1999 – Rainbow High (Barry Hills, Michael Hills), 4/1 favourite
Something about Chester makes it very popular with certain trainers and Barry Hills is certainly one of those enamoured with the Roodee.
The Lambourn handler won this race four times, twice with Rainbow High, and on this occasion he was obviously progressing rapidly, having hinted at having talent the season before as a three-year-old, absolutely hacking up on his previous outing by nine lengths in a Newbury handicap.
The handicapper raised him 10lb for his troubles, but that didn’t put off backers in the slightest and he went off a furiously-backed 4-1 ‘jolly’ after some lucky punters secured 5-1 in a place on course.
It wasn’t all plain sailing as he was hampered on the inside entering the final mile, but even that wasn’t enough to prevent him from prevailing by two lengths from Generosity.
The winner was beaten by a fag paper in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown next time by Arctic Owl but reversed that form when winning the Group 3 Jockey Club Cup later in the campaign, exhibiting what a class horse he was.
2001 – Rainbow High (Barry Hills, Richard Hughes), 9/2
This is the first horse to so far appear in any of these pieces twice. Irish raider Ansar was backed as if defeat was out of the question going off at 3-1 favourite, but despite bearing the burden of top weight, Rainbow High was the only other contestant below 11-1.
It hadn’t been all joy for Rainbow High backers as he’d been a beaten favourite the previous term, although only coming home four lengths adrift, and he’d run consistently well without winning after that – including getting done by a short-head by Royal Rebel in the Group 3 Lonsdale Stakes at York.
This day, favourite backers saw their fancy with every chance two furlongs from home but knew their fate when Willie Supple was scrubbing along a furlong later. Meanwhile supporters of Rainbow High saw him always going well and despite a slight fright from 33-1 poke High And Mighty in the closing stages, he secured the double by three-quarters of a length.
That was the winner’s last success, but he returned here for a hat-trick bid the following year and was sent off a joint-favourite but finished runner-up to Fantasy Hill.
2004 – Anak Pekan (Michael Jarvis, Philip Robinson), 2/1 favourite
Suffolk sorcerer Michael Jarvis’ charge was available at 3-1 on the morning of the race and touched 7-4 on course before being returned at 2-1 and being eased by pilot Philip Robinson to record a five-length success over Misternando.
Now none of those prices appear too fancy, but it takes some money to send a horse off at 2-1 for this fiercely competitive handicap and the ease of his victory indicates why punters didn’t seem too deterred by the contraction.
This win appeared to be the perfect example of the old adage ‘a Group horse in a handicap’ and although professional’s professional Jarvis appeared to believe that the case, running Anak Pekan in the top-class Prix du Cadran five months’ later, he always subsequently disappointed in pattern company.
However, the 2-1 was something of a gift this day as he returned the following year for the same race, prevailing at 16-1 off a mark nearly a stone higher.
2011 – Overturn (Donald McCain, Eddie Ahern), 11/2
Nothing will beat emulating his father Ginger by winning the Grand National with Ballabriggs the same year, but for Donald McCain scooping the biggest race at his local track with an extremely well-backed customer will still have been a jolly good day out!
Red Cadeaux was a half-point shorter favourite, but canny local punters got stuck into Overturn who they knew was fit from running in top-class races over the jumps, including the Champion Hurdle, and had a plum number one draw.
Jockey Eddie Ahern took full advantage of that berth by making all to come home a length and three-quarters clear of Tastahil who was always being held in the final furlong.
The winner returned for the same race the following year, finishing an excellent second to a lesser-fancied stable companion in Ile De Re.
2018 – Magic Circle (Ian Williams, Fran Berry), 8/1
It was some training performance from Ian Williams to land this 16-runner handicap with a horse that hadn’t run for 209 days and was having his first start for him and owner Dr Marwan Koukash.
A public gamble meant the winner went off at 8-1, a price the Worcestershire wizard believed was too short because of ‘the Marwan effect’ as everyone knows he loves Chester.
To be fair, Magic Circle had finished fifth in this event the previous term for handler Ralph Beckett, which had looked a decent effort considering he had emerged from stall 18.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 11, 2018
Despite this race being run over a marathon extended two miles two furlongs, it’s amazing what a low draw can do for a combatant and this time punters latched on to the fact that he was drawn six and had run well when fifth in the Ebor on his penultimate start.
In the event the draw probably wasn’t that much assistance as he found himself in midfield, but Fran Berry hit the front just over a furlong from home and the way he scooted clear to p*ss up by six lengths from Fun Mac showed the money was spot on.