Derby pointer as Soumillon booked for Seville in Dante
Exciting times are here again for Henry Cecil and Aidan O'Brien, who appear likely to have major contenders for next month's Classics at Epsom. For both, a lot hinges on what happens at the York May Meeting on Knavesmire over the next two days.
Cecil, who has already tasted Classic success this year with the brilliant Frankel, will be looking to World Domination to fully establish his Derby claims in tomorrow's Dante Stakes, while O'Brien's move to book Christophe Soumillon for Seville in this definitive trial for Epsom is seen as extremely significant.
O'Brien has already outlined his strategy of securing the services of a jockey for the trials who will then be available to partner the colt in the Derby.
Hence, Kieren Fallon, who seemed to be doing a good PR job for the unconvincing Recital after Sunday's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, would not have been able to ride Seville.
Sariska, in 2009, completed the Musidora/Oaks double and Cecil, who has won this race nine times and the Oaks on eight occasions, will be hoping that Arizona Jewel, which won at Sandown Park last month, can emulate that talented but headstrong filly.
Cecil is expecting marked improvement from Arizona Jewel. She is generally 14/1 for the Oaks but those odds will at least halve if she wins at York, as she is expected to. This will be only her third racecourse outing but she has already displayed her class.
O'Brien saddles Amazing Beauty, but Ballydoyle sources indicate she is inferior to stablemate Wonder Of Wonders, last week's Chester winner and currently the 6/1 Oaks favourite. Amazing Beauty looks more of a stayer, hence her maiden win on the all-weather at Dundalk should be examined in that context.
Joviality is another likely improver, whereas Barefoot Lady, the winner of the Nell Gwyn Stakes prior to finishing fifth in the 1,000 Guineas, needs to prove that she stays.
York needed the heavy showers which fell earlier in the week and officials expect the ground to be near-perfect for the first day. Delegator, not been seen on a racecourse since being injured in last year's Breeders' Cup, might find conditions to his liking in the Duke Of York Blue Square Stakes. His class should carry him through, even if the distance is short enough.
Meanwhile, Alan McCabe is looking forward to Royal Ascot after seeing Caspar Netscher justify his expectations in the two-year-old maiden at Beverley yesterday. The Dutch Art colt had been available at 20/1 in the morning but was backed at all rates down to 100/30 by the start of the five-furlong contest.
The gamble appeared to have gone awry early on as the youngster looked to be struggling to keep up with a ferocious pace, but Robert Winston kept him together and he picked up to lead soon after passing the furlong marker.
The result was never in doubt thereafter as he passed the post with two and a quarter lengths in hand over Last Bid, and a trip to the Royal meeting is now on the trainer's radar.
"We had a good bet on him -- we really fancied him," said McCabe. "He's got a few tests to pass before Ascot, but that's the road we are going down.
"He'll be entered in the Windsor Castle and the Norfolk Stakes as he's got plenty of speed."
On the jumping front, David Pipe has confirmed he is considering running stable star Grands Crus in the French Champion Hurdle next month.
The grey enjoyed an excellent campaign, completing a hat-trick of wins in the Cleeve Hurdle before chasing home Big Buck's in both the World Hurdle and in Aintree's Liverpool Hurdle. With Big Buck's now on his summer break, Pipe feels a trip to France may see Grands Crus return to winning form.
"We know he likes soft ground and while it is not definite he's going to run, it is certainly an option," said Pipe. "We just thought it looked a good opportunity for him. Questarabad was the best horse in France and he unfortunately died the other day. The prize money is very good and he would look to have a good chance if he runs."
Looking ahead to next season, Pipe is expecting Grands Crus to begin a novice chase campaign. "As long as Big Buck's is around, I'd imagine we'll be going chasing," the trainer confirmed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)