WITH Godolphin dominating Coolmore in the early skirmishes of the British flat season, Changingoftheguard seemed an ironic name for a Ballydoyle Derby hopeful.
Aidan O’Brien’s charge was a lukewarm 10/3 shot against Charlie Appleby’s red-hot favourite New London (Will Buick) in the Group 3 Chester Vase, with punters and pundits alike expecting the market to tell the story.
Never write off O’Brien and Ryan Moore, however, and the jockey produced a master class in front running as he guided the son of Galileo to a facile victory to shake up the Epsom betting.
O’Brien was making it a record 10 wins in this race, while it stretched a remarkable losing run for Godolphin in Chester trials – to date, the royal blue colours have never been carried by the winner of any of the recognised Epsom trials at the Roodee.
It was clear from before the home turn that New London was struggling to get on terms, and Changingoftheguard merely stretched his lead down the short home straight to an impressive six and a half lengths
“He was impressive there and we always thought he’d stay well,” said O’Brien. “He was just chinned in his maiden at Punchestown before he then went and won really well at Dundalk.
“There was no doubt on our part that he would take a step forward from that and improve for going up in trip. The one thing we weren’t sure about today was the ground when it rained as he’s such a fluid mover, but he seems to have handled it fine.
“We were delighted with the run, and I think off the back of that, you’d have to say he’d go to Epsom now.”
O’Brien and Moore had already signalled their intent to dominate when landing the Cheshire Oaks with 7/1 chance Thoughts Of June, who had just enough in reserve to hold off favourite Above The Curve (Joseph O’Brien/Shane Crosse) by a neck.
This was a seventh win for O’Brien senior in the Cheshire Oaks, and his ability to judge a suitable candidate for this race was amply demonstrated here, as the winner had twice finished behind the runner-up on home soil.
Once again, Moore was seen at his very best as he made all the running, steadying the pace in the middle section, and kicking on at just the right time to steal the race.
Above The Curve shaped like the best filly in the race, with Crosse looking confident as he tracked the winner into the straight, but Above The Curve hung left briefly when asked for maximum effort, as she had when winning at Leopardstown.
In an evenly run race at the former track it made no difference, but with Moore getting first run here, that small aberration was enough to cost Above The Curve the race.
The winner carries the Moyglare Stud colours, but like Above The Curve is part owned by Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor, which complicates discussions regarding the Oaks, although it would appear that both will head to Epsom.
Asked about plans for the winner, Kevin Buckley said: “I think we have to be thinking of Epsom. Aidan will have a chat with the owners, which include our partners Moyglare Stud, but I think on that performance we’d have to head to Epsom.
“We’ll have to see what else happens in the trials. We were very happy with Tuesday in the Guineas, and she seems to have come out of it well. We’re looking forward to June.”
The winning trainer echoed those sentiments, adding: “We’ve always liked her a lot and I loved her run the first day back at Leopardstown behind Joseph’s filly. I thought she’d come forward from that and she clearly did.
“She got a great ride from Ryan, and they are obviously two very good fillies as Joseph’s ran a great race too. We’d been thinking of the Oaks for her and that was the reason for sending her to Chester, to see if she’d handle it and it was going to teach her plenty.