Ontario latest Dee day contender for O’Brien

Ontario bids to continue Aidan O’Brien’s recent domination of the tote+ Biggest Dividends At Dee Stakes at Chester on Thursday.

The Ballydoyle handler has saddled six of the last eight winners of the recognised Derby trial, with multiple Group One winner Circus Maximus landing the most recent renewal in 2019.

Although this year’s candidate has managed only one victory from eight previous starts, he has run some fine races in defeat, perhaps most notably finishing a close-up third behind Derby prospect and subsequent Group One scorer Mac Swiney in the Futurity Stakes.

Ontario made a promising start to the new campaign when third behind the Queen’s Tactical in the Free Handicap at Newmarket three weeks ago, and steps up to an extended mile and a quarter for the first time on the Roodee.

Ontario will be ridden by Ryan Moore, who told Betfair: “He looks to hold pretty strong claims.

“He finished a good third in what appears a decent Free Handicap on his return, and his pedigree would give you every encouragement that the step up from seven to 10 furlongs or so here will suit this Galileo colt a lot better.

“He finished second in a Royal Lodge at two, while he also finished third to Mac Swiney in soft ground in the Futurity at the Curragh, so you’d have to be pretty hopeful, though his draw (stall seven) could have been better, obviously.”

The likely favourite for the Listed contest is the Charlie Appleby-trained Yibir, who was narrowly beaten in the Sandown Classic Trial on his reappearance.

Yibir is a high-class prospect for Charlie Appleby
Yibir is a high-class prospect for Charlie Appleby (Tim Goode/PA)

A full-brother to top-class racemare Wild Illusion, the son of Dubawi is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time.

“He’s sharpened up for that run at Sandown quite noticeably at home,” said Appleby.

“We’re putting the cheekpieces on him, just because he’s got similar characteristics to his sister – it’s not that he’s ungenuine, it’s just to keep him focussed.

“We didn’t want to put the cheekpieces on and step him up to a mile and a half at the same time, so we opted to keep him to 10 furlongs.”

Sir Michael Stoute trained the last horse to complete the Dee Stakes-Derby double in 2003 victor Kris Kin.

This year the master of Freemason Lodge is represented by Maximal, who filled the runner-up spot behind Appleby’s Hurricane Lane in a competitive conditions race at Newbury last month.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner-breeders Juddmonte, said: “He ran a good race at Newbury and has come out of it well – he’s been straightforward since.

“It’s a good spot for him. He’s a neat horse and I think he will handle the track.

“He will need to have come on as this looks a pretty competitive race all round, I would say.

“The going is a little bit of an unknown, but he is by Galileo, so hopefully he’ll cope with it.”

The most inexperienced horse in the field with just two runs under his belt is Andrew Balding’s Foxes Tales.

Second on his racecourse debut at Kempton in December, the Zoffany colt went one better on his three-year-old debut at Newbury.

The trainer’s wife, Anna Lisa Balding, said: “He’s a really nice horse, Foxes Tales – he’s so good looking. He’s done nothing wrong so far and has physically gone the right way.

“Andrew has been quite patient with him and the jockeys who ride him at home really like him.”

Earlswood (Johnny Murtagh), El Drama (Roger Varian) and outsider Luther Cee (Henry Spiller) are the other hopefuls.

Ontario heads for Dee Stakes

Aidan O’Brien will rely on Ontario to provide him with a ninth victory in the tote+ Biggest Dividends At Dee Stakes at Chester.

Magician (2013), Cliffs Of Moher (2017) and most recently Circus Maximus (2019) are among the previous Ballydoyle residents to win Thursday’s recognised Derby trial on the Roodee.

While Ontario has so far found victories hard to come by – striking just once from eight starts – he brings some solid form to the table, having been placed four times at Stakes level.

The Galileo colt was last seen finishing third in the Free Handicap at Newmarket three weeks ago – one place behind Charlie Appleby’s Naval Crown, who ran a fine race when fourth in the 2000 Guineas last weekend.

Appleby also has a leading contender for this Listed contest in Yibir, who is fitted with cheek pieces for the first time after his close-up third in the Sandown Classic Trial.

Sir Michael Stoute, who trained Kris Kin to win the Dee Stakes and the Derby in 2003, is represented by Maximal – expected to improve from his comeback second at Newbury last month.

Earlswood (Johnny Murtagh), El Drama (Roger Varian), Foxes Tales (Andrew Balding) and Luther Cee (Henry Spiller) complete the field.

The O’Brien-trained Japan is one of eight runners declared for the Group Three tote+ Pays You More At Ormonde Stakes.

The five-year-old has his sights lowered on his seasonal debut following eight consecutive outings in Group One company.

Japan struck gold twice at the highest level in 2019, in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Juddmonte International – and while he failed to get his head in front last season, he was placed in the Eclipse at Sandown and the King George at Ascot.

His Chester rivals include Alan King’s Trueshan, who makes his first competitive appearance since landing the Long Distance Cup on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot in October.

Balding’s Morando defends his crown, having landed the last running of the Ormonde Stakes in 2019, while Roger Charlton saddles his veteran stayer Withhold.

Euchen Glen (Jim Goldie), Kipps (Hughie Morrison), Sextant (Keith Dalgleish) and Sonnyboyliston (Murtagh) are the other hopefuls.