For all we know about Chester this looks a tricky handicap over ten-furlongs where the two more interesting unexposed types have high draws.
Dark Red was a recent Epsom winner holding off Pacify in the closing stages. Franny Norton had problems with him that day with the way he hung and in the end was holding on although he did cause some interference with the runner up. The handicapper has put him up six pounds for that win, so he may need to find a bit of improvement.
Roger Varian’s American Artist ran a cracker on his return to the track 12 days ago at Doncaster only being beaten by a short head. He’ll have come on a lot for that run and if the ground keeps drying out then it will only enhance his chances despite the wide berth in stall nine.
The Mark Johnston pair of Sennockian Star and Master Of Finance have both placed in this race in its last two years respectively. The former has been a course and distance winner of his current mark, so could be another alternative.
American Artist (E/W if 9/2+)
The Group 3 Huxley Stakes sees if last year’s second Cannock Chase can go one better this time around.
Last year Sir Michael Stoute’s charge came into the on the back of a run at Sandown but this time around he comes here fresh. The Stoute horses are flying at the moment but this son of Lemon Drop Kid may require his seasonal reappearance.
Western Hymn is currently trading as favourite. The five year old has won six of his 12 career starts but failed to quicken on his return when beaten by My Dream Boat at odds-on. Despite his fine record he is a tricky horse to win with as he doesn’t do a lot in front, so Frankie Dettori will have his work cut out on timing this to perfection.
Despite this race only having seven-runners therefore lacking each-way shape the one that ticks plenty of boxes is Battalion. He will handle any give in the ground with all four wins on the turf having ‘soft’ as part of the description. He won a weak Listed race at Goodwood in September but proved his liking for this trip. He disappointed at Chelmsford over further last time and you can forgive a horse for a bad run at that track. The trainer William Haggas has his yard in good form, which adds to the boxes ticked.
Aidan O’Brien favourites have won the last three renewals of the Chester Vase and US Army Ranger looks very capable of making it four.
The son of Galileo won more cosily than the winning margin suggested on debut and the step up in trip by two furlongs can only help his improvement. He isn’t badly drawn in stall three although in a six-runner race you shouldn’t find too much trouble. From that Curragh maiden his stablemate, who finished third, has since won but the second bumped into another smart O’Brien horse called The Gurkha.
Port Douglas also represents O’Brien and comes here with the most experience. He was successful in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes where he was produced right on the line to beat the two joint favourites. His best speed figure came in the Racing Post Trophy when fourth. He steps up from a mile and again should be suited by that. He hasn’t been seen for 194-days, so it will be interesting to see how he has developed over the winter.
Biodynamic won a maiden at the second attempt justifying favouritism however the strength of that in the formbook isn’t working out entirely well. Karl Burke’s charge was a 50/1 shot when finishing third in the Three-Year-Old Trophy last month when staying on well under pressure. The way he shaped that day suggests the further trip would be welcomed but pedigree says he’d be a miler. He is one to keep your eye on because the traders may overprice him with the yard he is from.
US Army Ranger (WIN)
A seven-furlong handicap is the final race of the Channel 4 transmission from the Roudee and it looks trappy.
On ratings Mark Johnston’s Ode To Evening is the best of this field. He was a close second at Lingfield in a Listed race last month before being well beaten at Sandown last time. From stall two it is likely James Doyle will bounce him out and try to make all like they did when he won his Ripon maiden.
Tom Dascombe trains locally and he saddles two in this race. Above N Beyond is the first choice with stable jockey Richard Kingscote booked. This son of Exceed And Excel was second in a Doncaster Listed race last year before going to Doha over Christmas and finished a close third in a 2-Year-Old’s Conditions Race won by Perkunas of Brian Meehan’s. He could take Ode To Evening on for the lead, so that pair may likely set it up for a closer.
The trainer’s second horse is Arcanada, who won his maiden at this track back in August when chasing the leader before quickening past him. He caught the eye on his return when staying on well at Wolverhampton to finish third of five, only beaten a head by an underestimated horse in Ikerrin Road. He followed that up with a win over a mile at Doncaster 12-day ago. The wide draw would be a concern but he looks to have ability and if settled in a good position from the stalls can give his running.
Arcanada (E/W if 9/2+)