2.10pm Chester – Crabbie’s Earl Grosvenor Handicap Class Two – 7f 122yds
An ultra competitive handicap to start the day and one that sees few in form horses heading to Chester with not one entry who scored last time out, making life that little bit trickier. Looking for trainers in form as a good starting point and Mick Channon has been off to a flyer and relies on seven-year-old Arnold Lane (9/1 Each Way) here who has already raced six times on 2016 so won’t be found wanting on fitness grounds. Dropped a couple of pounds after finishing fourth to Lavetta at Catterick last time out, moving him to something like a more realistic winning mark, he has won off of 105 in the dim and distant past (April 2013!), and his last victory was off of 86 so we are not asking too much of him here and fancy him as a value each way call at the expected prices.
Clive Cox is also getting winners recently with as 26% strike rate in the last two weeks which is a positive, and we think that Archie (6/1) has handicap gamble written all over him! A lower draw would have been nice but the five stall is not necessarily a killer, and although his only win was first time out as a two-year-old in a maiden, that means he looks well weighted off a rating 88 this afternoon. Sent off at 121/ on his return after eight months off he clearly needed the run but did well in the circumstances to finish fourth to Crazy Chic at Kempton, running on well but never really bothering the leaders. Sure to strip a lot fitter today and perhaps a few pounds well in, we think a big run is on the cards and at his price he looks pretty solid each way.
As mentioned elsewhere everyone knows this meeting is a favourite of trainer Richard Fahey and owner Dr Marwan Koukash and they have Gabrial’s Kaka (11/2) in here as he looks to make amends for a below par effort at Haydock last time out, though he was very badly hampered and allowed to come home in his own time once his chance had gone. Prior to that unlucky run he had stayed on well to win over a mile at Chelmsford, a victory that saw him put up to a mark of 90, though that is still thirteen pounds shy of his career high mark. He has even won off 95 back in 2014 at Newbury, and we are less worried about his handicap than we are about the seven-furlong trip. Yes he has won over it, once from four attempts, and he does have a win and a third from nine trots around this track, but we do feel one or two may be a bit quick for him this afternoon and at the age of six and after 35 races we can’t expect too much more improvement if any.
Sound Advice (7/1) fails to fit the “correct” age range as a seven-year-old but he is a course and distance winner around here not once but twice, and form just the two attempts so a 100% record. He does stay another furlong so won’t mind a ferocious early pace if that’s how the race pans out, though his three runs this season have been let downs and his supporters will need to keep the faith. Connections can possibly feel a little aggrieved that despite a last of 25 at Ayr, a five lengths fifth at Wolverhampton, and a ten length ninth of ten at Southwell, he wasn’t dropped a pound, though he has been dropped a “massive” two pounds for his seventh at Haydock. On the one hand his form is not up to taking this but on the other he comes alive around here, and that could be enough to turn him back in to a major contender.
Ed Walker’s Bold Prediction (10/1) will complete our short list if only because he has been in great form already this year with wins at Chelmsford and Lingfield, though we note they were over a mile. Yet to win over this specialist trip from four attempts he may find things happen a bit too quickly for him, especially if the ground dries out between now and race time, but he does have race fitness on his side and could make a few of them pull out all the stops especially if he gets a decent draw come race day.
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