Japan, twice a winner at Group One level, gave Aidan O’Brien his first winner of the 2021 May Festival in the Group Three Ormonde Stakes here on Thursday but the success did not dispel concerns about the overall form of some of O’Brien’s stable, with a cloud still hanging over High Definition, the Derby favourite, after a poor blood test ruled him out of Saturday’s Lingfield Derby Trial.
Ontario, O’Brien’s runner in the Dee Stakes, finished last of seven behind El Drama, leaving the trainer empty-handed after the meeting’s two major Derby trials for the first time since 2010.
High Definition slipped from the top of the Derby betting for the first time in eight months shortly afterwards, leaving William Haggas’s Mohaafeth, the Newmarket Stakes winner, as the new favourite for the Classic at 6-1. O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet, a possible runner in Sunday’s Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown, is next in the list on 13-2 with High Definition out to 7-1, while El Drama, who is far from certain to see out a strongly-run mile-and-a-half, can be backed at 33-1.
O’Brien said after Japan’s success that the Dante Stakes at York next Thursday remains a possible target for High Definition if the results of what are currently daily blood tests on his colt continue to improve. The blood marker causing concern is for Serum Amyloid A (SAA), often an indicator that a horse has inflammation or infection.
“He was high enough yesterday, but today it was better so that’s encouraging,” O’Brien said. “The Dante normally is a little bit close to the Derby, but there’s a little bit longer this year and that is probably what we’ll look at. He’ll have to improve every day and go forwards.
“If they [the blood tests] all came back normal and it had settled down, then it’s very possible. Realistically you couldn’t go to the Derby without a run.” Japan, who was beaten in the Dante two years ago but went on to win two Group One races later in the season, could now run in the Coronation Cup over the Derby course and distance, while Trueshan, who was less than a length behind Japan, will be aimed towards the Ascot Gold Cup in the hope of soft ground at the Royal meeting.
“He was a wee bit slow out [of the stalls] but Hollie [Doyle] got him into a lovely position and all-in-all, it was a terrific run,” Alan King, Trueshan’s trainer, said. “That [the Gold Cup] will be his next stop if the ground is right. We’ll just have to see what the weather does in June.”
Frankie’s Falcon fun, plus Friday racing tips
It is 30 years since Frankie Dettori, who was 20 at the time, recorded his sole success in the Chester Cup and he has not had a ride in the race since 2012, but he has been tempted north to ride Falcon Eight for Dermot Weld in Friday’s big handicap and many punters will look no further.
This race will have been circled on many trainers’ calendars for months, however, and Falcon Eight is giving weight to all of his 16 opponents. Not So Sleepy, Nate The Great are among the most obvious candidates to beat him but at the likely odds, The Grand Visir is interesting at around 16-1.
Ian Williams’s seven-year-old is without a win since the Ascot Stakes in June 2019 but has been highly tried, including over hurdles. Now just 3lb higher than for his Royal Ascot success, he also arrives with a similar profile to Magic Circle, Williams’s winner of this race three years ago.
1.45 Chester Dulas was beaten only by a stable companion in what looked like a very warm race at Haydock Park last month, when he was running for the first time since November and also since a gelding operation. Still lightly raced, he does not need to find much improvement to figure at around 9-2.
2.00 Market Rasen It is difficult to rule out any of the 11 runners with confidence but Forgot To Ask arrives fresh from winning at Plumpton in a fair time for a three-runner contest.
2.15 Chester Aidan O’Brien’s runners are not in their usual dominant form at this meeting but Japan went in for the stable on Thursday and Armory, placed in last season’s Irish Champion Stakes and in a Group One in Australia last time, is the clear pick on form.
3.15 Chester The veteran El Astronaute kicks off his seventh campaign at a track where he has not finished outside the first three in half a dozen starts, and his proven ability to zip around these tight turns may tip the balance.
3.45 Chester Restorer is also entering the twilight of his racing career but he too has an excellent record on the Roodee and is only 2lb higher in the weights after recording his second win over today’s track and trip last September. He is unraced since but has run well on his seasonal debut at this meeting in the past.