Chester’s May meeting is a fantastic spectacle but it’s a tight, circular track and traditionally fortune has favoured horses who are drawn low.
There will be exceptions to the rule, but over the next three days the percentage play is to stick with those nearest the running rail on the ‘Roodee’ or you could be facing a festival of hard-luck stories.
That could be borne out in the very first race on Wednesday that kick-starts the meeting where connections of Big Time Maybe must be cursing their luck, having been drawn in stall 10 in the 5f Lily Agnes Stakes at 1.50pm.
The Dascombe team love a winner at this track and together with Central City and Emilia James, they’ve been drawn out wide. They’ll either need to get across quick or suffer in silence to see if the gaps appear.
The one factor in EMILIA JAMES’ favour is that Franny Norton is on board and he’s rides the course so well. I’ll take a chance on Franny bullying her over to the rails and repelling the field from there.
The 1m 3f Cheshire Oaks at 2.25pm gives Aidan O’Brien a chance to test the waters with his filly Alluringly.
She was a very impressive winner at Tipperary and Ballydoyle really hit their stride over the weekend with a Guineas double, the first three home in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown and Seventh Heaven and Somehow also winning at HQ.
If Alluring is on that wavelength, she’ll be very hard to beat.
I saw Enable finish third at Newbury on her return, where she looked a work in progress to me. She didn’t look quite the finished article and there should be plenty of improvement to come from her.
One at a nice price is Marcus Tregoning’s Argenterie. She was third to Rhododendron in a Goodwood maiden, before winning well at Salisbury. She then finished out the back when highly tried in the 7f Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket but is one to follow this season.
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In the 5f Diamond Handicap at 3pm, El Astronaute can back up a recent win at Newmarket. The four-year-old was second to Kachy over course and distance last year and has been handed the plum draw in box one.
No horse drawn higher than stall 7 has won this contest, so that stat could wipe out half the field here.
One that could hit the frame at least is the top-weight Sir Maximilian, who started his season early in Dubai and has some good form in the book. Ian Williams’ stable is flying and his runner was a winner over course and distance at this meeting last year.
Primed for a big run
The feature race of the day – and the meeting – is the 2m 2f Chester Cup at 3.35pm and there are three in this 19-runner field that interest me.
The Cashel Man has a good record fresh, winning on his season bow in 2015 and finishing second at York last year. He nearly got mown down after a furlong in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last autumn, but raced on well to finish fourth to Sweet Selection. He’s consistent but his last win came in August 2015.
National Hunt horses have a decent record in this contest and Ryan Moore is an eye-catching booking on Golden Spear by Irish trainer Tony Martin. He won the Leopardstown November Handicap over 2m last autumn and was just two lengths behind The Cashel Man when fifth at HQ. He’ll have his supporters on the day.
My preference though is for Who Dares Wins.
An impressive winner at Newbury last November, he went on to finish third in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. The five-year-old won a 1m 4f handicap at this track last July and looks primed for a big run for Alan King.