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O’BRIEN’S DERBY CONTENDER TRIALS THIS AFTERNOON It’s Derby time already, or at least it is for Aidan O’Brien in only just over three weeks from now. The one he has in mind is the Kentucky Derby and his candidate preps at Chelmsford this afternoon. It’s an avenging mission to the USA, after last year’s flop of Mendelssohn in the sloppy going.

TOO DARN BAD: GUINEAS FAVOURITE MISSES GREENHAM Meanwhile, John Gosden’s 2,000 Guineas favourite, Too Darn Hot, is out of Saturday’s Greenham trial at Newbury with heat in his leg after working under Frankie Dettori on the AW gallops. New favourite is Boitron, fourth in the Lagardere, just in front of Shaman, who won Sunday’s Prix La Force test at Longchamp.


The trainer is the daddy of them all. And The lads, his owners Smith-Magnier-Tabor, can afford to experiment. But I thought that Aidan O’Brien wasted the talents of Breeders Cup Turf winner, Mendelssohn.

Because of his breeding, the son of Scat Daddy was aimed at the big Dirt races at Saratoga, Belmont Park and Churchill Downs.

It all looked ‘a good idea at the time’ when Mendelssohn won the UAE Derby at Meydan, a race that seemed to reveal his propensity for front-running on the so-called dirt.

A lucky break was necessary for a horse wearing blinkers, and Meydan is never the greatest guide to three-year-old form. So, came the day of the target race in Louisville, he still needed to convince.

Several severe bumps from the home defenders more in the manner of American football not racing saw the colt knocked out of his stride early – so no front running – and finish stone last of 20, those blinkers caked in the kickback from ‘sloppy’ going at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby last May.

Said O’Brien: ‘The race was totally ruthless. The fastest, fiercest thing I’ve seen. It was a good experience to see what it was all about.’

That experience is put to the test when The Lads take in America again on May 4, theoretically with their fares paid by the £37,000 first prize from this afternoon’s Road To The Kentucky Derby prep (3.35 Chelmsford below).

That’s courtesy, they hope, of the Ballydoyle battlecruiser, a long-striding colt called U S S Michigan. He’s a great grey War Front who should hold his own in the bruising battle of Churchill Downs.

If Plan B works and he wins the Kentucky Derby, tribute should be paid to the pathfinder Mendelssohn, who never won another race.


3.05 Chelmsford Charlie Wallis is the Richard Fahey of Essex, with 80 – yes 80 – runners this year, and his eight winners, so a 10% strike rate, isn’t far away from Fahey’s 12% (132 runners).

Charlie has two of the five starters here but, like all the other stables in this race, has a row of duck-eggs by his name.

Quality form of the race is with the grey filly Goodnight Girl but she has to give 19lb to Emily Goldfinch (BETDAQ 8.0), who is high in the handicap from a hat-trick in the autumn but the claimer and her fitness could win the day.


3.35 Chelmsford (The Road To The Kentucky Derby Stakes) As well as U S S Michigan for Ballydoyle, Shir Khan is also heading for Churchill Downs on May 4. He seems to have a stone and a half to find on the form of his novice win at Wolverhampton.

And his Dundalk success in March has U S S Michigan rated only around the same as Chelmsford course winner Battle Of Waterloo (81) but this is all about what’s up the sleeve not what’s already in the cards on the table.

Top rated off 111 is Dark Vision, who completed a summer hat-trick in the Group-2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. Fanaar won at Lingfield after being gelded and might be, say, a Royal Hunt Cup horse.

There’s something of a collateral measure at Classic level between what Bye Bye Hong Kong does here and his six lengths off Saturday’s Greenham hot-pot Too Darned Hot when they met in the Champagne Stakes last year.

But this year is this year and last year is last, as far as three-year-olds are concerned and, with O’Brien already having bagged some Classic trials at home, U S S Michigan should sink this field at a morning 2.6.


4.10 Chelmsford Favourite in seven consecutive races, Lion Hearted won two in January, two in February and one each in March and April (so far), with a total rise of 36lb beginning to take its toll.

He meets another CD winner here in Unforgiving Minute, whose ratings are actually down since November, though he’s scored twice since.

He has changed trainers twice and won twice in his last four starts, but has failed in five attempts on today’s track since scoring here in October, 2016

Jeremy Noseda had a winner at Nottingham yesterday, and Perfect Hustler, an Ascot scorer in July, goes well first time and was big at 9.0 early doors.

Ultimate Avenue has slid 12lb down the ratings since last Spring but has won only his maiden, always a bad sign.

The handler of last year’s winner, Derek Shaw, saddles Samphire Coast, who has been unplaced three times and second once in four tries at Chelmsford this year.


3.05 Chelmsford (win 20)

3.35 Chelmsford (supernap)
BET 20pts win U S S MICHIGAN

4.10 Chelmsford (win 20)

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