Already battle lines seem clearly drawn for the Investec Derby. Entrenched on one side, following an exuberant success in his first Classic seven days ago, is a hot favourite in Dawn Approach.
Ranging opposite, meanwhile, is the heavy artillery of Ballydoyle. Yesterday Aidan O’Brien produced a second Chester trial winner in 24 hours, and tomorrow he saddles the colt perceived as his No 1 hope, Battle Of Marengo, in the Derrinstown Trial at Leopardstown. If Dawn Approach proves at all deficient in stamina, over the extra half-mile he will have to cover at Epsom compared with when winning the 2,000 Guineas, then O’Brien is guaranteed to have all escape routes covered.
It would be edifying, all the same, if a colt trained on home soil could somehow open up a new front on the Irish raiders. O’Brien will also be represented in the rehearsals at Lingfield today and York on Thursday, but both races could yet bring a Newmarket colt into the equation, thanks to the blue-chip syndicates of Highclere Thoroughbreds. Sir Alex Ferguson is among those increasingly excited about the reappearance of Telescope at York, while Greatwood (2.55) looks an ideal candidate for the Betfred Derby Trial this afternoon.
Like High-Rise, the last subsequent Derby winner to win this race, Greatwood is trained by Luca Cumani – a man too astute to have forfeited the lenient handicap mark he acquired in maidens without a sound reason. Sure enough, he travelled and finished powerfully when forcing a photo for a valuable sales race at the Craven meeting, and the winner, Windhoek, followed up at the same course last weekend. The extra distance today will definitely suit and Greatwood is considered an agile type, likely to feel at home round a course that bears an auspicious resemblance to the Epsom roller coaster. Cumani’s horses remain in good form, Mount Athos having made short work of the rest once Memphis Tennessee dropped himself out in the Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes at Chester yesterday. Cumani said that his priority for the rest of the campaign is another crack at the Melbourne Cup.
O’Brien takes on Greatwood with Nevis, who disappointed when fast-tracked from a maiden to tackle Dawn Approach last September. He is clearly entitled to a fresh start today, as O’Brien demonstrated when Magician – who arrived on the Roodee yesterday with a very similar profile – bolted up by four lengths in the Bet Victor Dee Stakes. Yet another son of Galileo, Magician showed rather more zip than had Ruler Of The World the previous day. But while the latter looks just the sort of thorough stayer who could expose any chinks in the stamina of Dawn Approach at Epsom, Magician could feasibly stay at yesterday’s intermediate trip for the Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly. Coral duly confined themselves to a quote of 20-1 against Magician, behind Dawn Approach on 6-4. Telescope is 5-1, Battle Of Marengo 11-2, and Ruler Of The World 8-1.
It seems significant that O’Brien has reserved Battle Of Marengo for the Derrinstown Trial, a race previously favoured for his sire, Galileo, and also High Chaparral on their way to Epsom. Though a comfortable winner in the mud on his reappearance over this course – form since fortified by the runner-up’s success at Sandown – Battle Of Marengo is thought likely to prove better again on faster going. While he only has four rivals, it will require a performance of authentic substance to see off Loch Garmon, an unbeaten stablemate of Dawn Approach. Trainer Jim Bolger promises that you will see no better-looking racehorse this year than this winner of a Group One in France last autumn, just eight days after his debut. It is also intriguing to see the sage John Oxx pitch Little White Cloud into this grade for his first start outside maiden company.
The peerless Galileo also has a strong candidate for the Oaks trial back at Lingfield, Secret Gesture having shown abundant promise for middle distances in maidens last year. Her trainer, Ralph Beckett, has a fine record with this type and is said to rate Secret Gesture (2.20) as superior to the filly who won the trial at Newmarket last Sunday, Talent.
Channel 4 also has cameras at Ascot, where the gelded Main Sequence (2.40) has been found an ideal opportunity to begin consolidating his achievements last year, notably when second in the Derby. And while the Betfred Victoria Cup might look as impossible as ever, Jamesie (3.50) should give you a big run for your money.
A week after finally winning a first British Classic, Richard Hughes heads to Longchamp tomorrow with two French ones in his sights. Olympic Glory, a winner over the track at the Arc meeting, steps up to a mile for the first time in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, while Zurigha, likewise a winner on her reappearance, tackles the fillies’ version.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Corn Snow (5.05 Nottingham)
War Lord (5.45 Thirsk)