Timeform's John Ingles argues Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit has "earned a crack at the Derby, though odds of around 20/1 sum up his chance."
The Chester Vase has regularly thrown up very smart horses in recent years, with 2013 winner Ruler of The World following up in the Derby and 2017 runner-up Wings of Eagles going one better at Epsom. However, with Aidan O’Brien scratching two of his three runners, including Sir Lamorak (as short as 12/1 for the Derby), due to the ground changing to soft overnight, and the favourite Wirko disappointing, this had the feel of just an average renewal.
Godolphin’s Wirko set the standard after his win in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom but possibly found this race coming too soon little more than two weeks later, with the ground a plausible excuse too. After travelling fluently in the lead, he was headed over two furlongs out before weakening to finish fourth of the six runners behind winner Youth Spirit.
Youth Spirit, a son of Camelot, showed much improved form, clearly relishing the longer trip and keeping on well after he’d been switched entering the straight to lead inside the final furlong.
Youth Spirit won his maiden at the Newmarket July meeting last year on ground that was on the soft side (2000 Guineas fourth Naval Crown and Dee Stakes runner Yibir were among those he beat) before finishing third to Battleground in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.
He was then off until finishing fourth in the listed Feilden Stakes at Newmarket last month when shaping as though he’d improve for the run. Representing the same connections (Ahmad Al Shaikh and Andrew Balding) as last year’s Derby runner-up Khalifa Sat, Youth Spirit earned a Timeform rating of 113p. He’s open to further improvement and has earned a crack at the Derby, though odds of around 20/1 sum up his chance.
Following Sir Lamorak’s withdrawal, Ryan Moore switched to Ballydoyle’s sole remaining runner Sandhurst, who stayed on in first-time cheekpieces to claim a never-nearer second, passing the post a length and three quarters behind Youth Spirit.
He too improved up in trip, having finished sixth in the Craven Stakes on his reappearance, and while he’s from a speedy family, he’s by Galileo and shaped as though he’ll improve again when his stamina is tested still further.
There may not have been a great deal of depth to the Cheshire Oaks field, but two fillies finished clear of the rest and both put themselves firmly in the picture for Epsom. Favourite Dubai Fountain, making her reappearance for Mark Johnston, set a good standard on her two-year-old form having finished close up behind the subsequent 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth when fourth in the Fillies’ Mile on her final start last year.
She didn’t need to match that form (Timeform rating remains 110) but was clearly suited by the step up in trip, Franny Norton kicking on once leading over two furlongs out and having a length to spare at the line as the runner-up closed her down. By Teofilo, Dubai Fountain will stay the extra furlong of the Oaks and is likely to acquit herself well at Epsom but may well find other fillies more progressive.
One such rival could well be Zeyaadah, who was just a length behind Dubai Fountain, conceding her 3lb. She was unbeaten in three starts for Roger Varian last year, picking up her penalty from a listed success at Newmarket on her final start when staying on in testing conditions to beat the subsequent Pretty Polly winner Mystery Angel.
Whilst easy to back for her reappearance, Zeyaadah (109p) shaped well and would have good claims of turning the tables on the winner were they to meet again as she wasn’t as well positioned as Dubai Fountain and had to wait for a gap before beginning her run, keeping on well once in the clear. She’ll stay the mile and a half at Epsom and has a live chance in the Oaks with further improvement on the cards.