O'Brien eager to maintain Chester Vase dominance with Norway
Chester has been a happy hunting ground for Aidan O'Brien in recent years and the Ballydoyle maestro is triple-handed today as he bids to land his ninth Chester Vase (3.35).
O'Brien has dominated with eight winners of the Group Three in the last 12 years and saddles three of the seven runners with Norway the likely favourite in the hands of Ryan Moore.
Norway - as low as 16/1 for the Derby - was fourth in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud on his last start in October, while stablemate Sir Dragonet (Donnacha O'Brien) comes here having made a winning debut at Tipperary just 13 days ago.
Wayne Lordan - fresh from 1,000 Guineas success aboard Hermosa - rides frontrunner Gentile Bellini, but the Ballydoyle contingent won't have it all their own way with Charlie Fellowes' King Ottokar a danger. There will also be plenty of Epsom Oaks clues on offer in the Listed Cheshire Oaks (2.25), a race O'Brien has also farmed with six winners in the last 11 years.
His sole challenger is Secret Thoughts - fifth behind Guineas second Lady Kaya on her reappearance - and she is likely to be in the mix under Moore, with Ralph Beckett's Manuela De Vega another leading contender. O'Brien isn't the only Irish representative with Damian English sending outsider Swissterious for the 6f handicap (4.35), where he will be partnered by Kildare native David Egan.
Champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins turns his attention to the Flat at Gowran Park tonight where True Self will take some stopping in the Listed Vintage Tipple Stakes (5.55).Colin Keane's mount was an impressive dual Listed winner at the end of last season and has conditions in her favour, while Henry de Bromhead's Queen Guanhumara can land the Paulstown Handicap (5.25).
Lordan makes a quick dash via helicopter to the Kilkenny track and her lowly mark of 65 looks lenient.
Meanwhile, the Curragh's May 24 card - the start of their Guineas meeting - has been altered to an evening meeting beginning at 4.55.