A fascinating week of Classic trials sees the action head to Lingfield on Saturday, where Aidan O’Brien unleashes yet another potential Investec Derby candidate in the shape of Anthony Van Dyck.
Headlining a field of 10 for the RaceBets Derby Trial Stakes, the son of Galileo was a high-class juvenile, finishing second to Quorto in the National Stakes at the Curragh and running a fine third behind Too Darn Hot in the Dewhurst at Newmarket.
His final start came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, where he was ninth to the Charlie Appleby-trained Line Of Duty.
O’Brien, who dominated at Chester’s May meeting with Sir Dragonet and Circus Maximus, said: “I’m very happy with him.
“About a month ago he had a few easy days, so he is going to improve plenty for the run, but he is in good form and is ready to start. He needs to start now if he is going to the Derby.”
He added: “America was at the end of a long hard year for him and I think he was drawn wide (stall 14), but I stand to be corrected on that.
“He was slow away and got back a long way, so really it was probably a non-event. He came out of it well and we’ve been happy with him the last three weeks.”
Ed Walker expects to find out a lot more about the Derby prospects of Cap Francais, who already has experience of Epsom having come home to good effect when second in the Blue Riband Trial over 10 furlongs last month.
He said: “I’m very excited to see him step up in trip. He came out of Epsom very well. He will hopefully behave a bit better having got that freshness out of him.
“It’s an interesting race with Aidan running Anthony Van Dyck, so we’ll see where we are. We need to make a decision whether we supplement him for the Derby or not and Saturday will help us with that decision.
“I thought the Blue Riband was a good renewal and won by a exceptionally well-bred horse in Cape Of Good Hope, and I know the John Gosden team liked the third horse, Turgenev.
“Arguably we were unlucky not to be a bit closer or even won, which was a bit annoying as that would have saved a supplementary fee if we get that far.
“I’m really looking forward to Lingfield and I think the track and trip and everything will be fine.”
The William Haggas-trained Pablo Escobarr needs to step up on his narrow defeat in a Bath handicap – but it is worth noting he was only half a length in arrears of Line Of Duty in a Goodwood maiden last year.
Haggas said: “He’s a lovely horse, I’m just sorry Anthony Van Dyck is running.
“He’s a very genuine horse and he will run a good race.
“He probably lacks a gear, but he’s very genuine and I think he’ll run well.”
In what looks a strong renewal, Andrew Balding’s Ranch Hand defends a two-race unbeaten record, while Hiroshima (John Ryan), Severance (Mick Channon) and Eagles By Day (Michael Bell) are all last-time-out winners.
Haggas is also represented in the RaceBets-sponsored Oaks Trial, through the once-raced Frankellina.
The daughter of Frankel, who carries the well-known silks of Anthony Oppenheimer, only won by a head over a mile at Yarmouth in October, but very much caught the eye when the penny dropped.
Haggas said: “She’s lovely. The form of her maiden is terrible, but she’ll stay well.
“She’s only just ready to run. I had a setback with her and if I’ve got any Oaks aspirations I’ve got to get on with it, so that is what I’m doing.
“Epsom is at the end of May, it’s early this year, Goodwood is too close, so it was between Lingfield or York and I think she stays well so we are going to Lingfield.”
Lingfield all-weather maiden winner Anapurna represents John Gosden and Frankie Dettori, with Tauteke a likely improver for Roger Varian.
The other feature on the card is the Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes, a seven-furlong Group Three in which the former Gosden-trained Perfection makes her first start for David O’Meara.
She finished last season with a Listed victory at Newmarket, and O’Meara said: “We’ve inherited her this season – John Gosden did a wonderful job last season and if we can do half the job, I will be delighted.
“She did well over six last year, so I’m not too sure of the trip, we will have to wait and see.”