This Flat season has been awesome for Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden, and after the Guineas with the season in full swing, thoughts now turn to Epsom with a big week of trials for the Oaks and the Derby at Chester’s Boodles May Festival, a good course to trial speed and flexibility given the tight nature of the oval.
The Cheshire Oaks (2.25) has gone to Ballydoyle in five of the last seven years so it’s no surprise that Alluringly is favourite following her impressive maiden win on return when stepped up in trip from her two year old days. She appeared to have more left that day having gone best so if she was to improve for this step up in trip it would be no surprise but this is obviously a far tougher assignment compared to what was a relatively weak maiden and there’s a feeling she’s too short already.
The form of Enable, who was caught for toe behind the taking Oaks second favorite and stablemate Shutter Speed on her return at Newbury, is stronger to begin with and her claims are very taking especially given that John Gosden’s string have taken major steps forward from their seasonal returns to boot. She was a head behind the 110 rated Raheen House whilst six lengths ahead of Temple Church, rated 96 at the time.
This is a deeper trial than it looks on the surface however and there’s plenty of decent form about. Rich Legacy needed a mile to be seen at her best last year and then she took the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in gutsy style, travelling best but finding plenty to hold off her opposition. She was fourth in the Fillies Mile afterwards and beaten 10 lengths but the winner of that race is now favourite for the Oaks, the second had beaten the 1,000 Guineas winner in their trial reappearance and Urban Fox, in third, had been second in the Fred Darling. She can be forgiven a poor run at Saint-Cloud at the end of last season that came on soft ground and it would be no surprise if she ran well.
Tanshlopan made a promising start to life last season, winning nicely at Nottingham and then running well when third in the Montrose. She has more to offer surely and so does Argenterie, who was hampered at the start in the Rockfel Stakes but who was a good winner before that, having been third to Rohodnendron on her debut at Goodwood.
The Chester Cup (3.35) has been all about Who Dares Wins, who will be a familiar face to readers here having finished third in the Coral Cup at the end of a successful season over jumps. Having not gone this far often in the flat, he ought to go well here although following the articulation of several more persuasive cases than this he is now short at 5/1.
There are others who have similarly persuasive claims and one of them is Golden Spear, who beat Nakeeta in the Premier Handicap after finishing fifth in the Cesarewitch on the flat before then finishing fourth in the Ladbroke and a close third in the Coral Hurdle. Whilst perhaps not as well in as the favourite, fit from a fine season over the hurdles, he can go well under Ryan Moore with plenty of pace to his inside.
Sea Of Heaven wants to break well from 14 but if she does then she must be given a fine chance, having been third in the Cesarewitch. The Cashel Man was just behind her and has ever chance although he wants everything to go his way given his very strong staying powers.
From the inside, Blakeney Point fought to go well although it would be a surprise if this race went half as well for him as it had done at Kempton when he was impressive. Watersmeet is well treated based on his second in the AW Final but hasn’t run on turf for a couple of years. This track will suit his style if he’s able to repeat his recent runs.
One who has contracted in price from this morning but still appeals as being value is Sir Chauvealin, who has run well on both starts this season, enjoying the step up to 2 miles, especially when a good second at Ripon in the same handicap used as a springboard to victory in 2012 and 2015 with the 2014 runner up also prominent there.
He was held to far off a moderate gallop that day but there will be no such issue today given the bigger field and frontrunners in attendance and the recent run into a hot streak for Jim Goldie suggests his chance can be upgraded.
In the Lily Agnes, Big Time Maybe (1.50) makes the most form appeal having travelled like the winner for much of his debut at Bath, when he got nailed on the line by a subsequent next time out winner. That form is stronger than both the first two in the market but it comes with the worst of the draw and perhaps he’s been given about the right price at 11/2.
El Astronaute deserves favouritism in the Boodles Diamond Handicap (3.00) given the game nature of his win over Majestic Hero, a winner since who reopposes here, and a 2lbs rise for that effort is entirely fair. On good ground at this trip he takes the beating and there’s lots to like about stall 1 given that only one horse drawn higher than 4 has won this race in the last eight years. Taexali ran well in Listed company recently and has had a good start to this flat season proper so can go well whilst Blithe Spirit is on a good mark but he’s not well drawn at all.
After the ITV viewers have switched to The Professionals – a highly underrated show if I might say so – Chester racegoers have a fine three year old handicap to look forward to. Seven of the runners have won this season but Stradivarius was by far the most impressive; Although he is 7/4 accordingly and there is no great appetite to take him on.
Nothing appears to be particularly clear cut in the Deepbridge Capital Maiden Stakes (4.35) and whilst Gin In The Inn is infront of the handicapper, he is not infront of the market at 2/1.
2.25 Chester – 1 pt each/way Rich Legacy (8/1 general)
3.35 Chester – 1 pt each/way Golden Spear (15/2 general, 8/1 SkyBet *6 places)
3.35 Chester – 1 pt each/way Sir Chauvelin (18/1 SkyBet*, 6 places, 20/1 Bet365)
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