2014 Chester Cup Day Preview, Trends, Tips
The first two Classics now behind us, we turn our attention to the Oaks and Derby, with Chester's May meeting showcasing a number of trials as well as its flagship event, the Chester Cup, a big field two and a quarter mile handicap run on the first day.
As well as the trials and the Chester Cup, there are also three five furlong burn ups on one of the most speed favouring, draw favouring pistes in the land. Perfect placepot material, so let's get to it.
1.45 MANOR HOUSE STABLES LILY AGNES CONDITIONS STAKES (CLASS 2)
The Lily Agnes is the traditional curtain-raiser, a five furlong two year old conditions race , where speed is everything. Miss the break and it's game over. Get drawn wide and it's game over. Not be quick, and it's game over.
To emphasise the importance of the draw, fifteen of the last seventeen winners of the Lily Agnes were drawn in boxes one to five, as were 35 of the 44 placed horses during that time. That's 88% of the winners, and 80% of the placed horses, from just 58% of the runners.
To underline the importance of early pace, below are snippets from the comments of the winners of recent years:
Quatuor - "made all" from stall 8
All Fur Coat - "made all" from stall 4
Lily's Angel - "missed break" from stall 2
Julius Geezer - "made all" from stall 5
Star Rover - "made all" from stall 5
Doncaster Rover - "tracked leaders" from stall 2
Cracking - "made all" from stall 3
As you can see, it is possible to win from off the pace (Lily's Angel) and it is possible to win from a wide draw (Quatuor). But the balance of probabilities say you'll get out and stay out from a favourable inside berth.
Using geegeez' racecards pace analysis on, admittedly, limited sample data - most of these horses have run only once - alerts us to the fact that David Evans' two runners, drawn 1 and 3, have speed to burn.
They are unlikely to take each other on for the lead, however, and should run 1-2 into the first turn. It is possible that the 'job horse', Roudee, named after the racecourse at Chester and running for the stable that sponsors the race and has won it twice in the last four years, will attempt to get to the bend in front from stall nine. They managed it with Quatuor from stall eight last year, so that cannot be ruled out.
Indeed, Quatuor led home an 8-9-10-12 stall finish to sound a cautionary note to blind draw backers. However, the first two home there were the first two throughout, and draw allied to speed looks a potent combination, though the lowest box of all may be a slight negative, given that they start on the arc of a bend (there are lots of bends on Chester's bullring track).
Evans' pair of fillies, Cheerio Sweetie and Charlie's Star, are both fast starters, are both well drawn, and both get at least seven pounds in allowances from the other fancied - but more widely drawn - pair of Mukhdam and Roudee.
Magical Memory is one I haven't mentioned. He was favourite when only seventh on debut - Charlie's Star second there - and is clearly thought better than he showed that day. Moreover, he should improve for the run, and Charlie Hills' horses are in excellent form (32% strike rate in the past fortnight).
But I'm taking the speedy well-drawn pair against the field, with slight preference for Charlie's Star, whose Newbury form looks solid, over Cheerio Sweetie.
2.15 CHESHIRE OAKS (Listed Race)
The first of the Classic trials is the Cheshire Oaks, for three year old fillies, run over 150 yards shy of the Oaks trip. It's been a fair pointer, too, with Light Shift stopping off here en route to en emotional return to the top table for her trainer Sir Henry Cecil in 2007, and Wonder Of Wonders undone in her double bid by a brilliant Johnny Murtagh ride aboard Dancing Rain in 2011.
The 2014 renewal looks at least reasonably strong, with representation from the yards of O'Brien, Stoute, Gosden, Charlton and Varian.
14 of the last 17 winners (82%) finished in the top three last time out, from 63% of the runners.
13 of the last 17 winners (76%) had run within the last month, from just 51% of the runners, and that fitness edge looks material.
Aidan O'Brien has won three of the last six Cheshire Oaks', from just six runners, and his overall form string in the race is 211612.
Ballydoyle is the obvious place to start here. Aidan O'Brien, the master of Ballydoyle, has a fantastic record in the race from a selective number of entries, and he runs the blinkered Terrific. This lass won her last two of three juvenile starts, and will strip a lot fitter for a third placed effort in Listed company at Navan 25 days ago. That makes her a perfect profile fit as well, and she ought to be hard to beat if taking to the tight corners of Chester's unique track.
Bright Approach made her debut just 26 days ago when winning a Newbury maiden. The second and third have both won since, giving the form a most solid look. Johnny G(osden) rarely tilts at windmills, so that fact he's pitched Bright Approach straight into this Listed heat is a good sign. It's a very different test to Newbury, and she'll need to improve in the order of ten pounds but, with just a single run on the board, there's every chance of that much more to come, and still more to offer by Oaks day.
At a much bigger price, one that looks well bred for a job like this is the unbeaten in 2014, Anipa. She's by the peerless Sea The Stars out of an In The Wings mare, and should get every yard of the trip, a comment not universally applicable. It's obviously a huge step up from a Class 5 handicap to a Listed Oaks trial, but the hood has improved Anipa markedly as has the longer trip, and she'll be gunned prominently in the field with stamina assured.
In summary, I like the look of Bright Approach as the horse with the most improvement to come, and she'll probably have most to fear from Terrific. At a whopper price, we might get a run for a penny each way on Anipa at 28/1.
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2.45 CHESTER CUP
A two and a quarter mile handicap may not seem like a likely place for a draw bias, but in such a big field as this - habitually paying four places - and around the always-turning Roodee circuit, low is generally best.
Chester Cup Trends
Eleven of the last seventeen, and ten of the last fourteen, winners have started from trap seven or lower which, in a field of normally double that and more, is material.
Every winner of the Chester Cup since Morgans Choice in 1985 has been aged four to seven. It's very hard for the older boys here. Unfortunately, that doesn't help as all of the field are aged four to six this year!
None of the 62 runners since 1997 to return within a fortnight of their previous start have won. However, those off a slightly longer break - between two weeks and a month - have claimed eight of the seventeen renewals in that time (47%), from 31% of the runners.
14 of the last seventeen winners had won over at least two miles. That's 82% of the winners from 65% of the runners.
Of the last ten winners, two made all, five raced prominently, two were midfield runners, and just one was held up. Look to those who race near the front, as it is like the Monaco Grand Prix trying to overtake at Chester. Interestingly, much if not all of the recent pace evidence is drawn in double figures, which may well give a high drawn horse a better chance to win this year.
All that gives us a trends shortlist of Montaser, Mubaraza, and Body Language.
Chester Cup Form Preview
Mubaraza is the favourite in a race where they bet 6/1 the field. He deserves to be market leader, as he's got good form in the grade, on the ground and in big fields, including when a neck second last time over two miles. His "major malfunction", to quote Full Metal Jacket, is that he's a hold up type, and he'll need a lot more luck in running than 6/1 affords. Obvious form chance, but the race may well not set up to suit.
The next trio in the market - all in single figure prices - are Glenard, Angel Gabrial, and Communicator. Glenard is the shortest of the three, and is another perennial hold up horse. He looked the classic mug punt last time, as he was a 'never nearer' sixth of ten. In other words, he was never in the race, and half the field beat him. Granted, he was only two and a bit lengths behind the winner, but Ryan Moore - who rarely rides a bad race and didn't that day - gets off to ride something else here.
Angel Gabrial is one of the Koukash squad, and the Good Doctor is famously hungry when it comes to winning at Chester. He owns just the five in this race. Ahem. Angel Gabrial is drawn in the middle and can race prominently. Jamie Spencer takes the ride and if going forwards on him, could get in the shake up. He's often been found out in this class, though that is mitigated by his lack of exposure at the marathon trip. He beat Mubaraza last time on his first try at two miles in a valuable handicap.
Communicator is a consistent type, and has the Oisin Murphy factor in his favour this afternoon. He's ostensibly well drawn in two, but if held up might find himself horribly boxed in. On the plus side, he has plenty of form at two miles or so, though with a frustrating lack of winning runs amongst the place pile. He's a classy type and proven at the track as well.
Suegioo looks very interesting. Marco Botti is a genius awaiting media recognition, and Ryan Moore legs up today. He was under-cooked the last day at Ripon - over a mile and a half - and he's been gelded since last season. As a Koukash Klan member (excuse the pun), he'll have been targeted at this, and Ryan will have him in the right position from stall four. I think he looks a serious each way play.
Of the wide drawn prominent racers, Clowance Estate is probably over-priced based on his draw. Roger Charlton's 5yo Teofilo gelding could get to the lead despite starting in box fifteen and, if he does, he might control steady fractions. That combined with the tight turns here mean he has every chance of staying the two and quarter trip - much more so than the interminable Newmarket straight on which he folded in the Cesarewitch over the same trip - and I reckon James Doyle has a dandy chance of bagging place money at least.
Chester Cup Tips
I'm taking two each way against the field. They are Ryan Moore and Suegioo, and James Doyle and Clowance Estate. At 12/1 and 16/1 respectively, they look good value in a race where there will be a lot of hard luck stories.
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3.15 STELLAR GROUP HANDICAP
The first sprint handicap of the season at Chester, and a low draw and early pace is the optimal combination, especially for those proven at the track. As such, it is no surprise that - as has now become the norm - some of the high drawn horses are self-certificated absentees. In this case, the two non-runners were drawn 13 and 14. Apparently, neither ate up when they heard their stall positions..!
Anyway, the long and short of this one is that Caspian Prince, a front runner, is drawn one, and has won three of his six races at the minimum trip. True, he's been beaten all three times in this grade, but they were on the all weather. In fact, this nine race novice has only run once on turf, when winning a Class 3 handicap at Epsom, making all. I like him, and I've backed him (in cross doubles).
The horse I've taken alongside Caspian Prince is Chester specialist, Ballista. He's drawn seven which is neither ideal nor terrible, and he does have plenty of early zip. Although runners are supposed to stay in imaginary 'lanes' for the first 100 yards, he might try to gun directly for the rail, with limited pace inside, Red Baron and Caspian Prince notwithstanding.
He's dropped down the handicap a few pounds, and this will have been his early season target for local trainer and connections.
Go Nani Go will get the tow into the race he prefers, but it remains to be seen how he'll take to the turns here, all of his turf winning form coming on straight tracks. That doesn't mean he can't win, just that at the price he might be a bit skinny.
There are lots of old sprint warriors in here, and if a speed duel transpires, those who might benefit at monster prices are Swendab and Free Zone. Both are excellent five furlong nags on their day, and Free Zone will be attempting to maintain a 100% placed record at the track, albeit that that record was achieved from two six furlong races. As I've written, he - like Swendab - has bags of pace for five too, and may be able to get a fairly handy position despite the ultimate car park draw.
But it's Caspian Prince and Ballista for me.
3.50 Maiden Stakes
A maiden race, and your guess is as good as mine. John Gosden's Prince Of Stars is about 5/4, and he ran encouraginly on his sole start. Only two have come out of that race so far, both well beaten, so it's hard to say what the form is worth. But the son of Sea The Stars should appreciate this extra quarter mile, and will be better for that first racecourse experience.
Who knows what he's up against? A couple of note might be Charles Hills' Computer, from a team who always target this meeting; and Mark Johnston's Special Fighter, well bred and from a team that would have had plenty of options for this.
4.25 CONDITIONS STAKES
The third five furlong contest, and the second conditions stakes. As ever, a low draw and early pace is optimal, and the nags fitting the bill this time are Lucky Beggar and Swansong.
Lucky Beggar has stall one, and likes to lead. He's also the best in at the weights according the conditions of the race, and he's about the least exposed in the field. He looks capable of improving from his first run of the year - a win in a decent Newbury sprint - and I can only find one possible chink in his armour.
That sole chink is the glut of pace in the field. He'll have to be hoof perfect at the gate, because if he misses it, the peloton may well be away and gone. The one I fear most of the speedsters is Trinityelitedotcom. This fellow was third at this meeting two years ago, and has been in very good form on the all weather, surging up the handicap as a consequence. He's perfectly effective on turf, and will bid to outblaze Lucky Beggar in the early running.
Again, with the chance of a murderous pace up front, it might be that something comes from far back to pick up the pieces. Unlikely, but if it is to happen, Inxile could be the one. He's got a bit to find at the weights, but he ran much better last time, and has plenty of talent on his day (beaten just a length in a Listed race on his only previous run at Chester, over six furlongs).
My cross doubles from the sprint handicap terminate (or, hopefully, germinate) here, with Lucky Beggar and Trinityelitedotcom. I think the favourite has a heck of a lot going for him and looks solid.
5.00 DIABETES UK HANDICAP
Day one closes with a mile and a half handicap, for three year olds only. The usual suspects almost monopolize the recent winners' roster, with Messrs. Hills, Dascombe, Jarvis M (whose spirit is carried by Roger Varian), and Johnston responsible for six of the last ten winners.
Johnston saddles a pair this time, Hills and Dascombe one each. The 'Always Trying' couple are Swivel and Maxi T, both converting winning sequences into duck eggs last time, and both 20/1 shots here. Those odds look too big on the back of one poor run apiece, but there are more attractive/obvious wagers in the line up.
Charlie Hills' Lovelocks, for instance. She's bred for this, on the sire side at least, and steps up a quarter mile on her first run of the season, and a full half mile on her three previous handicap rating-acquiring efforts. She ought to go close from the bottom of the weights.
The favourite is Anglo Irish, a Dansili colt out of a Selkirk mare. He'll love the trip but whether he might prefer a bit more give in the turf, on what will be his first run on turf, is open to question. At 7/2, I'm happy to to let him beat me, especially with the Gosden camp in less than brilliant form in the past fortnight.
Captain Morley won his maiden last time at Wolverhampton, and steps up three furlongs in trip for this first run in a handicap. It's hard to know what he beat, or of what he's capable, and 6/1 looks about right with that double-edge imponderable in mind.
It's guesswork pretty much all the way down the field, with many aiming to convert good all weather form onto turf, and some aiming to show considerably more for a considerably longer trip. In the circumstances, I'm siding tentatively with Lovelocks, who does look to have plenty of scope to be fitter for her seasonal debut and better for the mile and a half distance. Captain Morley might be an interesting alternative.
Let's have a crack at the placepot, shall we? I'm going to do something rare, and play an A-C combination. That means we're looking to get an A selection placed in at least five of the races, or all six, with the C options only offering a single 'lifeline'. Hope that makes sense, and here goes:
1.45 - A: 8, 9 / C: 2, 4
2.15 - A: 2, 9
2.45 - A: 2, 9, 11, 15 / C: 1, 6, 7, 14
3.15 - A: 3, 8 / C: 10/13
3.50 - A: 7 / C: 1
4.25 - A: 6, 8 / C: 5, 7
The above part-perm, for 60p stakes on the first ticket, and 20p stakes on all others, comes to £102.40. Half that would be £51.20, and the William Hill 5p tickets would come to £25.60. Alternatively, just playing the A selections makes for 64 lines, which at 5p totals £3.20.
All A's - 2 x 2 x 4 x 2 x 1 x 2 = 64 bets
All A's and C's - 4 x 2 x 8 x 4 x 2 x 4 = 2048 bets (!)