Racing betting: Aidan O’Brien’s US Army Ranger will gun down his Vase rivals
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has a phenomenal record in the MBNA Chester Vase (Thursday 3.10pm), having won six of the last nine renewals of the Group Three contest run over 12 furlongs.
He’s landed the last three and targets this race with some of his best, like Ruler Of The World who followed up at Epsom in the 2013 Investec Derby a few weeks after bolting up here.
O’Brien likes to test some of his Epsom contenders at Chester as the tight, left-hand turns and noisy atmosphere prepare them for what they are going to face on the Downs.
The master of Ballydoyle saddles two of the six runners on Thursday afternoon and it is Investec Derby favourite US ARMY RANGER who heads the betting at just 2/5 with Betway.
The impeccably bred son of Galileo only made his racecourse debut early last month, but created a really good impression when wearing down Aasheq in the shadows of the post.
His odds for Epsom glory have collapsed in recent weeks into as short as 3/1 in places, so it would be a major shock if he wasn’t to take this prize in his stride.
Stablemate Port Douglas will ensure that they go a nice even pace and the likes of Biodynamic and High Grounds don’t look in the same class as US Army Ranger.
I expect him to book his ticket to Epsom with the minimum of fuss.
Speaking of which, you can do the same now too and tickets for Investec Derby Day can be bought from £30 by visiting www.epsomderby.co.uk.
Both Sir Michael Stoute and John Gosden have historically targeted the Betway Huxley Stakes (2.40pm) with the pair responsible for seven of the last 15 winners.
Gosden was successful 12 months ago with Maverick Wave and the sponsors have Western Hymn as their 6/5 market leader this afternoon.
The five-year-old landed last year’s Gordon Richards Stakes and Brigadier Gerard at Sandown, before going on to finish third at both Royal Ascot and in the Eclipse.
With chief market rival Cannock Chase lumbered with a 7lb penalty, and also arguably now better suited to 12 furlongs, Western Hymn will be hard to beat if on a going day.
That’s the worry with him, though, as his ungainly high head carriage won’t make things easy for his pilot when it comes to a battle.
He had every chance of making it back-to-back victories in the Gordon Richards on his seasonal bow last month, but didn’t convince me with his attitude in the closing stages.
With the trip on the sharp side, that leaves Gabrial and BATTALION as the only viable alternatives with slight preference for the latter.
Gabrial brings solid Group One form to the table, having finished third in last year’s Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
However, he has yet to win in 14 starts since landing last year’s Betway Lincoln and has yet to prove himself at this trip.
Therefore, I’m prepared to take a chance on William Haggas’s Battalion back on turf.
He was a winner of a Listed prize at Goodwood on his last start on a non-artificial surface and arrives here race fit from an all-weather campaign.
He’s one that won’t mind the rain if it does arrive as he seems at his best with some cut in the ground.
Battalion e/w 2.40pm Chester
US Army Ranger 3.10pm Chester