Aidan O'Brien's Savethelastdance the hot favourite at Chester
Aidan O'Brien loves the Cheshire Oaks, having saddled the winner on no less than seven occasions in the last 14 renewals. He sends Savethelastdance to the Roodee on Wednesday as the hot favourite for the Weatherbys Digital Solutions-sponsored race, which is a notable Classic trial. The Galileo filly - who is shading ante-post favouritism for the Oaks itself - was a little green on her juvenile debut at Thurles in October, when finishing fifth to the more experienced Foniska, yet she clearly thrived over the winter and defeated better-fancied stablemate Boogie Woogie in comfortable fashion at Leopardstown on her reappearance in heavy ground a month ago. Though she was a 20-1 shot that day, jockey Ryan Moore feels the form looks solid and she steps into Listed company with a ringing endorsement. "I haven't ridden her in a race yet, but I saw the back of her as she beat me on Boogie Woogie in some style over 10 furlongs at Leopardstown last month and the runner-up won well for me at Naas afterwards," Moore told his Betfair blog. "That victory was a massive step up from her debut effort at two, but there was no fluke about it and this beautifully-bred Galileo filly out of a Grade One winner in the States is clearly an exciting prospect. "It was heavy at Leopardstown but the expected better ground here should be fine, though rain is due all week I see, so it may be testing by race time." Frankie Dettori, fresh from his 2000 Guineas success with Chaldean, partners Luckin Brew for Ralph Beckett, who was runner-up in Pontefract's Silver Tankard when last seen in October. The Charlie Johnston-trained Sirona won twice in four starts as a juvenile, including a Listed seven-and-a-half-furlong race at Cologne in September. Like Luckin Brew, William Buick's mount takes a big step up from a mile to an extended mile and three furlongs for the first time, having disappointed in the same Pontefract race. Owner Jayne McGivern said: "She has wintered really well. She is working well at home and is bred for distance and we were surprised at how well she had done as a two-year-old over a mile. We kind of were not expecting that. "This will tell us a lot about her. She had a fantastic page when I bought her, she's not overly big, but her confirmation's great and she surprised us how good she was and she got black type. I think the Silver Tankard (Pontefract) was a race too far as she had a few races in quick succession. "We had her entered in the Pretty Polly and that was the original plan, but we were worried about the ground. Mark and Charlie (Johnston) preferred the Chester race anyway. "It is a bit of a tall order, we have thrown her in a bit at the deep end, but on the other hand, if she is good enough, she'll be fine. "She has entries in the Oaks and Ribblesdale, and is also in the German Oaks, and you might think about York."
Connections of Ashtanga are hoping the extra distance will see her build on her two starts as a two-year-old, which included a maiden success at Nottingham over an extended mile. Trained by Martyn and Freddie Meade, the daughter of Nathaniel will be ridden by Oisin Murphy on her three-year-old debut. Freddie Meade said: "We are very pleased with her. She did nothing wrong last year. She was a real shell of a filly and all she has done is improve over the winter. "Oisin has come and sat on her a couple of times and I think he shares the same enthusiasm for her this year. Hopefully the step up in trip will eke more improvement and hopefully she will have an exciting year. "I think Chester will suit her. She is very balanced and she ran well at Salisbury first time out, which can find them out a little bit. "I think we have the Oaks as the idea for her. Why not throw her in at the deep end and see how we get on." Cite d'Or is the most experienced in the field, having already had 10 runs, four of them since the turn of the year. Having wintered in Dubai, where she was beaten over 15 lengths by subsequent 1000 Guineas winner Mawj, she returned to England and was a close-up third to colts Epictetus and Hadrianus in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom. Trainer Harry Eustace said: "She really ran well last time and certainly got back on track from her last couple of runs last year, so that was nice to see." "We saw Mawj from a distance in Meydan and in hindsight, the race programme just wasn't there and she clearly needs a trip. "As soon as we got her back on soft ground over a trip, she came right back to form. She ran well at Epsom last year, so that helps. "The thinking is she might like idiosyncratic tracks. It just seems to keep her more interested than others, and this is a furlong and a half further, which is a positive. "We have put cheekpieces on for the first time. She didn't really travel that well early on at Epsom, so Pierre just managed to keep tabs on her and then she ran well after. At Chester, it would be harder to do if she didn't travel, so we are just trying to make Pierre's life easier. "We are quite exposed in comparison. Everyone likes the potential of something, whereas we are showing that we are a genuine 100-rated horse at a mile and a quarter and if the extra furlong and a half brings a little bit more out, then I think we can be very competitive in that race. "We like the ground, and are hoping there will be a bit of rain."
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