Friday , July 12 2024

Friday tips: Spirit Mixer fancied for Chester Cup crown | Racing News

At The Races’ James Flaherty on the flagship event at the Boodles May Festival, the historic Chester Cup – live on Sky Sports Racing on Friday.

Considering the importance of the draw at the Boodles May Festival, it is a little surprising that there is an even spread between low and high numbers among the recent winners of the Duke Of Westminster Supporting The Chester Cup.

As is the tendency in competitive handicaps, younger horses have come to the fore and 15 of the last 19 winners have been aged six or younger. If one was to be guided by that stat, it would rule out some fancied runners in this year’s renewal.

The cream has also risen to the top, with eight of the last 10 winners all carrying 9st or more (reduced to just three qualifiers this year however) and the last 16 winners all rated 92 or higher.

The ground is currently described as good and with little to no rain forecast, I expect it to ride as good ground at the very least, if nothing changes. Temperatures are set to get quite high on Thursday and Friday, too.

Let’s take a look at every runner for the 2024 renewal of the Chester Cup, live on Sky Sports Racing at 3.40pm on Friday.

Falcon Eight (drawn 15)

Oisin Orr | Dermot Weld

Dermot Weld’s nine-year-old is a regular in this contest, having run in the race three times previously. He won this at the first attempt in 2021 under Frankie Dettori. That came off a mark of 104, but he was unable to repeat off 109 and 108 since. He finished last season well, running a cracker in the Irish Cesarewitch to finish a slightly unlucky second behind Magellan Strait, and then won a Group 3 in his final start.

Magellan Strait (2)

William Buick | Joseph O’Brien

This son of Australia boasts an excellent strike-rate with four wins from his 11 starts. He is unexposed over staying distances after just five attempts, winning his last two – including a win in the Irish Cesarewitch from Falcon Eight. He is 8lb higher, but he looks progressive, and both of those wins came off a short break. The fact that he has been off since January wouldn’t be a concern.

The Shunter (13)

Ben Coen | Emmet Mullins

Ben Coen will take the ride on The Shunter
Ben Coen will take the ride on The Shunter

A winner of the Cesarewitch at Newmarket on his last Flat start, he bids for consecutive staying Flat handicap successes here. He will have to do so off a 6lb higher mark, which makes life considerably tougher and as an 11-year-old, it is hard to suggest that he is progressive. He is lightly raced on the flat though as a counter argument. Connections ensure he must be respected, but I thought that was the main reason for his position towards the head of the market.

Citizen General (9)

Clifford Lee | Ed Dunlop

Citizen General has been progressive in the last 12 months or so, with three handicap wins to his name in that time. That has resulted in him shooting up the ratings, from 75 in the first of those to a current rating of 95. When he does win he tends to be impressive, as seen in Kempton in February. He has two wins from just seven starts on turf and is yet to try staying distances away from the all-weather. The better the ground, the more chance he has.

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Spirit Mixer (17)

Callum Hutchinson | Andrew Balding

He had a brilliant 2022, going from a rating of 79 to 100 including three wins on the bounce and a couple of good efforts in defeat. He has had an interrupted run since, only running once the following year. His couple of efforts this year have been disappointing, but it means he has quickly dropped to a mark of 94.

That looks attractive as he was second in the Northumberland Plate off 97 and wasn’t that far away in a Newmarket handicap at the July meeting next time after a 3lb rise. He was very impressive here when winning last May and even though he is unraced beyond two miles, he shapes as though he will stay. Connections have reached for cheekpieces too.

Emiyn (7)

Zak Wheatley | Declan Carroll

Emiyn is something of a course specialist, with three wins and three places from nine starts here. He has enjoyed a particularly successful partnership with Zak Wheatley, with the 5lb claimer on board for two of those victories and a second from the three times he has ridden him here. The wins here have come on ground with soft in the description, but he has placed efforts on better ground. He is 5lb above his highest winning mark, but he was second off this mark here last September.

Zanndabad (10)

Richard Kingscote | Tony Martin

Relatively untested at the distance on the Flat, having only raced beyond 12 furlongs a couple of times. His run at York over two miles wouldn’t suggest he was crying out for this, and I have some stamina concerns. He finished midfield on that occasion and will need more to be competitive here off the same mark.

Solent Gateway (5)

Saffie Osborne | Hugo Palmer

A horse that has very much been a favourite of mine over the last few years. He has dropped 1lb below his last winning mark from a year ago and looks feasibly treated generally off a mark of 92. His two runs this year leave him with plenty to find though as they have been disappointing. A first-time visor is reached for in an attempt to spark him into life and it will need to make a big impact based on what he has shown this season.

Aztec Empire (4)

Oisín Murphy | Andrew Balding

Oisin Murphy renews his partnership with Aztec Empire (left)
Oisín Murphy renews his partnership with Aztec Empire (left)

One of the less-exposed runners in the field after just 11 starts and the market clearly expects him to have a big chance. He had two wins early last year and then ran three big races in defeat last summer when placing in staying handicaps. The third behind Sweet William and Novel Legend at Newbury looks particularly strong form and off a 2lb higher mark he would be closely matched with the latter who reopposes here.

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Zealandia (11)

Jim Crowley | Ian Williams

He is a horse that has excelled since stepping up to 1m 6f plus since August 2023. He was only fifth over course and distance in the middle of a promising run of form, but posted wins at Goodwood and Newcastle. The form of the Newcastle win when he pulled clear with Enemy worked out well and off a 4lb higher mark here he certainly can’t be ruled out.

Aqwaam (6)

Franny Norton | Ian Williams

Another for Ian Williams who loves having runners (and indeed winners) at Chester. Ridden by Roodee specialist Franny Norton, he must be respected given his connections alone. Like many in this contest, he has enjoyed a good spell in the recent past, winning three times since November. He’s another that has enjoyed the step up in distance.

Zoffee (1)

Harry Davies | Hugo Palmer

Zoffee was a close second in the race last year but seems to have lost his way a little in recent starts. It means he returns off a 3lb lower mark and it’s his first run since re-joining Hugo Plamer after a brief spell with Olly Murphy. He has other excellent efforts in big staying handicaps on the Flat, including a Northumberland Plate victory two years ago and a fourth in the Cesarewitch later that year. He was also a close sixth at Royal Ascot last term, off a mark of 95 and if he returns to form, he would have a chance based on any of those efforts.

Duke Of Oxford (16)

David Egan | Michael Bell

He is another who has only had 11 career starts. He is undoubtedly unexposed but the one concern would be that all four of his career wins have come on the all-weather and he has disappointed in both of his turf starts to date. I don’t think that concern is factored into his price and while there may have been excuses for both, he isn’t as high on my shortlist as he is on those setting the markets.

Too Friendly (8)

Silvestre De Sousa | James Owen

He has mostly been campaigned over hurdles in his career to date and remains unexposed in this discipline after just seven starts on the Flat, with six of those coming over shorter trips. His only attempt at a staying distance on the Flat resulted in a win at Kempton. There could be more to come from a 4lb higher mark.

Forza Orta (3)

Rowan Scott | Kevin Ryan

Steadily progressive rather than anything more than that but he did beat Aztec Empire at York last year. He had Solent Gateway and Zanndabad further back on that occasion and is just 3lb higher here, which is fair. On that form there should be little between them again and perhaps their prices don’t quite reflect that.

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The Grand Visir (14)

Joe Fanning | Ian Williams

The veteran has been a near constant figure in similar contests for several years now. He was second in this very race in 2021 off a mark of 103. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then though, falling short by more in the last two renewals. One has to go back to 2019 for his last win. He can often run into a place at a big price though, but others preferred.

Grand Providence (12)

Hayley Turner | Andrew Balding

This lightly-raced filly boasts a healthy strike-rate with three wins and four places from her 10 starts. She would be my preference of those near the top of the market, with plenty in her favour. She has won at this trip, has progressed pretty much with each run and caught the eye on her recent run which looked like a lovely prep for a bigger target.

James’ verdict…

This is a race that I wouldn’t have the best of records in over the years. I think this an exceptionally open renewal and could make some sort of case for virtually all of the runners. I do have a suspicion that some of those at the top of the market are vulnerable, however, and I will certainly be looking for some value. As mentioned above, of the fancied horses, Grand Providence would be my preference.

At the prices though, the one I am most drawn to is Spirit Mixer, who despite obvious risks attached in terms of blowout potential, is easy to make a case for on his best form. We have seen little of him over the past 18 months and there is a chance that he just isn’t the same horse, but I think it has been exaggerated in his price.

He returns to a track that he has run well at on both previous visits, including an impressive win off just 4lb lower. His second to Trueshan in the Northumberland Plate is up there with the best form available and he is 3lb lower than that effort. In a wide-open contest, I think he is just too big at 33/1 and worthy of a small interest.

Watch every race of the Boodles May Festival live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 519)

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