The Chester Vase is often a good trial for the Derby, particularly if it comes to horses trained by Aiden O’Brien. He likes to bring his Derby hopes over to this awkward, ever turning track that tends to teach young, inexperienced horses allot.
So it was intriguing to see him running a whopping four in the Vase on Thursday. That implies AOB isn’t sure himself whether one of these actually is a real contender for the big one in June, I suspect.
As it panned out favourite Venice Beach won the race in fine enough style, though far from giving the impression that he’s an upcoming superstar. And that is pretty much in line with what the four times raced son of Galileo produced so far – his highest time speed rating until yesterday was a lowly 72. It’s fair to say, at this point in time, that despite his victory yesterday, he’s probably not the 2017 Derby winner.
Runner-up Wings Of Eagles isn’t a superstar either, however I liked, at least on the visual front, the way he stayed on late despite encountering a troubled run, where he was forced to come wide around in the closing stages.
Despite four runs – so a bit of experience on would think – under his belt before Chester, he still seemed to have quite a bit to learn. The race comments for him in the Vase actually state ” disorganised over 1f out” – you’d hope the experience taught him a good lesson – as it should – and that in itself makes him an interesting horse to monitor for the future I reckon.
Today we see the return of US Army Ranger to the place of his biggest success: he won here the Vase twelve months ago on only his second career outing which as a result catapulted him into the hot seat for the 2016 Derby.
He finished a strong runner-up behind Harzand in the Classic of the Classics, however things have not gone to plan subsequently and it was pretty much the same story on his seasonal reappearance last month.
So with plenty of intrigue I watch him go to post today in the Diamond Ormonde Stakes, a Group 3 contest, which, if he is as good as he promised early in his career, he should win. Would I bet on it? Hell, no!
A good hour earlier on the card we’ll see a horse that’s been talked about aplenty: Cliffs Of Moher. The thee year old is the 8/1 second favourite in the Derby ante-post market right now, based on hype, trainer name and on an impressive second career run, when beating useful stable mate Orderofthegarter at the end of last season, clocking a serious time speed rating of 104.
Can he deliver today? If he does we probably see him shortening dramatically in the betting for the Derby. The fact that Aiden O’Brien does not run another horse here in the Dee Stakes seems significant in terms of confidence he and “the lads” have in the Galileo son.
1.50 Chester: Class 2 Handicap, 7.5 furlongs
Hot race with a potentially well handicapped favourite in lightly raced El Hayem however the James Eustace trained Ice Slice should go close from a good draw for a much better price.
He’s already a CD winner and went close from a poor draw on his only second start here. Ice Slice was a massively improved horse last year winning five races and on form looks capable of running to or even above his current handicap rating of 93.
He probably needed his seasonal reappearance run last month and should strip fitter. Conditions will suit, even if a bit of rain would fall.
10pts win – Ice Slice @ 8/1 Bet365