2.10 Chester – Stellar Group Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes
David Evans’ SILVER WINGS made quite an impression when winning at the first time of asking at Windsor last week. Having broken speedily from the stalls and made the running, the colt picked up nicely in the closing stages to draw clear and win by two and a quarter lengths. He had reportedly worked well with his stablemate Raj To Riches prior to that run and this race was suggested as the likely next step on the way to Royal Ascot. David Evans won this race with Star Rover in 2009 and with a favourable draw in stall 1, he could take all the beating.
Astley Hall impressed me with his performance on debut considering how he swerved to his left leaving the stalls. He continued to show signs of greenness until halfway but picked up well once the penny dropped and got up inside the final furlong to win by three-quarters of a length. The form of that race hasn’t worked out too well so far with the second, third and fifth all being beaten since. However, I got the impression that the winner was worth more than the winning margin suggested and with Ryan Moore in the plate, if he can overcome being drawn in five, he can give David Evans’ colt most to think about.
The Irish raider An Duine Uasal also deserves a mention having run in a traditionally strong maiden at the Curragh on debut, where he finished seventh. That race has already thrown up three other subsequent winners and Adrian Keatley’s colt got off the mark next time at Cork. He didn’t do an awful lot in front last time and connections have decided to put blinkers on him for the first time. He does have to overcome being drawn wide in stall six but Pat Smullen takes the ride and he is arguably the form pick in the race.
2.40 Chester – Arkle Finance Ltd Cheshire Oaks (Listed Race)
The market for this race looks likely to be headed by Aidan O’Brien’s Diamondsandrubies who was a little unlucky not to finish nearer to the winner when finishing third in Listed company at Navan a couple of weeks ago. It is worth noting that of O’Brien’s three winners of this contest in the last decade only Wonder Of Wonders had won on her most recent outing which suggests that we shouldn’t be too concerned that this filly was beaten at Navan. However, there are several unexposed fillies in the field and I think she is short enough at around 9/4.
Clive Cox looks to have a smart filly on his hands in the shape of Loaves And Fishes who won in taking fashion on her only start at Haydock in September. Her dam, Miracle Seeker won the Lingfield Oaks Trial for this yard and they will be keen to test this filly’s Classic credentials here. She has been entered a few times for races already this season before being withdrawn so connections have been keen to not run her in difficult conditions and she could be anything. She looks to have strong each-way claims but will need to improve on her debut form and overcome a wide draw to get her head in front.
The preference is for Rae Guest’s WHAT SAY YOU who was fourth on her debut behind Malabar at Ascot before getting off the mark at Newmarket next time. She won with a degree of ease that day and the form has worked out well with the second, third and fourth all having won since. She was a little disappointing in the Rockfel after that but she is bred to suited by the step up in trip here and should improve. She has joined Rae Guest over the winter and I don’t think we have seen the summit of her ability yet.
3.10 Chester – Betway Chester Cup (Handicap Breakers Race)
One of the strongest trends associated with the Chester Cup concerns weight with horses with big weights historically struggling to get their head in front. The summit appears to be 9st 4lb as only Anak Pekan in 2005 has carried more than this to victory in the last decade. In terms of this year’s field, this means that the top five as they appear on the racecard (Angel Gabriel, Famous Kid, Shu Lewis, Suegioo and Duke Of Clarence) all look to be up against it.
The draw can play a big part in the outcome of flat races particularly at Chester where the turns are so tight. Therefore it is little surprise that those drawn in the widest stalls have tended to struggle in recent years. In fact, seven of the last ten winners had come from stall 11 or lower so it seems best to stick with those drawn towards the inside. Looking at this year’s renewal, Mubaraza, Famous Kid, Edge Of Sanity, John Reel, Suegioo and Duke Of Clarence all occupy wide draws so may need a bit of luck to get their head in front.
In terms of official ratings, the desired bracket appears to be between 93 and 99 as all but two of the last ten winners came from this group. Anak Pekan (103) and Admiral (85) were the two winners to defy this particular trend in recent years and will be possible inspiration for those who fall on the wrong side of the trend this year. In fact, only six of the line-up match this trend and they are Edge Of Sanity, Quick Jack, Buthelezi, Mubaraza, Zafayan and Trip To Paris.
When looking at age, five and six-year-olds have the best record in the race having accounted for seven of the last ten winners of the race. These two ages are strongly represented again this year with eleven of the whole field. On a negative note, the horse that looks to be up against it most is the nine-year-old Shu Lewis, who would be the first nine-year-old winner since 1975 were he to get his head in front.
If we consider the recent form of horses coming into this race, the result is probably the reverse of what you would expect. Eight of the last ten winners finished outside the first three on their most recent outing which suggests that this could be a race in which we can take a chance on a horse bouncing back to form. The quintet of runners who fit this trend in this year’s field are Suegioo, John Reel, Edge Of Sanity, Mubaraza and Lady Kashaan.
The final factor worthy of consideration is the betting and it is fair to say that this has been a tough race for favourites in recent years. Mamlook was the last winning favourite in 2010 which doesn’t bode well for this year’s current favourite Quick Jack. There is time for the market to change ahead of the race tomorrow but in general, we need to be wary of those at the head of the market.
EDGE OF SANITY – 5/6
Mubaraza – 5/6
Lady Kashaan – 5/6
With all of the runners missing at least one of the trends, we have three runners who make the shortlist having fitted five of the six trends. The first of these is EDGE OF SANITY who finished last season with a win over two miles at York’s Ebor meeting under Paul Mulrennan. He returned to action in a conditions event over an inadequate 1m4f last time and that should have put him spot on for this. He does have to overcome being drawn in stall 14 but he should stay and looks to have a big chance of going close.
Ed Dunlop’s Mubaraza also makes the shortlist having finished fourth in the race last year off the same mark. The six-year-old was sent off the 4/1 favourite for last year’s race and should be able to run well again. He also has to overcome a wide draw having been put in stall 12 but if he can overcome that, he should be able to run a big race.
The final member of the shortlist is Lady Kashaan who was an impressive seven lengths winner on her return to action at Musselburgh last month. She went up in the weights as a result and couldn’t follow up that success at Ripon last time out. With a rating of 91, she sits just below the required standard but she otherwise has a strong trends profile and could outrun her odds.
3.45 Chester – Boodles Diamond Handicap
This five furlongs dash looks to have plenty of pace throughout the field so we could be set for a fast and furious pace. One of the likely front-runners could be Phil McEntee’s COME ON DAVE who has been in fine form recently on the all-weather having won two of his last three starts. His last win at Chelmsford in March came off a mark of 87 and back on turf he races off a 2lb lower mark. The blinkers have been switched for a visor and if he can make use of his plum draw in stall one, he could be hard to peg back.
At the top end of the weights, B Fifty Two warrants plenty of respect having won here back in August. That victory off a mark of 96 saw him make all and despite being eased down win with three and three-quarter lengths to spare at the line. He was stepped up in grade after that where he struggled and was similarly outclassed in Listed company on his return to action in March. As a result, his mark has dropped to 100 and having run well here in the past, if he can reproduce that form he would have every chance from stall 3.
The final one to mention is Richard Fahey’s Ballesteros who is a course and distance winner but was out of sorts towards the end of last season. The six-year-old isn’t the easiest but he has slipped down the handicap to a mark of 87 and having previously won over course and distance off 99, he looks dangerously well-handicapped. His owner Dr Marwan Koukash loves having winners at this meeting and with Chester maestro Franny Norton onboard, it would be no surprise to see him make his presence felt.
4.20 Chester – Homeserve Maiden Stakes
Aidan O’Brien won this maiden in 2012 with Father Of Science and he looks to have an excellent chance of winning another renewal courtesy of SIR ISAAC NEWTON. The colt was bought for 3.6 million guineas as a yearling and is a full brother to Oaks runner-up Secret Gesture. He was second on his only start at two and although being turned over at 8/11 was disappointing on the face of it, the horse that beat him, Dermot Weld’s Zawraq won a 2000 Guineas Trial in Ireland by three and a half lengths in April. The front pair drew seven lengths clear of the rest that day and this looks a good opportunity for him to get off the mark before stepping up in grade.
The one who is likely to give him most to think about is John Gosden’s Keble who ran a nice race to finish second at Newbury on his return to action. He was no match for the winner Intilaaq who won by eight lengths before running in the 2000 Guineas but the way he stayed on in the closing stages suggests that the step up to ten furlongs should suit him. His trainer has saddled four of the last ten winners of this race including the last two winners and he looks to have another good candidate here.
4.55 Chester – Merseyrail Day Saver Ticket Conditions Stakes
This conditions event is a tricky little race and the first place to start is with Robert Cowell’s Normal Equilibrium who won on his reappearance at Chelmsford in April, before finding only Robot Boy too good next time. The five-year-old likes to go forward in his races and should be well equipped to make use of his draw in stall one. Robert Cowell looks to have his string in fine form of late and only conceding weight to the trio of three-year-olds, he looks to have plenty going in his favour.
David Evans’ Anonymous John is probably the most interesting of the three-year-olds with this consistent gelding having only finished outside the first four once in 16 starts and that was his racecourse debut. He won three times last season and has continued to run well upped in company over the winter. His latest run saw him finish fourth behind the progressive Primrose Valley in March and a short break should have freshened him up. He receives 9lb from his elder rivals and if he can overcome his wide draw (10), he should once again run well.
The marginal preference is for DUTCH MASTERPIECE who was a Group 3 winner at the peak of his powers in 2013. However, since finishing down the field in the Group Prix de l’Abbaye after that he has only been seen on the racecourse twice. He showed signs of encouragement at Nottingham on his seasonal reappearance last month although that run should have brought him on a lot physically. Ryan Moore now gets the leg up on the five-year-old and he looks as though he can go close with conditions in his favour.
5.25 Chester – Diabetes Uk And British Heart Foundation Handicap
The final race on day one of Chester’s May meeting is a three-year-old handicap with plenty of lightly-raced horses taking each other on. The first one I would like to mention is John Gosden’s Secateur who found a good opportunity to get off the mark at Doncaster last time. He made all in the hands of Robert Havlin but stormed clear in the closing stages to beat his nearest rival by fifteen lengths. With only three runners, the form in difficult to assess but a mark of 79 does not look too harsh. He won over this trip last time and with the yard in fine form, he shouldn’t be too far away.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Peterhof is a half-brother to Listed winner Gallipot so should come into his own over this sort of trip. He won a back end Lingfield maiden over seven furlongs in October, staying on strongly at the end in the hands of Ryan Moore. The form of that race hasn’t worked out too well to date but it would be no surprise to see him leave that well behind. Sir Michael’s horses are starting to run well and this colt should be able to do himself justice.
One at a bigger price could be Michael Dods’ HERNANDOSHIDEAWAY who won a maiden over seven furlongs at Ayr in August. That race has worked out well with four of the horses he beat having subsequently come out and won. He is from a good staying family and he should progress as the sire’s progeny tend to do as they get older. He should be able to get a good position from stall two and coming from a less well-known stable, the gelding could offer some value.