'Beach' strengthens O'Brien's Derby grip
If winning the first two Classics of the season was not enough, Aidan O'Brien maintained his stranglehold on the Epsom Derby trials when, four days after his 1-2-3 in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown, he repeated the feat in yesterday's Chester Vase.
The race was won by Venice Beach, which quickened up off the bend under Ryan Moore to beat the staying-on Wings Of Eagles and The Anvil, by one-and-a-quarter lengths and a nose. Godolphin's Tamleek travelled well but flattered to deceive in fourth.
The winner, having his third start of the season, earned a quote of 16/1 for Epsom. O'Brien already has the 4/1 favourite in 2,000 Guineas hero Churchill - though he is not certain to line up - while his runner today, Cliffs Of Moher, is trading at 8/1.
"We're delighted with that," said O'Brien. "He's a bit lazy and a bit babyish, so it was important to bring him here to learn. The lads (owners) will sit down and have a good chat about what we run in the Derby, but Venice Beach was in there tight on the fence - they always learn a lot at this place."
He added: "You'd have to hope Venice Beach and Wings Of Eagles will step up on what they've done here, while The Anvil brought the best form into the race and is solid."
One gets the feeling, however, that Cliffs of Moher is meant to be the one to take from Chester in today's Dee Stakes. The Galileo colt was a five-and-a-half-length winner of a seven-furlong maiden at Leopardstown in October, and is being talked up as a Derby horse.
"He's a very nice horse and we've always liked him," said O'Brien. "He was very green first time out and then won very easily. The horse he beat was Orderofthegarter (a winner twice since and going for the French Guineas this weekend). He's just ready to run, and this gives him a chance of being a Derby horse."
The only other horse with serious pretensions to a higher level is the exceptionally well-bred Frankel colt Mirage Dancer, which won his maiden on debut at Doncaster for Sir Michael Stoute last October. "He is quite immature but has progressed well and is working well," said Khalid Abdullah's racing manager, Lord Grimthorpe.
O'Brien enjoyed a big-race double thanks to the Huxley Stakes success of Deauville which is now being lined up for a return to top-level company. The Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh later this month is his possible next port of call.
Winner of the Belmont Derby last year, the four-year-old was making his third appearance of the year after runs at Meydan and Sandown and made the most of his fitness on favoured fast ground.
Breaking quickly under Moore, Deauville (6/4 favourite) stretched clear in the straight but had to find more close home to keep Poet's Word at bay by a neck.
"We can look at the Curragh (Tattersalls Gold Cup), we can look at (Royal) Ascot - he's a very versatile horse," said O'Brien. "A mile and a quarter is probably as far as he wants to go, but he's a very professional and very straightforward and sound horse.
"We'll try and pick a race for him and split them all up if we can." (© Daily Telegraph, London)