Our racing team, including Fran Berry and Alex Hammond, reflect on the action from Chester's May Meeting and consider the impact of the major Classic trials.
Sir Dragonet - MBNA Chester Vase Stakes
He was dropped in and a bit slow to get going but when the penny dropped from around five furlongs out he came hard on the bridle and was always going to win well.
He couldn’t have won any easier really and having never run as a two-year-old you'd have to say this was a fantastic performance to win so well in such company second time up.
Perhaps the rest ran to a certain level that they are - maybe more like Listed or Group Three horses - but you couldn’t knock the winner for that and second Norway was tried at Group One level last year.
Sir Dragonet does have a bit of a knee action and he looked to handle it well out there at Chester but it's never too fast on Derby day and while he's a large, heavy-topped horse, he does look quite light on his feet with it and would perhaps get away with good ground.
He could be one of those horses that doesn't go off the Ballydoyle main hope in the betting but you'd be mad to leave him out of calculations.
I was lucky enough to be at Chester this week with Sky Sports Racing for the Boodles May Festival, a meeting that has often thrown up some smart performers in the past.
Day one didn’t disappoint with two devastating performances in the Cheshire Oaks and the Chester Vase. Did we see the Oaks and Derby winners? Quite possibly.
If you didn’t see either Mehdaayih win the Cheshire Oaks for John Gosden and Rab Havlin or Sir Dragonet win the Vase for Aidan O’Brien and son Donnacha, take a few minutes to check them out and tell me you weren’t impressed.
The interesting thing is, neither horse appeared to be the first string for their respective stables, but have clearly progressed and save their best for the track. Another point is that neither horse holds an entry for the Epsom Classics and will need to be supplemented, so time for connections to scrabble down the back of the sofa to find any spare change! (£85,000 for the Derby and £30,000 for the Oaks).
Mehdaayih is now a 6/1 shot with Sky Bet for the Oaks and Sir Dragonet is 9/2 joint-favourite and that still doesn’t look bad value. Chester’s unique cambers and electric atmosphere help acclimatise a horse for the challenge that awaits at Epsom and both horses will be much more streetwise after their experiences this week.
On the face of it Sir Dragonet has to be taken very seriously with the Investec Derby in mind after slamming the 104-rated Norway by eight lengths, with Dashing Willoughby (102) and King Ottokar (106) next best.
The worsening ground may have accentuated his superiority but the son of Camelot is clearly on a fast-track to the big league now and he appears to have the right temperament for Epsom.
He ambled around the parade ring like an old hand and although he was a bit slowly away, it just looked a case of Donnacha O'Brien looking to educate him and bring him through the race steadily.
He cut through the field in very impressive fashion and is obviously a cast-iron stayer when it comes to the mile and a half. The 6/1 doesn't set the world alight, especially with the Derrinstown and the Dante still to come, but he's seemingly a big player now.
The worry is there must be have been an element of style over substance to Sir Dragonet's win in the MBNA Chester Vase. To be fair he didn't just win - he hosed in,
He did so despite showing obvious signs of greenness through the early stages but trainers like Chester because it speeds up a horse's education and this son of Camelot learned more about the racing game with every twist and turn on Wednesday.
He hit the line hard - very hard - eight lengths ahead of stablemate Norway and Donnacha O'Brien wasn't over-egging it when he said he knew he had the race won four furlongs out. But the runner-up looked ill-at-ease on the ground, one of the market leaders King Ottoker patently failed to stay and the other, Technician, was never happy at any stage.
As I say style over substance and 6/1 for the Investec Derby makes only limited appeal at this stage. After all Ballydoyle are running their three Epsom big guns in the same Leopardstown trial at the weekend. But they need to lay down a significant marker or two to keep this fellow out the lads' thinking for the blue riband itself. He'd be a fascinating contender on the first Saturday in June.
He was very impressive. He was a little green to start with and maybe they went too quick in front, but the way he snapped back on the bridle half a mile out looked very classy.
From the way Donnacha O'Brien spoke afterwards. it's clear he is a horse of immense potential. He looked magnificent beforehand and is a fascinating project for the Ballydoyle team. One worry would be he's had two quick races and now straight to the Derby but he couldn't be in better hands for the job.
Mehdaayih - Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks
John Gosden's filly was very, very impressive after travelling well throughout.
She quickened up and really showed a bright turn of foot which she'd displayed when winning at Chelmsford and will stand her in good stead against top-class opposition in the future.
She'll be fine in a bigger field and against strong opposition if connections decide to supplement for the Oaks and she's a filly who looks to have just matured nicely over the winter.
The second Manuela De Vega ran well and just wants every yard of the Oaks trip at least. With her in second and already a winner on soft ground then there's clearly some substance to this form and the winner is an exciting ride for Rab Havlin or anyone who might be on her at Epsom.
Mehdaayih absolutely bolted up on Wednesday but I wouldn't be getting too carried away with her when it comes to the Oaks.
No doubt connections have little choice but to supplement her for Epsom given her superiority here but it's such a different test and the daughter of Frankel still has a slight question to answer over her stamina for a demanding race like the Oaks over 1m4f.
It was her wicked turn of foot which got her home so impressively at Chester but while she was bursting clear down the outside, Manuela De Vega was hemmed in a little and had to wait for a run.
I was quite encouraged by the way she travelled, before staying on into second and the fact she was conceding 3lb all round bodes well for the rest of her campaign.
A thorough end-to-end gallop in an Oaks looks sure to suit Ralph Beckett's charge and I was slightly surprised to see her eased to 25/1 for the big one on the back of this seasonal reappearance.
For two successive years the Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks has thrown up the winner of the Investec-sponsored Classic at Epsom and there's every chance lightning will strike for a third time next month.
Mehdaayih's four-and-a-half length destruction of Manuela De Vega was even more impressive than the winning distance suggests, her turn of speed down the short Chester straight marking her out as a filly with Group One potential.
She may have been suited by the give underfoot, but we rarely get rattling quick ground at Epsom nowadays, and the daughter of Frankel seemingly dispelled any stamina questions on the Roodeye.
This represented a significant step up on her last win - beating a sole rival at Chelmsford - and there's more to come. She's in the right hands, thriving right now and has a change of gear. All that's missing is an Oaks entry - but that can put right with the not-small matter of a £30,000 supplementary fee.
I'd part with the cash on the last Monday in May if she was mine.
You couldn't fail but to be impressed. A filly by Frankel, I wouldn't mind owning a share in her right now given the way she quickened clear and hit the lne.
Epsom shouldn’t be an issue and she looks very progressive. She had form with Fanny Logan coming into this and has clearly improved – perhaps the ground helped her – but she's one to keep on your side wherever she turns up this summer.