Joseph O'Brien year getting Betterbetterbetter
Fresh from a Classic double that left Ballydoyle with a 50pc strike rate in Britain this term and a massive level-stake profit of 25.25, Aidan O'Brien trains his focus on Chester today.
Such is the apparent strength in depth among his three-year-olds, the Wexford native has been slashed to ridiculously short odds of 7/2 to complete a Grand Slam of all five Classics.
Camelot, Homecoming Queen and Imperial Monarch have already showcased the quality that he has at his disposal among the all-important age group, and this afternoon the baton falls to Betterbetterbetter in the Cheshire Oaks, a race the stable has won three times in four years.
A Galileo half-sister to O'Brien's Irish 1,000 Guineas and Moyglare heroines Yesterday and Quarter Moon, the facile Dundalk maiden winner is the horse to beat under Joseph O'Brien, having his first taste of the Chester venue here.
The talented teenager was caught napping on St Nicholas Abbey at headquarters on Monday, and he will need to be far more alert to the quirky demands of this tight, ever-turning circuit, though he at least has the advantage of being drawn just one off the rail.
Should Betterbetterbetter handle the track, she ought to go close and it may be that her most potent rival in the 11-furlong Listed race is Jessica Harrington's Absolute Crackers.
Second to Homecoming Queen on her final outing at the Curragh last autumn, Fran Berry's mount got off the mark in style at Cork a month ago, and she will be no back number here if she copes with breaking from stall 11.
In the Chester Cup, O'Brien's Harrison's Cave, a three-parts brother to the stable's 2009 Chester Vase winner Golden Sword, has a live each-way chance under Ryan Moore, with Father Of Science maybe a more likely scorer for the Rosegreen outfit in the 10-furlong maiden.
Easy to back when fifth on his Navan bow, this fellow is a three-parts brother to High Chaparral, and should progress markedly for that initial experience.
Having confirmed that his Breeders' Cup winner Wrote is likely to be one of his main contenders for Sunday's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown and that impressive Dundalk winner Ernest Hemingway could be aimed at York's Dante later in the month, O'Brien may utilise Saturday's Lingfield trial for one or both of Athens and Tower Rock.
Both Epsom entries are among four Irish horses in the Group Three, which is due to be run on the all-weather track following further heavy rainfall there in recent days.
O'Brien's David Livingston tackles tomorrow's Chester Vase alongside John Oxx's Call To Battle, while whatever he saddles in the Derrinstown could meet Jim Bolger's smart Ballysax winner Light Heavy. Oxx's Akeed Mofeed is another intended runner in the Group Three.
Meanwhile, multiple Group One-winning sprinter Starspangledbanner could be set for a surprise return to training due to fertility problems at stud. The six-year-old won twice at the highest level in Australia and also produced his best in the northern hemisphere after joining Aidan O'Brien, winning the Golden Jubilee Stakes and the July Cup in 2010.
He was retired at the end of that season to join the Coolmore Stud roster and his first crop of foals hit the ground this spring, but Coolmore said on Twitter: "Due to ongoing fertility issues which have not improved as much as hoped, it was decided not to shuttle Starspangledbanner this year.
"A decision on his future will be made later this month but it is possible that he may go back into training at Ballydoyle."
Elsewhere, Lingfield have decided to switch all of their turf races on Saturday, including the Derby and Oaks trials, to the all-weather track due to waterlogging. Ascot, which lost a meeting last week, have voiced confidence their Saturday fixture will take place.