Andy Stephens touches on five things to ponder on the final day of Chester’s May meeting - including Derby hope Cliffs Of Moher and a rare runner on the Flat for Venetia Williams
Taking a view with Cliffs:
Aidan O’Brien threw four darts at the board in the Chester Vase on Thursday but, perhaps significantly, relies solely on Cliffs Of Moher in the Homeserve Dee Stakes.
The Galileo colt has been the subject of favourable reports this spring and the form of his easy win at Leopardstown in late October has a glow. Orderofthegarter, his stablemate, who he thrashed by more than five lengths, has shone in his two subsequent starts and is rated 111.
As a consequence, Cliffs Of Moher is no bigger than 10-1 for the Investec Derby.
Debate over his ability to stay at Epsom might be similar to that of Churchill if he wins the Dee Stakes because his dam, Wave, was all about speed.
Incidentally, the spectacular Cliffs of Moher are located in County Clare and draw about a million visitors per year - making them among the most visited tourist sites in Ireland.
There is a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs, built in 1835, by Sir Cornelius O'Brien. We assume the trainer is not related.
Turning up the Heat:
The opposition to Cliffs Of Moher includes Desert Mirage, a Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt who got on top late on when winning on his debut at Doncaster in late October.
Mirage Dancer’s sire, Frankel, needs no introduction but fewer will be familiar with the exploits of Heat Haze, his dam.
She was renowned for her fast finishes and provided legendary trainer Bobby Frankel, who the equine Frankel is named after, with his 25th Grade One winner in 2003 when arriving typically late on the scene to land The Matriarch at Hollywood Park.
That haul of 25 wins in a year at the highest level remains a record that has teased Aidan O’Brien in recent years. William Hill have this week cut him to 7-1 from 10-1 to beat the record this year, with Coral far more cautious and offering 3-1.
The Lost Ranger:
It was a year ago that US Army Ranger gained a controversial win in the Chester Vase, when plenty believed his stablemate, Port Douglas, beaten a short head, should have won.
What cannot be disputed is that US Army Ranger, notwithstanding subsequently finishing second in the Derby, has since proved a big disappointment. He has not won another race and been beaten at Evens, or shorter, on three occasions.
Plenty have already given up on him and, unless he wins the Group Three Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes, his fan club will sink to new levels.
At the moment, to be fair, it is being kept afloat by those who have made a habit of laying him on the exchanges.
Rare Williams raider:
Venetia Williams rarely has runners on the Flat and you have to go back five years to find the last time she had a winner on the level - Zamdy Man winning a maiden at Newmarket.
Her runners are renowned for being in their element in the mud when stamina is at a premium but do not discount Subcontinent making an impact in the closing DW Sports Apprentice Handicap.
Subcontinent has not run on the Flat for 10 months but the Dubawi gelding has been eased 6lb in the ratings during his absence and will be ridden by the in-form Callum Rodriquez, who has won four of the past nine races he has ridden in and been placed in another three.
Koukash seeks to avoid blank:
Dr Marwan Koukash’s love affair with Chester is well known but, unusually, the owner has had little to shout about so far this week.
His runners over the first two days have finished 7089864693.
On Friday, he will be desperate to avoid another blank and has five more chances with Rene Mathis (1.50), Gabrial’s Kaka (1.50), Impart (3.00), Gabriel’s Star (5.05) and Modernism (5.05).
A single victory will be just what the Dr ordered.
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