05/03/2010 11:00PM

Chester Vase up for grabs


The Group 3, $106,000 Chester Vase starts the Epsom Derby trial meeting at Chester Racecourse south of Liverpool on Thursday, but don't expect to find the Derby winner in its suspect seven-runner field. None of the leading chances for the big race is running, leaving Critical Moment as the favorite for the 1 1/2-mile, 66-yard contest.

But Critical Moment, a son of Aptitude trained by Barry Hills, was five lengths fifth behind Elusive Pimpernel in the Group 3 Craven Stakes, and Elusive Pimpernel was only fifth in the 2000 Guineas on Saturday. Morana was just eighth in the Craven for Peter Chapple-Hyam, so the selection is the Aidan O'Brien-trained Rocket Man.

Not to be confused with the Singapore-based Rocket Man, who was runner-up to Kinsale King in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, this Rocket Man is a Montjeu colt who took his seasonal debut going 1 1/4 miles in a Curragh maiden on April 11 and should improve for that effort.

* The Group 3, $99,000 Huxley Stakes at 1 1/4 miles, 75 yards for older horses has drawn a competitive field of eight. The tight, left-handed, nearly round Chester oval is a specialist's course over which both South Easter and Stotsfold are winners. The lightly raced South Easter won last May's Group 3 Dee Stakes there at the expense Gitano Hernando and prepped with a listed race score on the Kempton Polytrack. Stotsfold, third in the Arlington Million and fourth last time in the Group 3 Winter Derby on the Lingfield Polytrack, sports a pair of course-and-distance handicap victories in 2006. Redwood is in form after a game head second to Glass Harmonium in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown Park.