Tony Calvin returns with his thoughts and best bets for the first day of Chester's May Meeting including a fancy in the Cheshire Oaks...
"She never got into the race in Lah Ti Dar’s maiden win at Newbury last time but I thought she stuck on well enough from the pace there, and it could be significant that Stoute has put a visor on her for the first time."
I say this every year when Chester's May meeting comes around. It's not really my betting cup of tea, as you have to juggle the prospect of under-priced, well-drawn horses against the overpriced ones with outside berths.
Not an ideal scenario. Still, let's get stuck into the card and see what occurs.
Gingersdunthelot could go well at a huge price
The Lily Agnes at 13:50, is a classic case of the "dilemma" mentioned above as the likes of Lady Prancealot, Arthur's Spirit and Kinks would be a damn sight shorter in the betting if they weren't drawn eight, 10 and 11 respectively - and, yes, I know I am stating the bleeding obvious - and that leaves the other form and time-figure horse, No Lippy, in the driving seat from four.
But if she misses the kick, it is game on for everyone - including the Tom Dascombe trio - and the most interesting one here is arguably Gingersdunthelot from stall one.
Yes, he finished last of 11 at Kempton last time, but he showed a lot of early dash there and at Doncaster on his debut, and connections obviously feel first-time cheekpieces will help him see his race out better. And he is an enormous price too, with the first firm to price up making him a 100/1 poke.
But, on balance, you can easily let races like these pass.
Stoute may have the answer to Oaks puzzle
The Cheshire Oaks at 14:25, is also full of question marks, especially with Aidan O'Brien - the trainer has won five of the last 10 renewals, and his Alluringly was taking on the impossible in Enable last year - saddling three, and Ryan Moore riding the filly with comfortably the least impressive form credentials.
But all three have the pedigrees to shine - the two maidens, including Moore's mount Magic Wand, a full-sister to the fast-ground Irish Oaks winner Chicquita, are by Galileo - and the rest of the field is full of unexposed winners and maidens.
It initially looked a minefield to me - for example, Magic Wand was a 25/1 shot before Moore was confirmed, though what bookmakers were doing pricing the race up is beyond me - and something of a complete guess-up, with such unexposed winners as Kinaesthesia, from the in-form Ralph Beckett yard, also in the line-up.
But I am willing to throw a big-price, small-stakes dart at the race in the shape of Sir Michael Stoute's Hazarfiya at [15.0] or bigger.
She is a Fastnet Rock half-sister to Derby winner Harzand, and I think she has shaped far better than it appears in her two starts to date.
She never got into the race in Lah Ti Dar's maiden win at Newbury last time but I thought she stuck on well enough from the pace there, and it could be significant that Stoute has put a visor on her for the first time.
He uses this option sparingly but to decent effect - he is 23 from 151 since 2006 - and hopefully it will sharpen the filly up. The better ground may bring about improvement, too.
It's a punt but this doesn't look a great race.
Chester Vase tough to solve
The Chester Vase at 15:35, also has a very similar feel to it, with O'Brien chucking Hunting Horn, Flag Of Honour and Family Tree into the mix. And, as he has won the last five runnings of this race, and all of those winners went off favourite, his runners have to be treated with the utmost respect.
But your guess is as good as mine as to which of his trio is the best, let alone with improvers with the form credentials of Proschema and Dee Exe Be in the race - and I haven't even mentioned Sandown Classic Trial runner-up Ispolini and impressive Newbury maiden winner Young Rascal - so I have to sit this one out, too.
It looks an absolute nightmare to solve.
Last Page can make the most of plum draw
The only other ITV race on the card is the 5f handicap at 15:00, so obviously it gets a lot easier here!
I'm not going to lie to you, the race is about as attractive as watching any American sport, and the one rule we have in this column is that if I am not willing to risk my own money, then you can be damn sure I am not going to tip for the sake of it. I'm happy to leave that to others.
I won't dip outside of my terrestrial brief but among the RUK-only races Last Page has a big chance from the plum draw - and he has a hold-up horse on his immediate outside - in the 6f handicap at 16:35.
In fact, the handicapper has given him a massive chance as well, dropping him 11lb for three perfectly good runs this season, and I am struggling to get my head around that generosity, to be honest with you. He has won once, and has barely been beaten more than two lengths in the other two races.
This is a horse that was only beaten just over three lengths in a Windsor Castle five starts ago, a race that worked out really well with the likes of James Garfield in front of him and Another Batt and Corinthia Knight in behind.
He has enough early dash to get a prominent pitch, though I like the angle of him stepping up a furlong after his fourth over 5f at Sandown last time. I thought he would be a bigger price, though I suppose that is wishful thinking for a horse drawn one. The Betfair Sportsbook are offering four places on this 14-runner handicap, by the way.
Keep an eye on My Amigo
My Amigo catches my eye the most in the 7f handicap at 17:05.
He changed hands for only 15,000gns in February but ran a cracker on his debut for Marjorie Fife over 1m in the soft at Doncaster recently (also his first start after a wind op), and the handicapper hasn't been unduly harsh in raising him 3lb. Even after that rise, he was still rated 4lb higher at the start of last season.
He goes forward, so a draw in five is acceptable, and you could easily argue his best efforts have come on this drying ground.
It is probably nothing but it was interesting to note that B Fifty Two also won at Pontefract recently on his second start after a wind op for the Fife yard. Apparently, that angle has been a profitable one this season across the board, I am told (though I don't know how to check...).
The problem is that, again, I was hoping for a bigger price - I am probably being a bit greedy here - so I will leave him alone, as well.