herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

O'Brien is seeking a hat-trick

Hans Holbein
Hans Holbein

With the first Classics of the Flat season behind us, most of the focus this week turns to Derby trials and at Chester tomorrow Aidan O’Brien will ask the first of a few questions of his team this week with Hans Holbein bidding to give him a third Chester Vase in a row.

The Leopardstown maiden winner is one of six declared for the extended mile and a half race which O’Brien won with subsequent Epsom hero Ruler Of The two years ago and then with Orchestra 12 months ago.

O’Brien was forced to rule out intended Chester Vase runner Giovanni Canaletto on Monday after the colt gave an unclear scope which now narrows the prospects of him running in a trial prior to the Epsom Derby.

O’Brien also holds entries in Friday’s Dee Stakes at Chester for which declarations will be made today with Smuggler’s Cove being the one predicted to run there and on Saturday it looks as though Order Of St George will travel to Lingfield for their Derby trial.

Yet to be seen this season, it will be interesting whether Order Of St George will tackle Coolmore’s exciting colt Christophermarlowe, who made a big impression when winning a Derby trial at Epsom for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori last month. He is now as short as 11/1 in places for the Epsom showpiece.

Sunday’s Leopardstown card features the Derrinstown Derby Trial and all eyes here will be focused on Dermot Weld’s Zawraq who will put his unbeaten record on the line when taking on O’Brien’s John F Kennedy who spent the winter as the ante-post Derby favourite until flopping at Leopardstown in the Ballysax Stakes.

While Epsom isn’t on the agenda for Ken Condon’s Success Days, it will be interesting to see how he fares in the Derrinstown with plenty of rain for the week meaning he would get his favourable conditions .

Paul Hanagan is likely to be making a rare visit to the Foxrock venue after Pat Smullen failed to get his two-day ban from Limerick overturned which means he’ll be suspended and miss the ride on Zawraq.

Indeed, speaking earlier in the week, Weld wasn’t committing the exciting three-year-old to either Leopardstown or Epsom.

Weld said: “We’ll see how he works during the week and what the weather does between now and the weekend before deciding if he runs in the Derrinstown.

“If he doesn’t go there we’ll look at other options – he could go for the Irish 2,000 Guineas and as far as the Derby is concerned I’m not totally convinced about the stamina aspect as he is a colt with a lot of pace.”

Meanwhile, despite the fact that most of the high profile jump horses are being readied for a summer break, Nicky Henderson made a surprise entry for Killarney on Sunday as former Champion Chase hero Finian’s Rainbow appeared among 11 entries for the 2m4f conditions chase on the opening day of the Kerry track’s May meeting.

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