Circus Maximus added further strength to Aidan O’Brien’s hand for the Investec Derby as he ran out a workmanlike winner of the Homeserve Dee Stakes at Chester.
The Galileo colt, who was a close-up fourth behind subsequent 2000 Guineas-winning stablemate Magna Grecia at Doncaster in the Futurity Trophy, was sent off the 5-4 favourite.
Niggled along at an early stage by Ryan Moore, the market leader did come back on the bridle at halfway.
Turning into the short home straight, as Allmankind dropped away Circus Maximus was left in front and was two lengths clear.
Mohawk, another stablemate and carrying a 5lb penalty, came out of the pack to chase down the winner but could only get within a length and a quarter.
An eyecatcher was Andrew Balding’s Fox Chairman, who slightly missed the break and found himself behind a wall of horses when the pace quickened before staying on into third.
O’Brien said: “You would be delighted with the two of them, they were two lovely runs. The two of them were in the Guineas up to the last stage. You would always prefer better ground, but it was good they went through with it.
“He (Circus Maximus) is a relaxed horse and just needed to learn a little bit, so it was lovely to come here. He got a lovely, handy break as he can get lazy in his races and he dropped back, then Ryan moved him up and he came back on the bridle.
“Ryan said in an ideal world he would have preferred to have a lead for a little while longer, but you couldn’t be happier.
“The great thing about here is that they have to have quick feet and they have to learn to jump, travel and keep going. The ground was slow, so he had to work a bit harder.”
He went on: “Donnacha (O’Brien) was happy with his horse (Mohawk). Ryan said he was very happy at a mile and a quarter, but he wouldn’t mind stepping up if we needed to.
“First reaction straight away is that Donnacha’s horse could stick at a mile and a quarter and this horse could be a Derby possible. Ryan was very impressed and felt there was an awful lot in there.
“He is lazy and halfway down the back he was lazy, then Ryan got him upsides and he started travelling. Ryan was a little disappointed that the horse on the inside fell away and he got left in front.
“He is very uncomplicated and when a horse is like that they are a little bit better being lazy than over-racing. I couldn’t be happier really.”
O’Brien was speaking 24 hours after seeing Sir Dragonet bolt up in the MBNA Chester Vase – and hinted that the son of Camelot could be supplemented for the premier Classic, for which he shot to the forefront of in the ante-post market.
He said: “You would be happy with him, as he has come straight from a maiden. He won his maiden on the bridle and that is an unusual thing to happen.
“The lads will decide want they want to do, but it is very possible (supplementing for the Derby). It’s great, as we have time to decide, but you couldn’t be more impressed.
“I don’t think he needs soft ground. He is a lovely, well-balanced horse – it has just been that he has run well on soft ground twice. He obviously has a massive engine.”
Balding, meanwhile, said of Fox Chairman: “Silvestre (de Sousa) said he was slightly inconvenienced by the softer ground, it was a bit softer than he had to encounter at Newbury and he lost his pitch.
“He stayed on well and learned plenty for it. He has finished well and just got caught on heels at a vital stage, but I don’t think the end result would have been any different.
“He is a lovely horse and we will go to Ascot, probably for the Hampton Court.”