NAP: CLEONTE 3.35 Chester
NB: DIRTY RASCAL 4.55 Ascot
Wow, wow, wow, I know I’m harping back to Wednesday, humour me, very little normally impresses me at Chester, other than the exiquisite, historic, unique surroundings. But on Wednesday my breath was taken away by not one but two electrically, stunning performances on the course.
Might we have the Epsom Classics sewn up already and no need to worry about York? Too Darn Hot will have something to say about that in the Dante, for now though lets just dream. First up was Mehdaayih who had been overlooked in the Cheshire Oaks in favour of her more fancied stable companion Fanny Logan. Not now, her change of gear as they turned for home was a sight to behold and in the gloomy, dank conditions lit up the Roodee. Now as short as 6-1 with BetVictor for the Investec Oaks she appears to hold massive claims on that performance.
On to the Chester Vase, Aidan O’Brien saddled two, favourite Norway was lathered in sweat, while Sir Dragonet was imposing and flashy to the eye. Donncha O’Brien dropped him out as the stalls opened, exaggeratedly so, to the extent some people were concerned he was struggling to go the pace, far from it, the horse advertised how old he was beyond his years as his giant stride was not inconvenienced by having to adapt to a tight track, instead he just wound up the pace steadily and by the line he was 8 lengths clear. Deceptive how quickly he accelerated, now 5-1 with BetVictor for the Derby. Both the aforementioned horses have to be supplemented into their respective Classics, Im hoping it’s a formality.
Chester has been a joy to watch, with the big one the Chester Cup still to come, 3.35 Friday lays out all the issues dealing with the draw over 2miles plus. Finding a good position once the stalls open, consequences if not, trouble in-running and then enough time to extracate yourself from said trouble to make the challenge in the closing stages.
Mark Johnston has had 22 Chester Cup runners since 1990 without success, amongst them was three seconds, most recent Yorkidding in 2017 and he bids to claim the race with either favourite Austrian School (9-2), ideally positioned in stall 5, Making Miracles in 16, Lucky Deal in 14 and Watersmeet in stall 10. Austrian School is currently 9-2 to teach everyone a lesson, the little dude rarely runs a bad race finishing in the first three in all but 3 of his 16 races. He was oh, so impressive in Musselburgh’s Queen’s Cup latest beating a few of today’s rivals very convincingly. He’ll be hard to peg back.
Cesarewitch winner, Low Sun (8-1) will hope to light up Chester and claim another prize yet to sit on Willie Mullins mantle piece. He has to concede 3lb more to Cleonte than he did at Newmarket, plus he has a hideous draw in 17. Though just knowing you have Ryan Moore on board offsets that!
Cleonte (5-1) has the golden ticket, draw wise, deriving from stall 1, and he has one start this season a good one finishing third in the Group 3 Longines Sagaro Stakes. He may already be superior to his rivals on that line of form alone. His jockey, Silvestre de Sousa wears the blue and white silks well and this could be another success to add to the strike rate. At this stage I’m going to have to side with him as his run behind Dee Ex Bee stands out.
Earlier on the card at 2.25 is the Huxley Stakes a race won last year by Forest Ranger, he is back having finished second in Newmarket’s Earl of Sefton Stakes, a race he won in 2018 before backing up at Chester. This year he has a formidable foe in Matterhorn who won the Easter Classic by seven lengths from Wissahickon. Silencing onlookers and gaining plenty of admirers. His success has been gleaned on all weather surfaces so quiet what he’ll do on a rain softened Chester, one has to consider carefully.
The ground will also be key for superstar sprinter Kachy who lines up at 4.10, he has to give Portland Handicap winner 3lb, though on a sound surface would be fine. His ability is without question, he just needs drying conditions to enable himself to be a crowd pleaser.
On closer inspection there is a good card at Ascot, with some possible value, first up in a big field handicap Fille De Reve for Ed Walker. She won over course and distance in September, her last start can big ignored as she probably had enough for the season, having started early in April in the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free. I always sensed on looking at her she’d do better at four so let’s hope she’s progressed.
Latterly on the card there is a 7f class 2 handicap where Dirty Rascal could hold big claims. He is just on the periphery of black type races and was a bit unlucky last time to run in isolation at Newmarket which can always be disconcerting. Ascot’s 4.55 will be more his race and he is bound to come on lengths for his seasonal debut when running behind stable companion, Fox Champion.