Circus Maximus added further strength to Aidan O’Brien’s hand for the Derby as he ran out a workmanlike winner of the Homeserve Dee Stakes at Chester on Thursday.
The Galileo colt, who was a close-up fourth behind subsequent 2000 Guineas-winning stablemate Magna Grecia at Doncaster in the Futurity Trophy, was sent off the 5/4 favourite.
Niggled along at an early stage by Ryan Moore, the market leader did come back on the bridle at halfway.
Turning into the short home straight, as Allmankind dropped away Circus Maximus was left in front and was two lengths clear.
Mohawk, another stablemate and carrying a 5lb penalty, came out of the pack to chase down the winner but could only get within a length and a quarter.
An eyecatcher was Andrew Balding’s Fox Chairman, who slightly missed the break and found himself behind a wall of horses when the pace quickened before staying on into third.
O’Brien said: “You would be delighted with the two of them, they were two lovely runs. The two of them were in the Guineas up to the last stage. You would always prefer better ground, but it was good they went through with it.
“He (Circus Maximus) is a relaxed horse and just needed to learn a little bit, so it was lovely to come here. He got a lovely, handy break as he can get lazy in his races and he dropped back, then Ryan moved him up and he came back on the bridle.
“Ryan said in an ideal world he would have preferred to have a lead for a little while longer, but you couldn’t be happier.
“The great thing about here is that they have to have quick feet and they have to learn to jump, travel and keep going. The ground was slow, so he had to work a bit harder.”
He went on: “Donnacha (O’Brien) was happy with his horse (Mohawk). Ryan said he was very happy at a mile and a quarter, but he wouldn’t mind stepping up if we needed to.
“First reaction straight away is that Donnacha’s horse could stick at a mile and a quarter and this horse could be a Derby possible. Ryan was very impressed and felt there was an awful lot in there.
“He is lazy and halfway down the back he was lazy, then Ryan got him upsides and he started travelling. Ryan was a little disappointed that the horse on the inside fell away and he got left in front.
“He is very uncomplicated and when a horse is like that they are a little bit better being lazy than over-racing. I couldn’t be happier really.”
SIR DRAGONET PLANS
O’Brien was speaking 24 hours after seeing Sir Dragonet bolt up in the MBNA Chester Vase – and hinted that the son of Camelot could be supplemented for the Derby, for which he shot to the forefront of in the ante-post market.
He said: “The lads will decide want they want to do, but it is very possible (supplementing for the Derby). It’s great, as we have time decide, but you couldn’t be more impressed.
“I don’t think he needs soft ground. He is a lovely, well-balanced horse – it has just been that he has run well on soft ground twice. He obviously has a massive engine.”
Balding, meanwhile, said of Fox Chairman: “Silvestre (de Sousa) said he was slightly inconvenienced by the softer ground, it was a bit softer than he had to encounter at Newbury and he lost his pitch.
“He stayed on well and learned plenty for it. He has finished well and just got caught on heels at a vital stage, but I don’t think the end result would have been any different. He is a lovely horse and we will go to Ascot, probably for the Hampton Court.”
Morando relished stepping up in trip as he beat St Leger winner Kew Gardens in the Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes.
Having dead-heated with Young Rascal on his first run over a mile and a half last season, the Andrew Balding-trained runner tackled an extra furlong and a half in soft ground.
Silvestre de Sousa was not going to be left wondering about the trip, though, and having sat in third as Warnaq and Cypress Creek set a very stiff gallop, he kicked into a clear advantage with just over two furlongs to run.
That move caught the others napping, and Ryan Moore had to come around the outside from the rear on the odds-on favourite.
It soon became clear Morando was not stopping and Kew Gardens had all on to prevent Magic Circle, last year’s Chester Cup winner, from claiming second. Morando won by a yawning eight lengths at 3/1 from Kew Gardens (4/5).
The winner has several options and the Ormonde is a qualifying race for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million, won last year by Stradivarius.
Balding said: “He loves the ground, which is key to him. We didn’t particularly expect to beat the favourite, but he just relished the conditions and runs well fresh.
“He was new to me last year and we ran him on ground too fast for him twice and then we got the ground right. He found his feet and he stays well, which is the one thing we discovered and that has opened up some options.
“The Hardwicke is probably the obvious target, but we will be lucky to get the ground at Ascot, so we will talk to the owners and see what they want to do. There will be some options on the continent, maybe the Grand Prix de Deauville or something like that.”
Aidan O’Brien said of Kew Gardens: “We were very happy with his run and he was just ready to start. Soft ground is not his thing. They went a good gallop so it was a proper-run race and the winner is a good horse. It was just a case of getting a run into him to get him started, then if he is well we will think very hard about that (Coronation Cup).
“You would be very happy with the run. He is a good ground horse and it has been a long time since he ran. He relaxed lovely and handled the track lovely.”
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