things to a close on June 4th, let's take a look at the key names you should be considering for the Derby weekend.  

The Derby has a massive field – 91 entries in total at this point in the season – so trainers and punters alike are paying close attention to how the Classics trials pan out.  

The Queen’s own Reach For The Moon was also a name on everyone’s lips for early contention. Trained by John and Thady Gosden, he won the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown in 2021 and placed runner-up in the Champagne Stakes. Sadly, however, he’s no longer in the running after taking longer than expected to come back from the injury he sustained last year. 

The third name in the trio of early potential Derby winners is another Aiden O’Brien colt, Changingoftheguard. The three-year-old leapt into Derby contention after a spectacular win in the Boodles Chestervase. Ridden by Ryan Moore, he surged straight into the lead and stayed there, winning by a clear six and a half lengths. 

As for the Oakes, the top contender is another Aiden O’Brien trained horse, Tuesday. The daughter of Galileo – himself a six-time champion of races including the Irish Derby, Elizabeth Stakes and King George VI Stakes – Tuesday has all the markings of a successful sprinter. Running in this year’s 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, she placed in a very respectable third. 

Ante-post Tips 

Ante-post betting markets are offered by traditional bookies and digital bookmakers and odds specialists. When it comes to placing bets for Epsom, whichever method is better for you depends on your preferences as a punter. There are, however, distinct advantages that come with using online bookies. For example, digital operators are known for providing special promotions to new customers, such as horse racing free bets offers. 

The Cazoo Derby – Changingoftheguard at 8-1 and the Charlie Appleby-trained Hafit priced at 33-1 are very appealing. It’s worth noting too that Appleby has had phenomenal results this season, training 13 winners out of 23 races by mid-April.  

The Oaks – At this early stage, our top ante-post pick for the Oaks is Tuesday at 5/1. O’Brien’s pedigree in this race is outstanding, he’s trained six winners over the past 10 years – several of whom were also sired by Gallileo.