Epsom Derby Festival 2023: Schedule & Big Race Preview

Horse racing fans are set for a cracking weekend of top-class action, with the 2023 Epsom Derby Festival scheduled to take place on Friday and Saturday.

The highlight of the opening day is The Oaks, which features the best middle-distance three-year-old fillies in Europe.

The colts take centre stage the following day in The Derby – a race that always generates massive interest worldwide.

Read on as we look at the schedule for the prestigious two-day meeting, before assessing which horses are likely to emerge victorious in the main events.

Epsom Derby Festival 2023 – Schedule

Ladies Day – Friday, June 2

  • 2.00 – The British EBF 40th Anniversary Woodcote Stakes.
  • 2.35 – The Racehorse Lotto Handicap Stakes.
  • 3.10 – The Dahlbury Coronation Cup.
  • 3.45 – The Betfred Handicap Stakes.
  • 4.30 – The Betfred Oaks.
  • 5.15 – The Nyetimber Surrey Stakes.
  • 5.45 – The Winners Wear Cavani Handicap Stakes.

Derby Day – Saturday, June 3

  • 12.50 – The Betfred Diomed Stakes.
  • 1.30 – The Betfred Derby.
  • 2.10 – The Princess Elizabeth Stakes.
  • 2.45 – The Aston Martin 3-Year-Old ‘Dash’ Handicap Stakes.
  • 3.20 – The Aston Martin ‘Dash’ Handicap Stakes.
  • 3.55 – The Betfred Lester Piggott Handicap Stakes.
  • 4.30 – The Rio Ferdinand Foundation Northern Dancer Handicap Stakes.
  • 5.05 – The JRA Tokyo Trophy Handicap Stakes.
Epsom Derby Festival 2023 – Preview

The betting for this year’s Oaks suggests the winner will be one of three horses – Savethelastdance, Soul Sister or Running Lion.

Top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien is chasing his seventh Oaks success in the last ten years with Savethelastdance and the filly could be tough to beat.

Her 22-length victory in the Cheshire Oaks was as easy as the winning margin suggested, although the soft ground on that occasion may have helped her cause.

However, Savethelastdance’s pedigree points to her handling quicker ground and there should be no excuses on that score this weekend.

Soul Sister and Running Lion could provide the biggest challenge to O’Brien’s filly, although there are reasons to oppose them both.

The former bounced back to form at York after running a stinker at Newbury and it is tough to ignore how poorly she ran on that occasion.

Running Lion looked hugely impressive in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket, but there are major doubts about whether she will stay 12 furlongs.

On that basis, Savethelastdance is strongly fancied to put her rivals to the sword and improve O’Brien’s excellent recent record in The Oaks.

He has another strong contender in The Derby on Saturday, with Auguste Rodin out for redemption after running badly in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

There were undoubtedly mitigating circumstances for that performance and O’Brien has made no secret about how highly he rates the horse.

Jockey Frankie Dettori will be eager to go out with a bang on his final ride in the race and has an excellent chance aboard Chester Vase winner Arrest.

The horse proved he could handle a turning track at Chester and is a lively each-way contender this weekend.

Trainer Charlie Appleby also has a strong contender, with Lingfield Derby Trail winner Military Order attracting plenty of support in the betting market.

While he is already proven over the distance, the form does not look quite as strong as some of the other fancied runners in the race.

The Foxes could be the surprise package for trainer Andrew Balding, although he did have a hard race when winning the Dante Stakes at York.

He could run into a place at a decent price, but may find it difficult to deny Augustine Rodin’s bid to put his Newmarket disappointment behind him.

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