Smuggler's Cove to land Chester booty
Smuggler's Cove will bid to extend to three Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore's domination of Chester's Classic trials in today's Dee Stakes.
Hans Holbein made all en route to a comprehensive victory for the elite firm in yesterday's Chester Vase, following Diamondsandrubies' facile Cheshire Oaks success on Wednesday.
He was subsequently cut to as low as 12/1 from as big as 40/1 for the Derby.
The premier Epsom Classic has a pretty open look to it at this stage, although, as a three-parts brother to the 2010 Irish St Leger hero Sans Frontieres, Hans Holbein might ultimately be more of a Doncaster St Leger type.
"I spoke to Joseph (O'Brien) who said he was very fit and well, and he was as I could barely pull him up," Moore said after the 7/4 favourite's near two-length triumph over Storm The Stars, which had won a Leicester maiden on its fourth start.
"He's quite laid-back but he finds a little bit when you ask him. The form doesn't amount to a great deal at the moment, but he can only improve and he'll be better over further as well. He went round here well enough so I don't see why he wouldn't act at Epsom."
O'Brien has won the last three editions of the Betfair Dee Stakes and five of the last 10. With the ground on the slow side, three of the seven declared runners have already been scratched, so the task facing Smuggler's Cove isn't especially formidable.
Michael Stoute's Disegno and Ed Dunlop's Prince Gagarin have ability and they are the only two remaining contenders with an entry for Epsom.
However, the decision to send Smuggler's Cove across the water for the Listed contest is surely significant given the manner in which the Ballydoyle three-year-olds appear to have turned a corner recently.
By Fastnet Rock out of a full-sister to the brilliant dual Derby hero High Chaparral, Smuggler's Cove is stepping up from seven to an extended 10 furlongs here. That should suit him.
He needs to build on his never-dangerous reappearance at the Curragh, but he has the scope to do so, with his third in last year's Dewhurst Stakes an indication of his potential.
There are three other Irish-trained runners on duty, and they all have genuine chances.
Gordon Elliott's Eshtiaal maybe has most to do in the concluding handicap for apprentice Jack Kennedy, a 16-year-old pony racing champion who rode 221 'flapping' winners over five years and was second on his first track ride on Taglietelle at Clonmel last night.
From a wide draw, Eshtiaal has a lot to do, but Willie McCreery's Colour Blue and Rivers Of Babylon have been drawn favourably in berth three in their respective heats under Connor King, yet another prodigy to recently graduate from the pony ranks.
Both are race-fit, so Colour Blue has claims in the opening seven-furlong handicap, likewise Rivers Of Babylon in the maiden over the same trip.