Western Daily Press
Youth Spirit’s in Derby reckoning after Vase win
ANDREW Balding’s Youth Spirit emerged as a Derby contender in causing a minor upset with a clear-cut victory in yesterday’s Chester Vase.
Blue Riband Trial winner Wirko was the 6-4 favourite to cement his Epsom claims for Charlie Appleby, while Law Of The Sea - already a dual winner this year - also carried the Godolphin colours for John and Thady Gosden.
Aidan O’Brien, who had saddled seven of the last nine winners of the Group Three contest, was represented by Craven Stakes sixth Sandhurst - but it was Youth Spirit (15-2) who stole the show.
Wirko cut out much of the running under William Buick, but was a spent force before the home turn, at which stage Fancy Man looked the most likely winner when sweeping to the front. However, while his effort was ultimately short lived, Youth Spirit - fourth in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago - finished with gusto under Tom Marquand to prevail by a length and three-quarters.
Sandhurst was one of the first off the bridle, but boxed on well to beat Fancy Man to the runner-up spot.
Bookmakers went 25-1 about Youth Spirit’s chance in the premier Classic, and Marquand - sporting the colours of last year’s Derby runnerup Khalifa Sat - said: “To be honest he was a bit behind the bridle, this was my first time riding him and it looked like he did that over nine furlongs at Newmarket.
“That must just be his run style because when I sat into him and gave him a proper squeeze coming to the three he was all there for me.
“The one question he had to answer was the trip, but you’d have to say he hit the line extremely well. It was a muddly race, but he’ll stay in an honest-run race as well.”
Balding was represented by his wife, Anna Lisa, who said: “Andrew has always thought a lot of him and today has shown what we wanted to find out. I’m sure the owner will be looking forward to a runner in the Derby so I’d be amazed if he didn’t show up at Epsom.”
Earlier at the Roodee, Dubai Fountain booked her Epsom ticket as she made a successful reappearance in the Weatherbys ePassport Cheshire Oaks.
Mark Johnston’s filly was the clear standard-setter on juvenile form, which included a fourth-placed finish on her most recent appearance in the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October.
The daughter of Teofilo was the 13-8 favourite for her comeback in the hands of Chester specialist Franny Norton, who after tracking the pacesetting Quenelle D’Or for much of the contest, committed for home before the home turn.
That decision from the veteran Liverpudlian may have proved crucial, as the previously unbeaten Zeyaadah was briefly caught in a pocket before the gap came early in the home straight, by which time Dubai Fountain was in full flight. Zeyaadah made inroads late on, but the Johnston runner had enough to keep her at bay by a length.
Paddy Power cut both the winner and the runner-up to 14-1 from 20-1 for the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom on June 4, with the brilliant Enable the last horse to win both races in 2017. Johnston said: “It will be straight to Epsom now, we were saying throughout last year we thought she was an Oaks filly rather than a Guineas filly.”