2018 Chester Cup Preview

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Chester is one of Britain’s most-loved racecourses and the stands will be packed-out for the 2018 renewal of the Chester Cup, which takes place on Friday May 11th. Our ante-post betting market is already live, so let’s take a look at some of the runners in this wide-open contest.

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Who Dares Wins (IRE)

Age: 6 (Foaled May 6th, 2012), Sex: Bay Gelding, Breeding: Jeremy (USA) – Savignano (Polish Precedent (USA)), Trainer: A King, Owner: Hp Racing Who Dares Wins

Alan King’s charge is the current favourite for this on account of his decent 4th place in this race last year and he has proved himself a top-class handicapper since first coming on the scene as a 2-year-old. He rattled up 5 wins in 2015, 3 on the flat and 2 over hurdles.

A couple more victories followed in 2016, making him a great prospect for this event last year. He was sent off 2nd-favourite and made headway a furlong out, but even though he was running on at the finish Who Dares Wins was unable to reach the leaders. He then ran in the Ascot Stakes and led a furlong from home, but was caught one-paced in a race won by Willie Mullins’ Thomas Hobson and finished a very creditable 3rd.

From there he went back to Chester for the Chester Stakes (run over a trip that looked too short for him) and he could finish only 10th. He was back to a more suitable distance of 2m 2f in the Cesarewitch Trial and he won well – beating Coeur De Lion. In the Cesarewitch itself, he initially tracked the leaders but couldn’t their pace and faded inside the final furlong to finish 10th – 14 lengths behind the winner.

He has had 3 runs over the sticks, including a run in the Pertemps Final where he led approaching the last but finished 5th. His final run was at Aintree, last month, where he was 3rd to Jester Jet. Who Dares Wins should be ready for this and connections will be looking to improve on last season’s effort.

Magic Circle (IRE)

Age: 6 (Foaled May 1st, 2012), Sex: Bay Gelding, Breeding: Makfi – Minkova (IRE) (Sadler’s Wells (USA)), Trainer: Ian Williams, Owner: Dr Marwan Koukash

If there’s one owner who likes a winner at Chester it’s Marwan Koukash and the race he wants to win, every year, is the Chester Cup. He has tasted victory in it 3 times, most-recently in 2014 with Suegioo and this year his first colours will be carried by Magic Circle.

He bought this horse out of Ralph Beckett’s stable in April and sent him to Ian Williams to get him ready, specifically for this race. The horse was a prolific winner, as a 3-year-old, winning 4 out of 5 that year but found it harder work as a 4-year-old and only secured one victory. Last year, Magic Circle ran in this race and finished 5th. Given an unfortunate draw (18), highly-significant at Chester with its tight turns, he actually made headway towards the finish and was staying on.

He then went to Ascot, for the Ascot Stakes, but faded 2 furlongs out and finished 7th. Magic Circle soon put that poor run behind him at York, in the Ebor meeting, getting home in front of My Reward in a strong 2-mile handicap. He ran 3 days later in the Ebor itself, running very creditably to finish 5th.

He raced mid-division that day and when put under pressure could find no more, in the final furlong. For his final race, he was sent to Newmarket for the Cesarewitch and found himself under pressure 4 furlongs out – eventually finishing a disappointing 13th. However, if he has wintered well then he might just give Koukash his 4th winner in this prestigious contest.

Time To Study (FR)

Age: 4 (Foaled February 11th, 2014), Sex: Chestnut Colt, Breeding: Motivator – Dissertation (FR) (Sillery (USA)), Trainer: M Johnston, Owner: Mr Abdulla Al Mansoori

This French-bred chestnut colt launched his racing career in eye-catching style, winning as a 2-year-old at Carlisle in September of 2016. He made all that day and kept on exceptionally well at the finish. Time To Study then ran second, at Lingfield, before scoring at Chelmsford City on the all-weather in November – again making all over 1m 2f and beating Peaceful Passage, easily.

In his first race as a 3-year-old, he ran into Defoe in the London Gold Cup at Newbury but kept on well to take 3rd. This was a good performance and Time To Study built on that by winning the Edinburgh Cup at Musselburgh – beating Alabaster by a head after being left out in front, 3 furlongs from the finish. From there he went to Ascot for the Queen’s Vase and was leading, until the 4f pole. He was still in with a shout, a furlong out, but wandered in the home straight and finished 5th.

2 runs in a week at Haydock and Doncaster brought a 3rd then a 1st place in the Mallard Trophy at Doncaster, where he took up the running 2 furlongs from home and held on from Byron Flyer. He didn’t run to form, in the Cesarewitch next time out, but this was his first try at such a long distance.

In his final 2017 outing he dropped back to 1m 5f and disposed of his rivals using front-running tactics, once again. This year he has had a run over 1m 6f, in heavy going in the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh, going down by just a neck to Brandon Castle despite giving that horse 5lbs.

The extra distance on the Roodee should not be a problem for him and with a good draw he should be able to employ his front running tactics, successfully.

Stargazer (IRE)

Age: 5 (Foaled February 26th, 2013), Sex: Bay Gelding, Breeding: Canford Cliffs (IRE) – Star Ruby (IRE) (Rock Of Gibraltar (IRE)), Trainer: P A Kirby, Owner: Zoe Hassall & George Hassall & P Kirby

Adam Kirby’s lightly-raced charge is only a 5-year-old and has run just 8 times in his career with 2 victories. He has been placed a further 4 times. Stargazer ran 3 times as a 2-year-old and his best performance was probably when he finished 2nd behind Paris Protocol, at Salisbury in September of 2015.

The following season he won his maiden first time out at Sandown, beating Lovell over 1m 2f. He then went to the Glorious Goodwood meeting and raced in a handicap, where he was sent-off as favourite but was just beaten into 3rd place in a driving finish by You’re Hired. Following this, Sir Michael Stoute stepped him up in trip to 1m 4f at Ascot in September.

He again went into the stalls as favourite, but was badly hampered 2 furlongs out and then did not get a clear run (finished 5th). Afterwards, the horse was gelded and not seen on a racecourse during 2017. Stargazer then left Stoute’s yard and joined Adam Kirby, who has been racing him on all-weather surfaces and over distances of 2 miles or more. In his first effort at Newcastle, he was held-up at the rear of the field and did put in a decent challenge over the final furlong but was just held by American Gigolo.

10 days later, he ran at the same course, over a shorter trip. The horse was positioned well to take on Island Brave, but was impeded by a loose horse close to home. Stargazer went first past the post by just a nose, though was demoted to runner-up. Hold-up tactics are unlikely to bear fruit at Chester and he will need to be ridden closer to the pace to have any real chance.

Watersmeet

Age: 7 (Foaled February 6th, 2011), Sex: Grey Gelding, Breeding: Dansili – Under The Rainbow (Fantastic Light (USA)), Trainer: M Johnston, Owner: Mr J Barson

This striking grey 7-year-old gelding has had 43 races under rules during his career, with 13 wins – 11 of which were on the all-weather. His first victory was in July 2014 at Haydock Park, over 1m 2f. Watersmeet had a 7-month break after his first season and when he came back as a 4-year-old he rattled up a treble on artificial surfaces over distances between 1m 2f and 1m 4f.

His only other victory that year was over 1m 4f at Newmarket, in a Class 2 Handicap. In 2016, he had 3 successes on the all-weather – one at a distance of 1m 6f in December so Mark Johnston stepped him up in trip to 2 miles plus at the beginning of 2017. The Dansili gelding had 4 races on the all-weather, winning one, before running in this race last year and finishing 6th (less than 3 lengths behind the winner, Montaly). Following a 5-month break, he was next seen in the Cesarewitch but ran poorly and was sweating heavily before the off.

Watersmeet finished the season with a 2nd and a 3rd. The horse came out in the New Year and ran up a quick treble, before running in the All-Weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes.

He was 3rd that day, beaten a neck by two rivals who mugged him on the line. Watersmeet has 13 wins under his belt and should be a factor, in the Chester Cup.

Nakeeta

Age: 7 (Foaled March 2nd, 2011), Sex: Bay Gelding, Breeding: Sixties Icon – Easy Red (Hunting Lion (IRE)), Trainer: I Jardine, Owner: Alex & Janet Card And Atb Ltd

Nakeeta has climbed steadily up the rankings since his first race in 2013 as a 2-year-old, although he had a somewhat inauspicious start to his career – managing just one place in his first 6 outings. However, he broke his duck at Pontefract in July 2014 by beating Kinema half a length over 10 furlongs.

Nakeeta won again in September of that year, this time over 11 furlongs, beating Rockawango comfortbly. The Sixties Icon-sired gelding had one more run, at Beverley, but was hampered at the start and finished 3rd out of 4.

The 7-year-old was then put away until May 2015 and then had a busy campaign – having 10 starts and winning just 2, although one of those victories came in the Old Borough Cup over 1m 6f. In 2016 he raced 7 times, but wins remained elusive. Come 2017 he was brought here for his first race of the season and could finish only 10th. Perhaps the contest came too soon for him as he was much better when running 2nd to Dal Harraild at York’s Dante meeting at the end of May?

He was then 4th at Headquarters, before winning at The Ebor at York – holding off Flymetothestars in a thrilling finish. Then Nakeeta was sent to Australia for the Melbourne Cup, where he ran a really creditable 5th to Rekindling. He has it in his locker to be a contender here.

Dubawi Fifty

Age: 5 (Foaled April 6th, 2013), Sex: Bay Gelding, Breeding: Dubawi (IRE) – (Sadler’s Wells (USA)), Trainer: Karen McLintock, Owner: Paul & Clare Rooney

Originally trained by James Tate, this horse moved to Karen McLintock’s stables after being gelded in October 2016. He had just one run for Tate, finishing last at Chelmsford. After this he had 5 outings on the all-weather at Newcastle with one victory over 2 miles. In 2017, he was sent to Ayr for the Parkdean Resorts Handicap and carrying 9st 10lbs romped home – beating Tor by a length and a half.

From here, he progressed to a Class 3 contest, the Colwick Cup Handicap at Nottingham and again showed his worth – getting home by a neck from Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Quloob in a closely-fought finish. This was an excellent performance, which inevitably pushed him up the handicap.

The Dubawi-sired gelding has been competing on the all-weather this year and in his first race at Newcastle he won by a head. Next up, at Wolverhampton and over 2 miles, he beat Gwafa easily after going off as the warm favourite.

His final race, prior to the Chester Cup, was in March back at Newcastle where he ran 3rd behind American Gigolo and Stargazer. His form on the all-weather this year has encouraged McLintock to aim him at this hot 2m 2f encounter.

Dominating (GER)

Age: 4 (Foaled March 9th, 2014), Sex: Chestnut Gelding, Breeding: Jukebox Jury (IRE) – Dominante (GER) (Monsun (GER)), Trainer: M Johnston, Owner: Mr A D Spence

This big chestnut gelding has had plenty of experience, under trainer Mark Johnston, having 6 races as a 2-year-old all at around a mile – winning the last one on the all-weather at Kempton.

Dominating then embarked on his 3-year-old career, after a 6-month break, at Goodwood over 1m 2f – finishing down the field. Johnston then stepped him up to 1m 4f but he was beaten again at York. His trainer decided that the horse needed even further and that proved the making of him.

The Jukebox Jury-sired gelding’s first race at 1m 6f at Nottingham was a revelation and he won by 4 lengths from Plage Depampelonne. Dominating was then sent to Sandown and and crushed a good field that included Look My Way and Oxford Blu. After running 2nd to Zenon at Haydock, in a Class 2 contest, he went to Musselburgh and tackled 2m for the first time – beating Yes Daddy with plenty in-hand.

Following this victory, he had a race on the all-weather at Kempton (finishing 2nd) before going to York in August for the Melrose Handicap where he failed to perform. Then, back at 2m, he was denied by Tor who won by a nose at Musselburgh so it was back to the all-weather and another narrow defeat before a run at Ascot in the Gordon Carter Handicap where Dominating won handsomely – beating Altaayil.

After running down the field at York, he went to Pontefract and tried 2m 2f for the first time. Johnston’s inmate defeated Suegioo, an ex-Chester Cup winner. This year he has had one prep run in April, after a 6 month break, finishing last to Mirsaale at Ripon. A useful-looking horse, but also one that lacks consistency.

Act Of Valour

Age: 4 (Foaled April 17th, 2014), Sex: Bay Gelding, Breeding: Harbour Watch (IRE) – (Event of the Year (USA)), Trainer: P F Nicholls, Owner: McNeill Family

A very well-built 4-year-old gelding that trainer, Paul Nicholls, thinks a lot of. He was brought over from Ireland, from M. D. O’Callaghan’s stable in November last year, after running 9 times over there on the flat and winning once.

After a 3-month break, for schooling, his first outing for Nicholls was hurdling at Newcastle where he ran out a fine winner after getting the better of Look My Way over 2 miles.

He then ran poorly at Doncaster and was 5th of 6 in a race won by We Have A Dream. Act Of Valour then came up against the same rival again in a Listed Race (a Triumph Hurdle Trial), but this time he ran him much closer and finished runner-up. That run secured his place at Cheltenham, in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, where he ran 9th – 16 lengths behind the winner Veneer Of Charm, after having every chance and finding no extra.

Since then, the 4-year-old has won at Fakenham, beating Pacific De Baune over 2 miles, and was then 5th to Ballymoy at Sandown in April. Act Of Valour looks to have a decent chance, based on his best form.

Harry Fry

American Gigolo

Age: 6 (Foaled April 22nd, 2012), Sex: Bay Gelding, Breeding: Azamour (IRE) – Sadie Thompson (IRE) (King’s Best (USA)), Trainer: H Fry, Owner: Mr D A Olver

This 6 year old was previously trained by Charlie Mann and won twice for him, firstly at Wincanton over just under 2 miles in a National Hunt Flat Race. He then picked-up a victory at Kempton last May in a Novices’ Hurdle, beating New Agenda after taking the lead over the last 75 yards.

In October of last year, he was transferred to Harry Fry’s yard and had his first run for 6 months for his new trainer at Ascot in another Novices’ Hurdle. American Gigolo ran second to Dell Oro and was unable to quicken, after the last flight. A week later, he had a wind operation and was not seen out again until January of this year on the all-weather at Lingfield.

This time he was beaten just a head, by Fearsome, but he certainly came good after that and won 3 on the trot on the all-weather at Lingfield, Kempton and Newcastle. His last run, prior to this race, was at Musselburgh in the Queens Cup Handicap. The Azamour gelding ran 4th that day and was beaten by Brandon Castle, in heavy going.

The 6-year-old was going well, before running out of gas in the final furlong. Fry will hope for and expect better ground and American Gigolo should find friends in the market if the trainer gets his wish.

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