We start the first of three days of flat action from one of the North Wests premier flat courses.
The first race that we have to decipher is the Lily Agnes Stakes for two year olds.
At this stage of the season two year old form is so difficult to work out and how good or bad a horse is can’t be easily deciphered for these babies of the racing world.
When it comes to Chester, for those that don’t know, a low draw is pretty essential, especially when over shorter trips and with this opening contest over five furlongs a low draw is a must.
There’s nine runners going to post here and I’d say you couldn’t have a horse drawn in stall six or higher.
The current favourite is the David Evans trained Silver Wings. The horse dominated its one and only start and if it builds on that it should have a decent chance but, without sounding somewhat condescending, the horse is from a lesser known yard. I think half the reason the horse is so short in the betting is because of its favourable draw in stall one and I just think other horses may have better prices and better chances.
The two horses I’ve narrowed it down to are the Richard Fahey trained Astley Hall and Franny Norton ridden Rah Rah.
Ryan Moore rides Astley Hall and must be on an almighty high after riding The Guineas double at the weekend. Fahey has a decent enough strike rate at Chester and with the assistance of what I consider the best flat jockey in the world it surely has to place in the top three at least.
This being said however I just think you don’t get much more of a master of Chester than Franny Norton. His form around Chester is second to none and although he isn’t the most celebrated of jockeys around Chester he is just that good. He rides Rah Rah and trainer Mark Johnston has a decent record with his runners here as well.
Both of my fancied horses are yet to be tested on this softer ground so that side of things is taken on trust and I’m ever so slightly siding with Rah Rah.
Rah Rah (WIN)
Moving on to the second race of the day and this trial for The Oaks at Epsom is headed by another beautifully bred Aidan O’Brien horse. If racing was won on a horses lineage alone then this horse would absolutely romp home.
Many of these runners have little to no form to go off, despite them being aged three but with the ground expected to be on the soft side I think I’m going to go for a horse with proven form on softer ground.
I think this is probably the favourites to lose but because it lost its last race we’ve seen it can be beaten so I’m going to have to look for better value elsewhere.
I think both Loaves And Fishes and Zamoura would have great chances if the ground was firmer and that is unfortunately enough to write off their chances.
One horse that interests me is the Godolphin runner Entertainment. The horse did well to win on its seasonal reappearance and may strip fitter compared to some of its rivals that haven’t run this year. It’s also worth noting that the horse has a decent second placed finish at Newmarket over seven furlongs on soft ground. It was beaten that day by a decent horse that is entered into numerous group ones this year and although stall seven isn’t the greatest of draws may run better than its 14/1 price suggests.
The third race of the day sees our showpiece race as seventeen line up for this years Chester Cup.
Current red hot favourite is the Tony Martin trained, dual purpose horse Quick Jack. The horse has been backed into sure fire favourite and if truth be told was a horse that was straight on my shortlist but now that the horse has been so heavily backed that it isn’t even an each way prospect I have to look elsewhere. Although I think the horse has a great chance in a race with so many runners you surely have to have a horse the provides place profit.
Another Irish raider from a bang in form yard is Zafayan. A horse that has a lot of scope for improvement and will handle the softer conditions. If the horse stays the marathon trip then it has a great chance but considering the furthest distance it has travelled on the flat is a mile and a half then that’s a big difference compared to todays distance and too much of an ask for me to side with it.
Owner Dr Marwan Koukash loves Chester and sends 30% of the runners into this race with five entrants. He owns last years winner Suegioo but I think his best chance of scooping the prize this year is Gabrial’s King. As you will have noticed in my preview of the first race I think Franny Norton is fantastic around here and this six year old is blessed with the jockeys assistance in this showpiece race. It is given a decent draw in stall three and has a fantastic record at Chester with seven top four finishes out of eight races at the venue. The horse did reasonably well in this last year and from a low weight I expect the horse to do much better this time around.
Of the remaining runners I hope to have found one that could run well at a bigger, double figured price. Kieren Fallon may not have a big job as it were but is still well regarded and is still picking up the wins. He rides the Ian Williams trained French import Destruct. The five year old is lightly raced with only five starts to its name so has scope for improvement. The horse makes its UK debut today and with its French background will handle the softer ground. It has a reasonable draw in stall nine and although it is an unknown quantity could run well.
Gabrial’s King (E/W)
The fourth and final race we cover is just as we started with a five furlong sprint and what an open and trappy looking contest this seems to be with a case I could make for at least five or six of these eleven entries.
With the draw being such a factor over the minimum trip my job is made a tad easier if I am to cut out any horse drawn from stall six or higher. Unfortunately this discounts Blithe Spirit who I think has a decent chance if it wasn’t for the high to middling draw.
From those horses drawn in the bottom five I’ve narrowed it down to just two horses. The top weight B Fifty Two and the seven year old Mappin Time.
Tim Easterby has his horses doing well at the moment and his entry has been hitting some decent form on the all-weather over the winter. The horse is priced rather generously but with the ground expected to be softer than good that is a huge worry. Decent, good ground would be of no concern but whenever it comes up soft the Andrew Mullen runner fails to deliver.
This therefore leaves me with the Charles Hills trained and Frankie Dettori ridden B Fifty Two. It doesn’t have too high a handicap mark compared to previous form and its recent spin on the all-weather may have blew away a few cobwebs. With a course and distance win to its name and its liking for a slight bit of cut this horse should do well from the more than helpful stall three.
B Fifty Two (E/W if 9/2+)
by Rory Paddock