Kevin Blake

Chester Cup: Kevin Blake's Big Race Verdict and 7/1 tip

Betfair Ambassador Kevin Blake
Kev likes Grand Providence in the Chester Cup on Friday

The Chester Cup is the feature race of Chester's May meeting on Friday so Kevin Blake gives it his Big Race Verdict and top tip for the 200-year-old contest...

  • Chester Cup the highlight of the May meeting

  • Kevin Blake gives us his Big Race Verdict

  • Irish raiders have big chances but they're not for Kev

Chester Cup Superboost

Day three of Chester's May meeting brings the feature race of the week in the Chester Cup.

Today we are boosting the favourite Aztec Empire to finish in the top 7.

You can back the Andrew Balding trained horse to finish in the top 7 in the 15:40 at Chester at the Superboost price of 1/12.00 from 2/71.29.

The Chester Cup is one of the most historic races in the British racing calendar and this year sees it reach a notable milestone with 200 years having passed since the first renewal of it in 1824.

Anyone with vague familiarity with the race will have a good idea of what to expect, a huge field of stayers scooting around the never-ending turns of Chester which demands a rare combination of agility, stamina and raw luck.

Low drawn horses can ensure a good pace

As always, the first step towards solving the puzzle is to try and sort out how much pace is likely to be in play and where it is most likely to come from.

There are two what could be described as habitual front runners in the field in Solent Gateway (5) and Emiyn (7) that are drawn low enough to hopefully allow them to drive on and put solid pace to the race.

There are plenty of others that like to get prominent such as Magellan Strait (2), Forza Orta (3), Too Friendly (8) and Zealandia (11), most of which are drawn in the lower end of the field.

It is somewhat unusual to have the vast majority of the pace drawn in the lower half of the field, so hopefully it plays out like it looks on paper as it will make for a slightly less chaotic opening couple of furlongs as one can see in this race when the pace is obliged to get forward from wide draws and end up causing problems for those drawn lower.

Age catching up with previous winner

Historically, Irish-trained horses don't have a particularly good record in the Chester Cup, but it has been kinder to them in recent years with Falcon Eight winning it in 2021 and Cleveland getting the job done in 2022.

Falcon Eight's win came off a mark of 104 and he has returned each year since, finishing a good fifth off 109 in 2022, but running poorly off a mark of 108 last year.

He went on to show that he retains plenty of ability later last season when an unlucky second in the Irish Cesarewitch and winning a Group 3 at the Curragh in great style, so he isn't out of the mix just yet.

While a below-form effort in a Listed race at Saint-Cloud on his return to action last month can be forgiven, a mark of 109 would seem a very tough ask for the nine-year-old at this stage of his career.

Trends against lightly-raced veteran

The Shunter is even older than Falcon Eight being an 11-year-old, but he is very lightly raced on the Flat and showed he can be a big factor in races like this even at his age when winning the Cesarewitch last October. He is rated 6lb higher now, but wouldn't be one to rule out.

Emmet Mullins has been happy to send him to big races when fresh in the past, so his lack of a run this year wouldn't be a notable concern. Given that no horse older than eight has won this race in the last 50 years, followers of trends will be having sleepless nights at the thought of the 11-year-old coming out on top!

Higher mark could stop O'Brien raider

The one that just about got the better of Falcon Eight in the Irish Cesarewitch was the Jospeh O'Brien-trained Magellan Strait who prevailed at odds of 150/1151.00.

He isn't the most consistent of horses, but stays very well and has the right style of racing for this contest. The draw has been kind to him, but an 8lb higher mark than he won off at the Curragh might be beyond him.

The other Irish-trained runner is the Tony Martin-trained Zanndabad who looks to be priced on his trainer's reputation more so than his form claims.

Trip to very much suit Balding runner

For all the strength of the Irish challenge at the top end of the weights, I'm drawn to a British-trained runner at the opposite end of the weights in the shape of the Andrew Balding-trained Grand Providence.

The four-year-old spent last season making steady progress up the ranks in tough circumstances given she was a relatively inexperienced three-year-old racing against older stayers.

Her win the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket offered promise that she can do better again this season and that view was underlined by her very encouraging return in a valuable handicap at Newbury last month.

It wouldn't be at all surprising if her connections have had their eye on this race for some time and the return to the longer trip will very much suit.

While she is drawn on the wider side in stall 12, if the pace plays out as it promises to on paper she should be able to get into a slot in the second half of the field and deliver a telling late challenge.

Now read Tony Calvin's Friday ITV Racing Tips here.

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