But they might yet be wrong. The most relevant livery yesterday was worn by Kieren Fallon: the dark blue silks of John Magnier, whose most talented three-year-old, George Washington, has no pretensions to staying a mile and a half. For now, none of his horses with Aidan O'Brien would have better credentials for the Derby, and if none emerges Papal Bull's trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, may well encourage him to find the £75,000 to supplement the colt to the Classic.
Stoute used the Vase to launch Shergar towards Epsom 25 years ago, and while only Quest For Fame (1990) has since completed the double, the kinship between these two singular tracks has been confirmed more recently by Oath and Kris Kin in the Dee Stakes. Kris Kin was trained by Stoute, who runs City Of Troy in that race today and, as it happens, he too had to be supplemented for Epsom.
The Vase winner is another late bloom. Papal Bull needed three races to break his maiden last year and his first assignment this season was a mere handicap at the Craven meeting. But the form has proved so robust that he started favourite to beat four rivals here, and he did so with far more authority than can be measured by a winning margin of just three-quarters of a length.
He was on and off the bridle for much of the race, and then had to wait for a split until quickening decisively inside the final furlong. True, the front-running Primary failed to stay, but Geoff Wragg thinks enough of the runner-up, Dragon Dancer, to contemplate sending him to Epsom as a maiden.
Horses that lack fluency round Chester tend to be excused on account of its dizzy bends, but nobody should be deceived. Papal Bull handled the track slickly, and his awkward demeanour probably reflected the independent spirit common to many of the talented horses making a name for his sire, Montjeu.
"He is still a bit babyish," Stoute said, tilting his head sideways in mimicry of the colt. "He was tight on the fence most of the way and that will have done him a lot of good. He is progressing nicely, and we'll have to talk with the owners. I would recommend that we let the other trials be run, and see how things look then."
The key rehearsal may be the Dante Stakes at York next Thursday. Ladbrokes yesterday chalked up Hala Bek, who beat Dragon Dancer impressively at Newbury last month, as 2-1 favourite, from Septimus, the Ballydoyle colt, on 7-2. The same firm would offer 10-1 against Papal Bull for Epsom, if supplemented, while Coral offer 16-1 all in.
Fallon was unequivocal. "If I could have kicked when I wanted, instead of having to wait, he would have been more impressive," he said. "He would have stretched away, and he'll look better on a galloping track. I was impressed with him at Newmarket, the placed horses have won since, and he was always going to improve for that. He has a great attitude, he's improving with racing, and he has shown he stays."
Every year fancied horses fail in the Derby because they lack stamina or agility, but no such quibble is possible of Papal Bull. Stoute meanwhile retains faith in City Of Troy, despite his slack performance in the Craven. "He's a horse I like a lot," he said. "He appeared well for that race, but disappointed. That's twice he hasn't run to his best in two runs on the Rowley Mile."
Wragg, meanwhile, will be represented by the unbeaten Ivy Creek. "He's inexperienced, and may be out of his depth," the trainer said. "But he's improving and he's game as a pebble."
LINGFIELD: 1.40 Future Deal 2.10 See In The Dark 2.40 Alhaitham 3.10 Ebraam 3.45 Titus Lumpus 4.20 After The Show 4.55 Pawn In Life
NB: Easy Air
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