The CHESTER CUP PREVIEW
The Chester Cup 2019
Our guest blogger Ed Culham, has done a preview of the Chester Cup. It is a very well written blog and
you will see more blogs from him over the coming weeks.
The Chester Cup run over 2 miles 2 ½ furlongs – two complete circuits of the Roodee – is a race
steeped in history. First run in 1824 when known as the Tradesman’s Cup, there have been
numerous famous winners. The great Champion Hurdler Sea Pigeon took this race in 1977 and again
the following year. More recently, Trip To Paris won off a featherweight of 8-09 before going on to
lift the ultimate staying crown of the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
This is a contest that requires a unique type of horse, one that can stay beyond 2 miles while also
having enough speed to find and hold a position around the tight turns of the Roodee.
Around Chester horses drawn wide face a significant disadvantage, their riders having the
conundrum of whether to push forward early and risk being trapped wide or drop in and face traffic
problems later. A case in point is last year’s run from the Alan King trained Who Dares Wins.
Dropped in from a wide draw under Ryan Moore, he was forced to make his move during the second
circuit, sweeping around runners to a prominent position. There’s no doubting this was a fine piece
of race riding that probably got him 3 rd , but it was also an energy sapping move, meaning he was
unable to quicken with the winner in the straight.
Who Dares Wins lines up again in this year’s renewal, which will be his third appearance in the race
having been placed in the last two runnings. He competes off the same mark of 100 as last year, but
his draw in stall 12 looks potentially tricky again. Expect him to come up a bit short once more.
Another to line up again is reigning champion Magic Circle, who was having his first run for trainer
Ian Williams when he routed the field here 12 months ago. Owned by the man who loves to win the
Chester Cup more than anything else (and now has 4 to his name) Marwan Koukash, you can be
assured he will be well primed for this. He does however face the colossal challenge of defying a
mark of 116, shouldering 10-2 around Chester is never going to be easy even with Cieren Fallon’s 7lb
claim. You would have to go back to 1987 and Just David’s victory, when he won carrying 9-08, to
find anything comparable. So, it will indeed take a touch of magic to get him home in front this year.
Surprisingly the Koukash runners number a moderate two this year and his other runner Shabeeb
heads Magic Circle in the betting at a generally available 8/1. This is a horse again having his first run
for Ian Williams who is likely to have been bought with this race in mind. He hasn’t competed at
anything over a trip of 1 mile 6 furlongs yet so is taking a significant step up in trip today. This will
also be his first run for 12 months, but his last start in Class 2 company at Newmarket provides hope
that the trip could aid his chances rather than hinder them.
Mark Johnston has a strong hand with four in the race including current favourite Austrian School
(generally 9/2) who looks a seriously improved horse this season if his 6 length reappearance romp
at Musselburgh is anything to go by. He had stable mates Making Miracles and Lucky Deal both
behind that day and a 5lb penalty for that looks generous. Those runners should struggle to reverse
the form being drawn in stalls 14 and 16 respectively. Question marks still concern the trip for
Austrian School as he has only previously won at 1m 6f and has come up short when twice tried at 2
miles. Watersmeet is Mark Johnston’s other runner who deserves a mention having finished 12th last
year off a 3lb higher mark. He does seem a far better horse on the all weather though, with 13 of his
15 victories coming on synthetics and his pair of turf wins now more than 3 years ago.
Not for lack of trying Willie Mullins has never won the Chester Cup. He fields last year’s Cesarewitch
winner Low Sun who could still be ahead of the handicapper. He is sure to stay, but whether the
tightness of Chester will suit him remains to be seen. Again, this year Ryan Moore’s mount is
shockingly drawn, occupying the widest stall of all in 17.
The wizard of Closutton also has Whiskey Sour in the race. A quirky character, but one who could
take to Chester and is well drawn in 7. He had a light hurdles campaign with only two runs this
spring, but the signs are he could be working back into a bit of form after a dismal season on the flat.
If he has the tactical speed to hold his position under Andrea Atzeni I can see him running well and
getting in the frame.
Unoriginally, I see the winner coming from the Andrew Balding camp in the form of CLEONTE. This is
a horse who steadily rose through the handicap last season, winning a nice handicap at Ascot before
going on to run out a fine 3 rd behind Low Sun in the Cesarewitch. Reappearing only last week in the
Sagaro Stakes he stayed on pleasingly for 3 rd suggesting there may be improvement to come from
the 6 year old and a mark of 101 looks in range. There is no better judge of pace than Silvestre de
Sousa and if he can get Cleonte out well from stall 1 to dictate he will be difficult to pass. Whether
he will be able to do that is the problem, as he has typically been held up in his races, so this will
require more tactical speed.
Other runners – Andrew Balding also fields the 2017 winner Montaly. He is a difficult horse to
predict but has a liking for Chester and could go well, as he now returns to his last winning mark.
Last year’s second Fun Mac competes again, and after a terrible succession of runs last year finds
himself on a lowly mark of 93, some 8lbs below that of last year. He clearly needs a drastic change of
form, but reappearing at Chester seems to suit, with him being placed in the last two renewals. One
to watch from a good draw in 4.
Just how much does the draw matter at Chester?
In the last 10 runnings only 2 winners have come from double figure stalls – Trip To Paris (11) in
2015 and Ile De Re (13) in 2011.
Of the 40 horses to finish in the first 1-4 in the past 10 years, 14 of those have come from double