Five things we learnt at Chester on Thursday

Thu 11 May 2017

By Tom Peacock

What about Churchill?:

Understandably, Aidan O’Brien maintained that his bosses at Coolmore would want to digest at least the rest of this week’s trials before deciding which of yet another abundant supply of three-year-old colts will be aimed towards the Investec Derby.

Following his one-two-three in last week’s Derrinstown Stud Trial, he managed exactly the same feat here with Venice Beach thwarting Wings Of Eagles and The Anvil in the MBNA Chester Vase.

Any of these regally-bred animals are open to further giant strides under the watchful eye of O’Brien but none of that sextet exactly set the pulses racing as an obvious Derby star.

Perhaps those results could have taken O’Brien and the team a little closer to trying the 2000 Guineas winner Churchill over a mile and a half, to elevate himself above recent Ballydoyle Classic stars as an heir to pre-eminent stallion Galileo.

However, given that he is now almost second-favourite for Epsom behind Churchill, it certainly seems worth O’Brien seeing how Cliffs Of Moher gets on in Friday’s Homeserve Dee Stakes.

On his second and final start last season, he thrashed another Ballydoyle representative, Orderofthegarter, by five and a half lengths, and the runner-up in turn was an easy winner of last month’s Leopardstown Guineas Trial.

Ryan Moore will then ride another dark horse, Sir John Lavery, in Saturday’s Lingfield Derby Trial, and there is still the Dante to come.

Will Eagles dare?:

Almost as much noise was made about Vase runner-up Wings Of Eagles as the winner Venice Beach, with Seamie Heffernan’s mount looking terribly green on his seasonal reappearance, being forced wide and making eye-catching ground inside the final furlong.

It evoked some similar memories to Port Douglas in this race 12 months ago, whom many onlookers thought had the beating of US Army Ranger despite going down by a short head.

Port Douglas did nothing after that performance and Wings Of Eagles, who was not obviously campaigned by O’Brien as a champion-in-waiting by starting off at Galway and Killarney, carried his head high and may not be entirely straightforward.

He will probably go and win the Derby now after such a statement, but on this evidence might not be one to take entirely on face value.

Life’s a beach for Deauville:

Deauville proved a worthy favourite in the Huxley Stakes but it was surely more a well-picked winning opportunity rather than a step towards immortality.

If anything, it proves what a good horse Ulysses could be, as he beat Aidan O’Brien’s colt handily in the Gordon Richards at Sandown recently.

There was a suggestion that the O’Brien camp had been dissatisfied with the ground that day in Esher, which was softer than initially believed, and the trainer emphasised after this victory that Deauville must have it quick.

He should get his preferred surface at Royal Ascot but he only officially defeated the admittedly progressive Poet’s Word by a neck.

As Deauville seems to thrive on international travel, his best chance of top-level honours will be overseas later in the summer rather than in the European A-league.

While the mighty Winx will lie in wait should she stay sound, an ideal end-of-year objective would surely be a visit to Australia and the Cox Plate.

Khairaat going places:

Handicaps at Chester’s May meeting are rarely as easily won as by Khairaat, who must count as a seriously improving sort for the Sir Michael Stoute stable.

Sent off at odds-on despite making his seasonal appearance, he made it three victories from only four starts by four and a half lengths under an always-relaxed Jim Crowley.

Time is likely to run out for this Shamardal four-year-old to be running in handicaps but the Wolferton Stakes over the same 10 furlong distance, for which he will surely be well supported, could be the last one he fits in.

Remember Munro:

There was a more glaringly-unlucky loser later in the card and sympathies go out to anyone that had sided with Munro in the T&L Leasing Handicap.

Stall 10 over six furlongs was never going to be easy to overcome and Fran Berry’s problems piled up further on the three-time all-weather winner’s first attempt on the grass.

First stuck wide, and then behind a line of horses in the home straight, Munro got sandwiched between rivals before poking his nose through daylight and finishing only a neck behind the winner Zamjar.

The run will not have escaped the attention of punters but Ralph Beckett’s colt clearly has the ability to rectify his defeat next time.

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