Promises are one thing, delivering on them quite another, and after three encouraging near misses, it's now time for Casual Smile to come good in Lingfield's Oaks Trial.
By a Derby winner, Sea The Stars, out of an Oaks winner, Casual Look, Andrew Balding's filly was bred for high office and the 33/1 now available about her for the Epsom Classic will disappear pretty rapidly if she can take care of a decent, but by no means vintage, field on Saturday afternoon. This is her first run since she was beaten a neck by Taghrooda over a mile last September, form that was given a huge boost when that winner dotted up on her reappearance in the Pretty Polly Stakes last weekend to earn a place at the head of the Oaks market.
Balding, in great form at Chester this week, is confident that Casual Smile (2.20, Lingfield) can break her duck stepping up to the distance she was bred for having been greatly encouraged by her home work, although anybody expecting to see a replica of Casual Look strutting around the Lingfield paddock will be disappointed – "she's teeny weeny compared to her mother", said her handler.
Ralph Beckett, a trainer to follow in this race in recent years, is three-handed this time, with hopes reportedly highest for Moonrise Landing, although none have been given an Oaks entry. A bigger threat to Casual Smile may come from Queen's Prize, the winner of her only start for Sir Michael Stoute and another whose Oaks odds will shrink (currently 50/1) if she can pass this test.
Aidan O'Brien won both Derby trials at Chester this week – Orchestra on Thursday and Kingfisher on Friday – and the quest continues this weekend to find top-class back-up for the stable's Epsom favourite, Australia.
Once more he sets a riddle by sending two over from Tipperary for Lingfield's Derby Trial, but while Mekong River has the stronger form in the book (on a par with the likely favourite Sudden Wonder), it was hard not to be impressed with the way Blue Hussar (2.55, Lingfield) cut through the field to win on his Leopardstown debut last back-end.
O'Brien's son rides Mekong River and Ryan Moore partners Blue Hussar, but events this week at Chester have taught us not to read too much into Ballydoyle riding arrangements.
A much bigger puzzle is the Victoria Cup at Ascot, a race for seven-furlong specialists which brings together many of the usual suspects, including several who competed in the race last year.
Provided we do not get too much rain, I fancy Redvers (3.50, Ascot), a standing dish over this course and distance. At his best coming off a fast pace, Ed Vaughan's tough gelding had not had a prep run when fourth last year, but has this time (encouragingly, over an inadequate six furlongs) and with the blinkers back on, makes plenty of each way appeal at odds of around 16/1.
At a similar price, Songsmith (3.30, Haydock) can make up for lost time in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle, Saturday's jumping highlight. He's run three solid races since returning from a near two-year absence this spring and, still only six and progressive, gave the impression he was ready to pick up a good pot like this when fourth at the track last time.
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