Aidan O’Brien put at least a temporary brake on the Charlie Appleby bandwagon here on Wednesday, as a 33-1 double in the afternoon’s Classic trials improved his hand for both the Derby and Oaks while putting a large dent in the Derby credentials of New London, beaten at 4-11 behind Changingoftheguard in the Group Three Chester Vase.
New London, in Godolphin blue like all of Appleby’s runners, went into the race unbeaten in two starts and on offer at around 5-1 second-favourite for the Derby on 4 June.
Two-and-a-half minutes and one comprehensive defeat later, he was out to 16-1, having visibly failed to answer the questions that the Roodee poses to an inexperienced three-year-old. “No excuses,” William Buick, his rider, said afterwards. “He’s still got a lot to learn.”
Changingoftheguard, by contrast, was sent straight into the lead by Ryan Moore and pounded around Chester without a second thought, eventually pulling six-and-a-half lengths clear at the line. He is now top-priced at 12-1 (from 50-1) for the Epsom Classic, in a market headed by his stable companion, Luxembourg, who finished third in the 2,000 Guineas last Saturday.
“We were delighted with that run,” O’Brien said from Ireland afterwards. “I think off the back of that, you’d have to say he’d go to Epsom now.”
Luxembourg and Changingoftheguard are unlikely to be O’Brien’s only Derby entries, as the stable expects to be represented in all the major Epsom trials over the coming days at Chester, Lingfield, Leopardstown and York.
The Ballydoyle squad for the Oaks also received a boost as Thoughts Of June, a 7-1 chance, kept finding more on the run-in to beat Above The Curve – trained by his son, Joseph O’Brien – in the Listed Cheshire Oaks.
Above The Curve, a warm favourite, looked likely to run down Thoughts Of June in the final furlong but she too showed her lack of experience as the winner – who finished nearly three lengths behind the favourite last time – stayed on strongly to the line.
Thoughts Of June is now top-priced at 16-1 (from 66-1) for the Oaks, another Classic in an O’Brien-trained runner – Tuesday, in this case – heads the market after finishing third in the Guineas at Newmarket.
“I thought she’d come forward for that [her first run of the season] and she clearly did,” O’Brien said. “We’d been thinking of the Oaks for her and that was the reason for sending her to Chester, to see if she’d handle it and to teach her plenty.”
Greg Wood’s Thursday TV tips
The Group Three Ormonde Stakes at Chester on Thursday has bucked the recent trend for small fields with a double-figure turnout for the first time since 2008.
It will be interesting to see how the lightly-raced Hamish, the Melrose winner at York three seasons ago, kicks off his six-year-old career and he still has enough time and potential to make a mark at a high level this year.
He is giving weight to all nine of his rivals after 185 days off, however, and the classy mares Believe In Love and Albaflora (3.10) make more appeal for betting purposes.
Both finished within a neck of the winner at Group One level last season winners and have scope for further improvement at five, but the fact that Albaflora was a winner first time up in 2021 tips the balance her way.
Chester 1.30 There is plenty of pace towards the far rail in this sprint handicap, and the early dash for the rail could be crucial. Night On Earth is in stall four but trapped like a greyhound when third in a strongly-run race at Newmarket last time and that may give him the edge.
Worcester 1.50 A few of these chasers have questions to answer about recent form or fitness, so Gallow Ford looks big at around 6-1 to make a successful debut over fences.
Chester 2.05 Of the nine runners Spacer is the outsider in the early betting at around 16-1 and his fitness needs to be taken on trust, but he ran well first time up last year in what turned out to be strong contest and has the excellent Laura Pearson taking off a useful 3lb.
Chester 2.40 Although not entered in the Derby, Dubai Poet’s overall form – including a good run behind the Guineas winner Coroebus last year – is solid and he could well find more for the step up in trip. Aidan O’Brien’s Derby entry Star Of India is the obvious danger but seems to be priced up as much on his trainer’s record in this race – six wins in the past nine – as his form.
Chester 3.40 Enfranchise improved significantly for the return to turf last time and, though she has a tough draw to overcome, that may be less of a hindrance at this trip (three winners of this race in eight years have come from double-figure stalls).