Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 3 December 2016

Army Ranger's Derby odds drift after Chester dogfight

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

US Army Ranger and Ryan Moore (right) edge out Port Douglas at Chester (Getty Images)
US Army Ranger and Ryan Moore (right) edge out Port Douglas at Chester (Getty Images)

US Army Ranger has forfeited its position at the head of the Investec Derby betting after scraping home from its Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate Port Douglas in contentious fashion in yesterday's Chester Vase.

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As had been the case on Wednesday, a 12-furlong Group Three promised to advance the claims of a leading Ballydoyle Classic contender. Somehow justified her odds-on status under Ryan Moore in the Cheshire Oaks, but the slight margin of victory ultimately rendered it an inconclusive triumph.

US Army Ranger's short-head victory under Moore replicated that indecisive outcome. Given that the 4/11 shot's scrambling short-head verdict over Port Douglas prompted a stewards' enquiry into the possibility of team tactics deployed by Seamie Heffernan on the runner-up, it was an even less satisfactory display.

The crucial difference, of course, is that Somehow wasn't heading the ante-post betting for her potential Epsom Classic. On paper, US Army Ranger's position at as low as 3/1 favourite for the Derby was pretty tenuous anyway.

He can now be backed at as big as 11/2, with Michael Stoute's Midterm, which Pat Smullen will partner in next week's Dante for Khalid Abdullah, the new market leader at odds of 7/2.

"He probably learned a lot there," O'Brien suggested in defence of US Army Ranger. "It wasn't a strong pace early and we thought nothing would go on, so Seamus would have to and Port Douglas wasn't doing much in front.

"In an ideal world we'd prefer an end-to-end gallop. It's a race US Army Ranger will probably come out of very well because they only raced hard for the second half of the race.

"We're very happy with him. Port Douglas has won a Group Two - he's a good solid Group Two horse."

Moore added of US Army Ranger: "He's still very babyish; he travelled nicely and I just wanted to teach him. When he got to the front he had a bit of a look, as the other horse came back he was just going to do enough. It's only his second run; he made his debut five weeks ago. He'll improve plenty.

"I was probably a bit too kind to him when he first went there, and he's kind of switched off on me. He didn't know how to fight and he'll learn a lot from that."

Heffernan wasn't hard on the runner-up yesterday, but, in their defence, the second string did twice shy from the whip, and the cutaway rail helped to facilitate Moore's manoeuvre up the inside on US Army Ranger. The Chester stewards were happy that nothing untoward had occurred and accepted the Ballydoyle firm's explanations.

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