Aidan O’Brien’s U S S Michigan heads Kentucky Derby hopefuls at Chelmsford

Chelmsford Cityjpeg

Chelmsford City Racecourse, where on Thursday two horses will have the chance to secure a place in the Kentucky Derby.  (Pic: Courtesy of Chelmsford racecourse).

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AIDAN O’Brien has his first runners at Chelmsford on Thursday where U S S Michigan can boost his chances of securing a place in the Kentucky Derby by landing the Woodford Reserve Cardinal Conditions Stakes.

The one-mile contest at the Essex track is the last of seven races in the ‘European Road To The Kentucky Derby’ series and offers the winner (provided they are nominated) with 30 qualification points, enough to receive an invitation to compete in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2019.

U S S Michigan finished runner-up at the Curragh on his sole start as a two-year-old and steps up in distance after winning a six-furlong maiden on the Polytrack at Dundalk on his reappearance last month.

O’Brien will also be represented in the £60,000 contest by Antilles (who does not have a nomination for Kentucky) and is looking forward to the possibility of fielding another runner in America’s blue riband event, after his well-fancied Mendelssohn ran below expectations in last year’s Kentucky Derby.

“Antilles and U S S Michigan will both run at Chelmsford. If we were to have a horse for the Kentucky Derby, U S S Michigan would be the only one,” O’Brien said.

“U S S Michigan is a big, long-striding cruiser and we always thought he would get a mile and further.”

“Last year [Mendelssohn running in Kentucky Derby] was a good experience to witness it and see it – it was totally ruthless.

“We learnt a lot and the fierceness of the whole thing surprised us. It was a good experience and there are things we need to improve on.”

Along with U S S Michigan, one other runner in the Chelmsford contest has been nominated for Kentucky, the Paul Cole-trained Shir Khan.

After finishing eighth on debut in a mile turf maiden at Nottingham last year, Shir Khan scored by five lengths in a Tapeta maiden at Wolverhampton on November 17 and has not raced since.

Oliver Cole, assistant to his father Paul Cole, said: “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.”

Chelmsford City racecourse manager, Fraser Garrity, added: “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.”

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