The trials season for the English Derby is entering full swing and there should be clues aplenty this week with informative contests taking place at Chester, Lingfield Park and Leopardstown in Ireland.
A field of nine goes to post in the Group Three MBNA Chester Vase at Chester onThursday, May 8, with five of those currently holding Investec Derby entries. The mile and a half contest was won by Ruler Of The World en route to victory in last year’s Investec Derby and his trainer Aidan O’Brien has two representatives in the race this year with Orchestra (the mount of Ryan Moore) who was the comfortable winner of a seven-furlong maiden at Tipperary last year and Carlo Bugatti (the mount of Joseph O’Brien) who was fourth in the Group Three Ballysax Stakes on his seasonal debut at Navan on April 12. The other Investec Derby entries declared for Thursday’s contest are Festival Theatre (Sir Michael Stoute), Scotland (Andrew Balding) and Seagull Star (William Haggas).
On Friday, May 9, Chester hosts the Listed Betfair Cash Out Dee Stakes. The last winner of this contest to go on and succeed in the Investec Derby was Kris Kin in 2003. Eight of the 21 entries for the mile and a quarter event currently hold Investec Derby entries. Aidan O’Brien is also well-represented in this contest with five entries includingMekong River, who won his first four starts last year before finishing fourth to Prince Gibraltar (the impressive winner of Saturday’s Prix Greffulhe) in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 10 furlongs in November. Adelaide won his only start over a mile at Leopardstown last season while Century won a maiden at the Curragh before running a disappointing race when last behind Kingston Hill in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
Impressive Windsor maiden scorer Arod (Peter Chapple-Hyam) is also entered in the Listed Betfair Cash Out Dee Stakes although connections have recently stated that he is more likely to contest the Group Two Betfred Dante Stakes at York on May 15.
Investec Derby entry Munjaz will step into Pattern company for the first time in the Listed betfred.com Lingfield Derby Trial over an extended 11 furlongs at Lingfield Park on Saturday, May 10.
The John Gosden-trained colt, who is a son of 2009 Investec Derby hero Sea The Stars, shaped with promise in two starts last season, finishing third and second in a pair of mile maidens at Newmarket.
He justified favouritism on his season return in a 10-furlong maiden at the same course on April 16, staying on strongly to score by half a length.
Angus Gold, racing manager for Munjaz’s owner Hamdan Al Maktoum, said: “Hopefully Munjaz will run at Lingfield on Saturday - that is the plan at the moment.
“I think everything has been pretty good with him since his win at Newmarket. I thought he was workmanlike there, but he is still a very inexperienced, immature horse and I’m sure he is going to improve.
“He is a nice horse. He is a big galloper and we have always known that he has a certain amount of ability. He will stay well and I think he will improve as the year goes on.
“Paul (Hanagan) said he might prefer a Flat track, but if he is going to be any sort of horse, he will have to adapt.”
Also among the 18 entries is Somewhat (Mark Johnston), who was second in a pair of Group Two contests last season, impressive maiden victor Arod (Peter Chapple-Hyam) and Godolphin’s Tattersalls Millions Trophy hero Sudden Wonder (Charlie Appleby).
Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien has captured the prize three times in the last decade and has three entries headed by eye-catching Leopardstown scorer Blue Hussar and Mekong River.
High-Rise was the last horse to win the betfred.com Lingfield Derby Trial and go on to victory at Epsom Downs in 1998.
On Sunday, May 11, the action moves on to Leopardstown for the 10-furlong Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial over a mile and a quarter which has been won by subsequent Investec Derby winners Sinndar (2000), Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002) since the turn of the century.
Seven of the 13 entries for Sunday’s race hold Investec Derby entries includingAltruistic, who could become a first Investec Derby runner as a trainer for Johnny Murtagh, who partnered Sinndar, High Chaparral and Motivator to victory in the race as a jockey. The Galileo colt was last seen out when finishing third in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October. Dermot Weld has entered Fascinating Rock, who was added to the Investec Derby at the second entry stage before comfortably landing the Group Three Ballysax Stakes. Aidan O’Brien’s five entries include the unbeaten Geoffrey Chaucer, successful last year in the Group Two Juddmonte Beresford Stakes, plus Mekong River and maiden winners Blue Hussar and Iniesta. John Oxx, whose three Investec Derby runners have included Sinndar and Sea The Stars, has entered the Aga Khan-owned Ebanoran, who looked as if he would benefit from the run when third in the Listed 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on March 30.
Australia (Aidan O’Brien) cemented his position at the head of the market for the Investec Derby with Coral, official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival, following his fast-finishing third in the first Classic of the season, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, at Newmarket on Saturday. QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder(Richard Hannon) was added to the Investec Derby at the second entry stage although connections have not yet stated if he will be aimed at the Investec Derby.