09 April 2019
US Triple Crown nominee U S S Michigan features among nine runners for the inaugural running of the £60,000 Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Race (3.35pm) at Chelmsford City this Thursday, April 11.
The mile Polytrack contest is the last of seven races in the 'European Road To The Kentucky Derby' and offers the winner, provided they are nominated, 30 qualification points for the opening leg of the US Triple Crown, which takes place at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 4.
Godolphin's Royal Marine currently tops the 'European Road To The Kentucky Derby' standings with 10 points, thanks to his victory in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp, France, in October.
War Front colt U S S Michigan (Ryan Moore) is one of two runners in Thursday's contest for Ireland's champion Flat trainer Aidan O'Brien and steps up in distance after taking a six-furlong Polytrack maiden in good style at Dundalk on March 1.
Along with U S S Michigan, the other runner in the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Race to have been nominated for the US Triple Crown is the Paul Cole-trained Shir Khan (Oisin Murphy).
After finishing eighth on debut in a mile turf maiden at Nottingham, Shir Khan took a big step forward under front-running tactics when scoring by five lengths in a Tapeta maiden at Wolverhampton on November 17 and has not raced since.
Oliver Cole, assistant to his father, said today: "It is going to take a fair horse to win on Thursday as it looks a hot race.
"Shir Khan has been working well. We have not done any testing work, but what we have seen, we have been pleased with.
"We don't quite know how good he is and whether he is in the deep end or not, we don't know. I expect we will find out on Thursday.
"He took a long time to come to hand physically last year, but we have always liked the horse.
"The winner of this race gets in the Kentucky Derby provided they are nominated and Shir Khan is. He has a bit of a dirt pedigree being by Leroidesanimaux, the sire of Animal Kingdom, and his dam is by Street Cry.
"It is a shot in the dark but after his win we thought we would enter him."
If either U S S Michigan or Shir Khan finishes second and the other does not win, then they will still get the guaranteed Kentucky Derby slot with 12 points. This is due to the fact that Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Race has the most points on offer of any contest in the 'European Road To The Kentucky Derby' with 30 points for the winner, 12 for second, 6 for third and 3 for fourth.
A classy line-up also features Dark Vision pictured above winning at Great Yarmouth in 2018 (Mark Johnston/James Doyle) who made his mark at G2 level in 2018 with a last-to-first victory in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, after which he was purchased by Godolphin. He was below that level on his only subsequent start when last of six behind Too Darn Hot in the G2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.
King Power Racing runner Bye Bye Hong Kong (Andrew Balding/Silvestre de Sousa) finished one place ahead of Dark Vision at Doncaster before ending the campaign with a good second behind Arctic Sound in the G3 Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket.
Hamdan Al Maktoum's Fanaar (William Haggas/Jim Crowley) has race fitness on his side, having made a winning reappearance in the Listed Ladbrokes Spring Cup at Lingfield Park on March 2.
Certain Lad (Mick Channon/Charles Bishop) is another with form at Pattern level. The Clodovil gelding finished third in the G2 Railway Stakes at the Curragh, Ireland, in June and annexed a mile Listed race in France in September.
The nine runners are completed by Cagnes-sur-Mer Listed race victor Barys (Archie Watson/Edward Greatrex), impressive Chelmsford City novice race winner Battle Of Waterloo (John Ryan/Adam Kirby) and Aidan O'Brien's other runner Antilles (Seamie Heffernan), successful on his latest start in a nursery handicap at Naas in November.
Chelmsford City Racecourse Manager, Fraser Garrity, said: " We are delighted with the quality of the line-up for this valuable new race and really pleased to have two horses with the possibility of booking themselves a place in the iconic Kentucky Derby.
"Chelmsford City is also thrilled to be welcoming runners from Ballydoyle for the first time."
Chelmsford City's eight-race programme starts at 2.00pm and ends at 5.50pm.