Dubai: Irish handler Aidan O’Brien looks flush with an abundance of Epsom Derby riches following Thursday’s impressive victory of Circus Maximus in the Listed Dee Stakes at Chester’s May Festival.
Already responsible for the big favourite for the June 2 showpiece in Sir Dragonet, winner of the Group 3 Chester Vase Stakes on Wednesday, O’Brien uncovered another Classic contender in Circus Maximus, a tenacious length-and-a-quarter winner of the 2,000-metre contest.
One of the showpiece races at the annual three-day meeting staged at Britain’s oldest and smallest racecourse, the Dee Stakes serves as a notable trial for the Group 1 Epsom Derby, with Kris Kin being the last horse to compete the Chester-Epsom double in 2003.
Circus Maximus caught the attention of leading British bookmaker Paddy Power, who cut his odds to 16-1 (from 25) for the English blue riband event.
The son of Galileo, who was fourth behind this year’s 2000 Guineas winner, Magna Grecia, in the Futurity Stakes last year, was ridden by Ryan Moore.
The jockey told Racing TV: “He doesn’t do a lot the whole race but he has plenty of ability. He has a very big engine and he’s still learning. He’s still not fully tuned yet but there is a lot to look forward to. He’s got plenty of speed but stays very well too and didn’t take much out of himself today.”
O’Brien, who also trains Dewhurst Stakes third-place finisher and Derby prospect Anthony Van Dyck, added: “I was delighted with that. He’s a relaxed horse and he just needed to learn a little bit, it was lovely to come here.
“He got a lovely handy break, he gets lazy in his races and he dropped back. When Ryan moved him up he came back on the bridle.
“The great thing about here is that they have to have quick feet, they have to learn to jump and they have to travel then they have to keep going as well. The ground was slow so they had to work a little bit harder but it was all perfect really.”
Meanwhile, third favourite Morando cried out for a shot at a Group 1 prize when demolition his rivals, including the 2018 St Leger winner Kew Gardens, to win the Ormonde Stakes (G3) by a street. The Coronation Cup (G1) at Epsom is a likely target for the Andrew Balding-trained six-year-old who stays the mile and 5/1 furlong trip very comfortably.
Should he make the trip to the historic Surrey racecourse, Ormonde will come up against super-filly Enable, winner of nine of her 10 starts including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).