Ian Williams is mob-handed as he goes in search of a third success in the Tote+ Chester Cup on Friday.
Williams first won the two-mile-two-furlong handicap in 2008 with Bulwark and then repeated the dose 10 years later when Magic Circle obliged in the hands of Fran Berry.
Both of those winners came in the colours of Dr Marwan Koukash and the owner is again represented amongst Williams’ quartet with Reshoun, who is only 1lb higher than when landing the Ascot Stakes as a 66-1 shot at last summer’s Royal meeting.
Reshoun holds an ideal draw in stall three, but Williams states the start will be crucial for the eight-year-old and told Chester racecourse: “He is a little bit of a monkey Reshoun.
“He won at Royal Ascot last year and he comes back to the Chester Cup on a fair mark. The important thing with Reshoun is to get out of the stalls. His whole race is predominantly around how he comes out of the stalls.”
However, the handler’s best chance could well be last year’s runner-up The Grand Visir. He is 2lb lower this time around and went on to run some fine races in defeat at Group and Listed level last summer.
He continued: “The Grand Visir was second in the race last year. I was a little bit concerned that he wasn’t quite fit enough to be at his best that day and he ran an absolute stormer. He then went onto run well at Royal Ascot.
“He would be in good nick this year, probably where we would want him. He recently had a little blow out at Wolverhampton, and he’s come out of that well. I’m looking forward to seeing him at Chester.”
The Grand Visir proved no match for comfortable winner Falcon Eight 12 months ago and the defending champion returns off a 5lb higher rating, with Frankie Dettori booked to ride once again.
Beaten less than a length in a Grade Two hurdle last time, it is no surprise to see Dermot Weld’s Irish raider towards the top of the market, although heading the betting is Solent Gateway, who hopes to cap Hugo Palmer’s first Chester May Festival in the hot-seat at Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables in style.
Ben Curtis has been booked to ride the course winner.
Palmer said: “We’re excited by his chances and if he could win that would be incredible. He’s going to need plenty of luck and a good ride and he has to prove he stays as well. He definitely wants further than the mile and a half he ran over last time, but this is another six furlongs so he definitely has to prove he stays.”
The Classic-winning handler is also represented by Rajinksy, who carries a 3lb penalty for his recent Ripon win and has talented apprentice Harry Davies in the place.
Cleveland was fifth in Listed company at Naas on his reappearance and Aidan O’Brien’s inmate now takes a significant step up in trip on just his fifth career start.
The Ballydoyle trained told Sky Sports Racing: “We liked him a lot as a two-year-old, (but) he had a little bit of a setback and didn’t get to run last year.
“We looked for a race to start him in this year and the only race we had was a mile-and-a-quarter Listed race in Naas. He ran very well and looked like a horse that would stay further.
“He’s in off a nice mark. Obviously this is a lot further, but we’ll learn a lot about him and he will learn a lot as well.
“We’ll have an idea of where to go with him after this, but we’ve been very happy with him since his run at Naas.”
He is joined in the line-up by fellow raider Arcadian Sunrise, who represents John Queally. The eight-year-old was a winner during the Ebor Festival at York last summer, but his handler would be content with a place this time around.
“Its a competitive race and we will be hoping for a good run and to collect a bit of prize money, that’s all you can hope for. He won nicely at York, but that’s a totally different track, the way he’s ridden he’ll need a good bit of luck in running. If we can hit the frame, we’d be happy with that,” said the Irishman.
Land Of Winter and track winner It’s Good To Laugh both scored on their final outings of 2021 and are two at bigger odds who may fancy their chances of causing an upset, as is Shaun Lycett’s Torcello, with the Gloucestershire handler hoping the booking of Franny Norton can work the oracle.
“We’ve got the Chester wizard on board, he’s well and we’ll just jump out make the running and see how far we go. We’re stepping into unknown territory a little bit, but he stayed very well at Goodwood. We could do with a little bit more rain probably, he likes it soft, but we’ll go there and enjoy the day,” said Lycett.
“I don’t think its beyond his realms, it’s a glorified 0-102 if you take the top horse out, so I’m very pleased with him, he’s done well over the winter and looks very strong.
“We’re looking forward to the day, hopefully he can get out in front and enjoy himself. Franny knows the place better than anyone and let’s hope we’ve still got some more improvement to come.”