2.10 Chester – IG Handicap
Andrew Balding’s Collaboration looks likely to be popular having continued his progression with a four and a half lengths victory at Epsom a couple of weeks ago. He has gone up in the weights since then but an extra 4lb shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance given how well he won last time. He has been drawn in stall 3 which should allow him to get into a good position and if he can travel as well as he did at Epsom, he will take a lot of beating. He is clearly heading the right way and if he is none the worse for his latest run he looks to have a major chance.
John Quinn’s Tahira also deserves a mention having turned in her best effort since coming to Britain over course and distance last June. She struggled on her final two starts last season at York when upped in company but it is too early to be writing her off just yet. She won three times in her native Germany before joining this yard and this looks a good starting point for her. The ground should be to her liking and this unexposed mare could represent a bit of value.
TRES CORONAS won this race last year off a mark off 94 before running Clever Cookie close at York next time. His York run came off a 1lb higher mark than he has today but his form tailed off a little after that. I understand that he missed the second half of last year with a physical complaint but there was plenty to take from his run in the Lincoln over an inadequate trip. He has won at this meeting the last two years and should be able to go close again here.
2.40 Chester – Betfair Huxley Stakes (Group 3)
Sir Michael Stoute’s CANNOCK CHASE looks likely to be sent off favourite after a good reappearance run in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown. On his first start since June, the four-year-old found only Western Hymn and Postponed too good on the day but should have benefitted physically from the run. Stoute has won this race five times since 2001 and he looks to have another strong candidate on his hands here, he is still lightly-raced and can take this prize before stepping up further in grade.
Perhaps the one who will give him most to think about is John Gosden’s Maverick Wave who has enjoyed a fine winter, winning three times on the all-weather. His latest ten-length success at Chelmsford may have come in handicap company but the way in which he scorched clear in the closing stages was most impressive and he looks to be starting to fulfil his potential. It would be no surprise to see him jump off and try and dictate proceedings from stall four and with the Gosden string in fine form, he looks likely to give a good showing.
3.10 Chester – MBNA Chester Vase (Group 3)
Aidan O’Brien’s Hans Holbein will be well fancied to give his trainer a third consecutive victory in the race, having made all in first-time cheekpieces last time. Having led, he also picked up well at the end to dismiss his rivals and win by two and three-quarter lengths. The extra two furlongs should be no problem being by Montjeu and it would be no surprise to see him leave his previous form well behind here.
However, at around the 5/2 mark I think he is short enough and it might be better to side with Mike De Kock’s TANNAAF, who may well have beaten Hans Holbein’s stablemate Cape Clear Island at Newmarket with a clear run. He was staying on strongly in the closing stages and the extra two furlongs should also play into his favour here. He won a maiden impressively at Newmarket on debut last year and the first nine home that day have all won since. Following a couple of indifferent runs, he looks to be coming into form at the right time and up to 1m4f for the first time, he looks likely to run a big race.
3.45 Chester – Boodles Diamond Handicap
The first place to start here is with Richard Hannon’s Hail Clodius who finished last season with a resounding success in a Newmarket maiden. He beat Ed Dunlop’s Fieldsman by five lengths that day who has won twice since. The soft ground definitely played into his favour that day which means that any rain at Chester would also be welcome. He has got a good draw in stall 1 and although a mark of 90 is stiff enough on his handicap debut, he looks likely to be involve at the business end of proceedings.
Eve Johnson Houghton’s Goring made a winning return to action at Beverley a couple of weeks ago where he beat a nice filly of Michael Bell’s by three-quarters of a length. He travelled like much the best horse last time and I wouldn’t have too many worries about him dropping back in trip. William Buick has been retained to ride him having partnered him to success at Beverley and looks one of the more likely contenders.
However, the preference is for Richard Fahey’s BILLY SLATER who improved with each of his three runs as a juvenile. His latest start saw him finish a staying on third at Haydock over seven furlongs and he has been given a mark of 78 to start off with handicapping. He sneaks in here off bottom weight and given his owner, it would be no surprise if this has been the plan for some time. He had his first two starts at Chester and seemed to handle it well and he has been given a good draw in stall 3. He will need to improve on his two-year-old form to mix it with some of these but the handicapper has given him a chance and he looks to have strong claims.
4.20 Chester – T&L Leasing EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes
In recent years, this particular race has been dominated by the yards of Tom Dascombe and Richard Fahey so we will pay particular attention to any runners from those stables here. Richard Fahey saddles YOUNG JOHN who chased home Mark Johnston’s Buratino at Chelmsford on his debut just over a month, having been well supported beforehand. The Acclamation colt is closely related to smart two-year-old Cake and looked to be precocious enough on debut. His draw in 6 is not ideal but can be overcome and he looks to have a leading chance for a stable who do well with their juveniles.
Tom Dascombe has a set of owners who tend to enjoy sending their horses to this meeting in particular and he has two representatives in the line-up here. The unraced Kodiac filly Falcon Annie is interesting having been purchased for 70,000 euros as a yearling however it is worth noting that both of the yard’s winners of this race had previous experience under their belt as did London Life who was placed in the race last year. Therefore it may be best to look at Four’s Company who looked likely to come on for the run at Pontefract on debut. It took a little while for the penny to drop with her and this Fast Company filly should be more clued up here. The one negative is the draw (7) but I would prefer her chances to that of her stablemate.
The final one to mention is Charlie Hills’ High Speed who was sixth in what could turn out to be hot maiden at Windsor ten days ago. She too showed signs of greenness but kept on well late on and should be much more clued up this time. Her sire Kodiac seems to have once again thrown a smart crop of precocious performers and she looks well equipped to take advantage of her draw in stall two.
4.55 Chester – Betway Handicap
The first place to start with this 3yo handicap is with the draw and whilst there are some potentially well-handicapped/progressive horses such as Golden Spun, Captain Colby and Caigemdar in the field, they are drawn in the car park and history suggests that they have a near impossible task on their hands so we will need to look elsewhere.
The first one that I want to mention is Richard Fahey’s Johnny B Goode who was successful in nursery company off the same mark as he races here (76) in September. He seemed to get his ideal conditions that day which appear to be six furlongs on good to soft ground, which bodes well for this particular contest. He was sent off joint-favourite last time at Thirsk but five furlongs is definitely on the sharp side for him and although he travelled well, he couldn’t quicken with the leaders in the closing stages. This looks much more suitable and stall 4 should allow him to get a good position early on. He has already shown us that he can win off this mark and he looks to have a big chance here.
Brian Ellison’s NORTHGATE LAD finished ahead of Johnny Be Goode in second at Thirsk having kept on well from the back of the field. The extra furlong should also be in his favour as will the slower ground on offer tomorrow. As a two-year-old he beat Tim Easterby’s Mattmu on debut who went on to win four times including in Listed and Group 2 company. He showed last time that he has retained plenty of ability and from stall 2 Graham Lee should be able to plot a course to the line. He looks to have a strong profile and should be capable of winning off a mark of 86 on just his fourth start.
The final one to mention is Ismail Mohammed’s Speedy Move who won twice last season before stepping into Group 3 company on his final start. That race has worked out really well with the likes of Maftool, Home Of The Brave and Fanciful Angel all having done well since then. He was well beaten that day but even so a mark of 83 is not insurmountable and he can make his presence felt from stall five.
5.25 Chester – Investec Asset Finance Handicap
Another tricky little contest and the one to start with is Tom Tate’s course and distance winner Empress Ali. That win came last September off a 4lb lower mark but the filly obviously likes it here having finished 221 on her three visits to the course so far. Drawn in stall four, she should be able to get forward as she likes to and on her first start back, she looks to have good each-way claims.
Richard Fahey’s Mica Mika has been rejuvenated this year and comes here in search of the hat-trick having followed his Doncaster success with another victory at Newcastle next time. The form of his latest start has already been boosted with the second Sheriff Of Nawton having come out and won since. He has won off higher marks than 79 in the past and if he can overcome being drawn in stall 11, the seven-year-old looks to have every chance of landing the three-timer.
However, the marginal preference is for KARRAAR who has his first start for the William Haggas yard having been purchased for 65,000 guineas at the sales in October. The four-year-old had some good form for Richard Hannon, winning over 1m4f on his final start for the yard. His new trainer has gelded him and having trained his dam, has chosen to drop him back in trip. He looks one of the less exposed members of the field and could improve past several of these. He is drawn well in stall 6 and I fancy him to go close for his new connections.