O'Brien's Mekong River to make his presence felt at Lingfield
THE Aidan O'Brien-trained Mekong River is as high as 40/1 in the betting for next month's Derby, a long way behind his stablemate Australia which currently trades at 6/4 for the Epsom Classic.
While Mekong River most likely lacks the talent to win Britain's most prestigious race, he should at least have what it takes to make his presence felt in this afternoon's Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield (2.55), priced in the region of 4/1.
This race was relegated from Group Three to Listed class last year so if the truth be told, it's a Derby trial in name only. Indeed, not one of today's nine entrants are priced any lower than 33/1 for the actual Classic itself.
Still though, the presence of Charlie Appleby's market leader Sudden Wonder (11/4) will ensure that Mekong River is not the only horse rated above 100 going to post so hopefully we'll get a reasonably good race from a field that lacks any real star quality.
In fairness to the organisers, an extra £40,000 has been added to the prizemoney to bring it up to £100,000 so it's a race worth winning in its own right.
O'Brien has won it three times since 2008 and Mekong River comes here in good shape following a successful juvenile career in which he won his first four starts, and he then signed off by finishing fourth in a French Group One in November.
That Criterium de Saint-Cloud loss came just six days on from his previous win at Leopardstown and should certainly not be seen in a negative light.
O'Brien also saddles Blue Hussar (5/1), which looked a bit green when winning his debut at Leopardstown although there would appear to be plenty of scope for improvement.
Sudden Wonder is a son of 2008 Derby winner New Approach and has put in some smart performances to date in a number of minor events.
He should have more to come but as it stands on paper, he's still got 5lbs to make up with the selection – although that gap is negated somewhat with Mekong River carrying a 3lb penalty for winning a Listed race at Leopardstown.
Just over an hour later at 4.0, Annecdote's price of 4/1 looks generous in the Group Three Chartwell Fillies' Stakes.
She beat Winning Express (7/2) in a career best in a Group Three at Goodwood back in August, although Winning Express did finish one spot ahead of her since when fourth in a similar race at Doncaster.
On that occasion, Annecdote was carrying a penalty for her previous win but the placings can be reversed today on level terms.
Alan De Royer-Dupre won this in 2008 so Dalayna also commands respect at 11/4.
Earlier at Haydock, Paul Nicholls' Vibrato Valtat gets the nod at 7/2 for the Grade Three Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (3.30).
Third in the Imperial Cup at Sandown off a mark of 130 back in March, he went on to win a novice hurdle at Ayr last time, although I do admit that he was extremely lucky on that occasion when the odds-on favourite, Sign Of A Victory, was hampered badly by a loose horse.
However, from a handicapping point of view, Vibrato Valtat appears to be well treated off 131 and it will be a surprise if he doesn't go close.
Dont Bother Me was second behind Fort Knox in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown for Niall Moran last year and he was far from disgraced when fourth in a valuable handicap last time at Haydock for new trainer Marco Botti, off a mark of 99.
He remains on the same rating for today's Victoria Cup at Ascot (3.50) and with jockey Marc Monaghan claiming 5lbs, the four-year-old should find himself thereabouts at 14/1.
2.40 Ascot: Harris Tweed
2.55 Lingfield: Mekong River
3.30 Haydock: Vibrato Valtat
3.50 Ascot: Dont Bother Me (e/w)
4.0 Lingfield: Annecdote
6.10 Thirsk: Bear Behind