It's imperative to be well drawn in Wednesday's Chester Cup and our main selection ticks that particular box.
The Chester May Festival gets under way on Wednesday afternoon and the undoubted feature on day one is the Betway sponsored Chester Cup over 2m2f (due off 3.10pm).
Its drawn a field of 17 and they are headed by Irish raider Quick Jack. The six-year-old is a very useful dual purpose horse who ran third in the Cesarewitch behind Big Easy when last seen out on the flat last October, and he arrives here on the back of third place in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham. With Richard Hughes booked to ride and his liking for some cut in the ground proven (the meeting will start on “good to soft”), he looks a worthy favourite.
However, the fact this has not been a particularly good race for favourites – just two have obliged this millennium – and an iffy draw in stall nine makes me inclined to look elsewhere for the winner, and the one that makes most appeal is BUTHELEZI. The Brian Ellison-trained seven-year-old looks an ideal type for the race as he likes to be ridden prominently and stays this trip well. He made all when winning at Musselburgh last time on soft ground and it would be no surprise to see similar tactics used around this tight circuit. The handicapper has raised to him to a new mark of 94, but he was rated much higher when with John Gosden and is clearly at the peak of his powers.
Form and handicap ratings can go out the window at this track know if you are not well drawn with a low number pretty much essential in all races, including this two-mile contest – six of the last ten winners were drawn in stall five or lower and backing them would have yielded a level-stakes profit of £22. Crucially then, the selection will exit from stall four under his regular pilot Ben Curtis, whose form figures on him read 52121. With his stable in cracking form – four winners under both codes on Saturday – everything is in place for a big run and he looks overpriced at 14/1 with bet365.
Local businessman and owner Dr Marwan Koukash loves having winners at Chester and he instructs his trainers to ready his horses for this meeting. Indeed, he’s won the Chester Cup for the last two years and he has four runners this time around. They include last year’s winner and runner-up, Suegioo and Angel Gabrial, who look to have plenty of weight, Gabrial’s Star and Gabrial’s King – Gabrial is the name of his son, in case you were wondering. The latter made an eye-catching reappearance when second at Ripon last month and has a nice draw in stall three, so he might do best of the quartet.
The other interesting runner is the Ian Williams-trained DESTRUCT, who is making his stable / British debut having been trained in France, where he won three of his five starts. The last of those came in Listed company and, while the handicapper has perhaps erred on the side of caution in allotting him an initial mark of 100, he could still be a few pounds better than that. His trainer won the 2008 Chester Cup with 33/1 shot Bulwark and Kieren Fallon is an interesting jockey booking. He’s not as well drawn as Buthelezi in stall eight but, even so, I can’t resist adding him to the staking plan.