Just the three renewals of this mile and a quarter plus handicap so far but the first thing we noticed was that Chancery (22/1), who won it last year for David O’Meara, is declared again to try and defend his crown. Now an eight-year-old, he has won seven races in a forty-five race career but none since this race last season, though that has seen his handicap rating drop down from 98 last season to just 89 this afternoon meaning that if he can be rejuvenated by his astute handler he is clearly very well weighted. Last time out he finished eighth of ten at Doncaster over this sort of trip in early September when never really sighted but he does have a small each way chance and clearly loves it here with three of his career wins at this very venue.
Much as we respect his chances he may well have to play second fiddle this season to Sir Michael Stoute’s Autocratic (13/2 Each Way) who seems particularly well weighted with the excellent Ted Durcan in the saddle. Lightly raced with just the six career starts for a win and two second places so far, he finished eleventh last time after being squeezed for room at a crucial stage after which Ryan Moore sensibly eased off and allowed him to come home in his own time once his chance had gone. Forgetting that effort may be the most sensible thing to do for now and if we judge him on his second to Ode To Evening off five pounds lower in July when running on strongly and if he gets the fast pace we all expect this afternoon the race could well play in to his hands.
Local trainers do like to do well here and Tim Easterby will be hoping Snoano (12/1) can shrug off the added three pounds the handicapper has given him after a fairly comfortable three quarters of a length win in a similar race at Ayr last month. Produced perfectly by jockey David Allan (who rides again this afternoon), he was certainly value for a wider winning margin and with fitness and recent form both assured he seems likely to put up a bold show again this afternoon though a bit more rain may well assist his cause.
Meanwhile, Newmarket trainer Roger Varian is in among the winners again and he has Central Square (11/2) in here as the four-year-old Azamour gelding looks for his fourth win of the season. Lightly raced with just the seven career starts, he comes over as a bit of a late developer but was woken up by first time blinkers last month at Doncaster to score by a length after leading the field at the two-furlong pole and holding off all challengers, though whether he can do the same again off a rating eight pounds higher has to be open to question.
Any punter worth his or her salt always takes recent form in to consideration and no race preview would be complete without at least a mention for Karl Burke’s Lord Ben Stack (10/1) who arrives here looking to try to land his hat trick. If this was being run at Haydock he would be even more tempting with all three of his career wins taking place at that track, over a mile a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. His last two victories have been by close to two lengths after making most or all of the running to come home alone, and as we know he stays further than this trip he won’t be stopping up the home straight either. Whether he can do it a third time after apparently upsetting the handicappers who have put him up eight pounds for his sins, but he may not have stopped improving yet since being allowed to bowl along and we await his return with some interest.