A race established as far back as 1824, the Chester Cup carries with it so much history and prestige and is a major early-season target for a number of top yards.
As a £150,000 race we can expect this to be frenetic from the beginning, but the 2m2f trip will take some getting while a good draw is essential round here and as such we’ve managed to whittle the field down to these six candidates.
Mark Johnston’s four-year-old has been incredibly well backed for this since smashing the opposition in the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh on his reappearance, but there is just a possibility that the performance cannot be taken literally and even if it can he has an extra four furlongs to cover here.
That said he is well-in at the weights, is almost certain to stay and has close form with the likes of Ghostwatch, Just In Time and Soldier In Action at Goodwood, Ascot and Doncaster so it seems he is the real deal within the staying sphere.
Joe Fanning takes the ride here and from stall five he should have no problems getting a good early position.
Andrew Balding’s six-year-old is another one who appears to be ahead of the assessor with his latest run in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot very much advertising his current wellbeing.
That was a strong Group 3 event during which it became clear that to win you’d need to be up with the pace of winner Dee Ex Bee so in coming from the back and forging up the straight to good effect Cleonte showed himself to be in great heart.
He can improve on that again and is well and truly tried and tested in this sort of race. Silvestre De Sousa’s mount was a good winner of the Shergar Cup Stayers’ race last summer and a fine third in the Cesarewitch over this trip behind Low Sun who re-opposes here.
Cliffs Of Doneen
Having not got the run of the race last time at Kempton Park it seems there is plenty more to come from this ex-Aidan O’Brien horse, and with an inside draw connections must feel they have a major contender.
The son of Galileo is now trained by Ralph Beckett and could improve for the change of scenery, he’s a winner over two miles on what was only his second racecourse start at the Curragh last year and in time should prove to be better than the mark of 101 he currently has.
On his latter season form from last year Hughie Morrison’s eight-year-old wouldn’t stand a chance in this contest, but it must be remembered that he has finished third and second in this very race on his last two seasonal reappearances and on that alone he has to enter calculations.
Assuming he can run to a similar level to the last two times he’s contested the Chester Cup, off a mark 9lbs lower than 2017 and 8lbs lower than last year he stands a major chance of at least grabbing another place so if money was to come for him in the lead-up it should be noted carefully.
Another Mark Johnston four-year-old and another in with a shout. His success at Ripon two weeks ago over two miles has set him up just nicely for this but from stall 16 he has had his chances blunted rather.
With Chester specialist Franny Norton on board however he has every chance of bouncing out and getting a decent pitch in the race, a lot then coming down to what he has left in the tank as the race gets going in earnest which is the biggest question about him at this stage.
Ian Williams’ five-year-old makes the shortlist courtesy of his sixth in the Cesarewitch last term and the fact he has kept similar company to likely favourite Austrian School, though he’ll need to prove his flops over in Dubai were not representative of where he truly stands at this stage of his career.
Given Fun Mac’s record in this contest he looks a big price to grab a place, especially given how far he has fallen in the weights, while Austrian School’s chances are obvious following his easy win up at Musselburgh.
For all that though the true class act could prove to be this CLEONTE and off 101 he looks well treated to take this £92,000 first prize.