Above: Derby hope Young Rascal (James Doyle, right) holds off Dee Ex Bee (Franny Norton) in the Chester Vase
Wednesday’s opening day of the Chester May Festival saw winning performances from Magic Wand and Young Rascal, now potential contenders for the Investec Oaks and Investec Derby at Epsom in less than three weeks’ time.
Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand (3/1f) was first to get her name on the scoresheet in the listed Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks, taking full advantage of an advantageous draw in stall 1 to bounce out straight into the lead under Ryan Moore.
The daughter of Galileo never saw another horse on her way to an easy three-and-a-half length victory over stable companion Together Forever (11/2), with Gavin Cromwell’s Princess Yaiza (9/1) running a fine race just half a length back in third completing a clean sweep for Irish-trained runners.
A 50/1 shot for the Oaks prior to her Chester success, Magic Wand is now a top priced 16/1 chance with Betfair for the Epsom Classic. O’Brien already has a strong hand in the race with 2000 Guineas third Happily (8/1 with Paddy Power), and the classy September (8/1 with Betfred). John Gosden’s unbeaten Lah Ti Dar, impressive winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket last week – and recommended for the Oaks prior to that race by Betting.Net at 12/1 – remains the clear 4/1 favourite with 188bet.
William Haggas looks to have an exciting prospect on his hands in the shape of the handsome Young Rascal (10/3), given a fine ride by James Doyle to land the Group 3 MBNA Chester Vase in a driving finish from Mark Johnston’s tough Dee Ex Bee (12/1).
The winner, who looked to be going well turning for home but was short of racing room and had to be pulled wide to challenge, showed a nice change of gear to accelerate into the lead past the eventual third Hunting Horn (3/1f), then stayed on well to resist the runner-up by half a length as the pair pulled three lengths clear of the third.
This race has thrown up subsequent Derby heroes such as Henbit (1980), the great Shergar (1981), and most recently Ruler Of The World (2013), and this looked to be a good renewal. The winner is owned by Bernard Kantor whose company Investec sponsor the Derby, so there was little time wasted by Haggas in confirming that the Intello colt is an intended runner on June 2.
Young Rascal is now a top priced 14/1 with Boylesports for the showcase Epsom contest having been available at 33/1 prior to his Chester triumph. The hugely impressive 2000 Guineas winner Aiudan O’Brien-trained Saxon Warrior remains the red-hot even money ante-post favourite (with Sky Bet) to complete the classic double.