The draw and potential track bias was the hot topic of debate after Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, and that theme is likely to continue during this week’s May Festival at Chester.
On a track that is tighter than many of the Yorkshiremen who occupy our Halifax office, a high draw is a major disadvantage in large fields, even in middle-distance races, and those who race close to the pace are often favoured, given the propensity for trouble in behind.
Top Breeze has landed the plum draw in stall 1 for the five-furlong handicap on Wednesday (3.00pm), and he would appear to hold sound claims of adding to his three wins from four career starts to date, the latest of which came when leading most of the way to make a successful handicap debut at Newmarket’s Craven meeting.
His positive running style should lend itself perfectly to this track, and a 6lb higher mark is unlikely to prevent another bold bid, with further improvement on the cards given his lightly-raced profile.
The feature race on day one is the Chester Vase at 3.35pm, a Derby trial that Aidan O’Brien has won seven times in the last 10 years, including with subsequent Epsom winner Ruler of The World in 2013. Family honour can be upheld in this year’s renewal, too, with Norway – a full-brother to Ruler of The World – appealing as the one to beat.
Ryan Moore takes the ride on him ahead of two Ballydoyle stablemates.
He showed useful form in five starts at two, including when winning the listed Zetland Stakes at Newmarket, and it would be a surprise if he didn’t have even more to offer this term, especially now stepping up to 1m 4f in first-time cheekpieces.
O’Brien has a similarly dominant record in Thursday’s Dee Stakes (2.25pm) in recent years, winning five of the last seven renewals, and he would appear to hold all the aces once again, with Circus Maximus fancied to take all the beating judged on the pick of his juvenile form. Indeed, his third behind Persian King and Magna Grecia (Saturday’s 2000 Guineas winner) in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket in October looks even better now than it did at the time.
Well clear of the field on weight-adjusted ratings, this looks a good opportunity for him to make a winning return to action.
Finally, we don’t have the benefit of knowing the all-important draw for Friday’s Chester Cup (3.35pm) at the time of publishing, but one thing is for sure, and that is that Mark Johnston will be hopeful of recording a first win in the race.
Austrian School currently heads the betting under a 5lb penalty for his recent victory at Musselburgh, but he is not a definite runner and, at the current prices, it could be worth taking a chance on his stablemate Making Miracles instead. He relished the return to more positive tactics when getting back to winning ways at Ripon last month, and, just the sort of stayer that his trainer excels with.
There is no reason why he shouldn’t give another good account under a 3lb penalty of his own – but watch that draw bias.
*Prices corrrct at time of publishing but are subject to change