A field of twelve go to post for the 2017 Chester Stakes Listed Handicap. See our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: Mark Johnston’s string are bang in form still and he can gain another pattern success this season with CAPE COAST. This progressive three year old was only just denied on his hat-trick bid on his latest start, going down by a head after hanging late on. The form has been boosted and he’s only four pounds higher here, so he does look very tough to beat with further improvement. The main danger looks to be Graceland, who continues to be consistent and should be on the premises despite a drop in trip.
1 THE TARTAN SPARTAN – Won a 1m 6f Listed race at Down Royal in July before facing a very tough task at Newbury on his latest start behind Defoe in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes. He returns to handicapping off a mark of 102, which is six pounds above his last winning mark, so further improvement is needed from this four year old. He couldn’t discounted for each way terms but he looks on a tough weight and should be vulnerable for win purposes.
2 HARLEQUEEN – Placed in both the Oaks and Irish Oaks last season but she has lots of questions to answer on what she’s shown since for Mick Channon. She has been well beaten on her last three runs, but those were in some tough races and she is interesting dropped into handicaps. Conditions are to suit and a mark of 101 doesn’t handicap her out of things, so she looks a viable each way threat.
3 MY REWARD – Won four starts ago at Ripon when making most and he’s been far from disgraced on three subsequent starts in major handicaps. He kept on strongly when nearly making all in a tough race at York on his latest start and he’s only a pound higher here. This slight drop back in trip could suit, especially if he can grab a soft lead out of stall two and he looks a big danger under David Allan.
4 EYE OF THE STORM – Returned from fourteen months off on his penultimate start at Goodwood, finishing tenth and that was far from a disgrace in such a tough race. He didn’t however build on that when last seen at Newmarket, weakening tamely when ridden for an effort and that gives him a huge amount to prove now. Amanda Perrett’s yard is going through a rough patch and he’s best left alone here.
5 SUGEGIOO – Last win came in the Chester Cup back in 2014, with several good runs since but he’s not been threatening the judge on recent starts. He was last seen finishing a tailed off 12th in a York handicap, though the handicapper has now given him a chance by dropping him four pounds. He now has no excuses off this mark, but it’s hard to trust he’ll best foot forward and others have far less to prove.
6 WHO DARES WIN – 148 rated hurdler who has run very well the last twice at the extreme distances on the flat, finishing fourth in the Chester Cup before a far from disgraced third in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot. He has to be deeply respected off the same mark, but this drop back in trip does have to be of some concern as he was going on at the finish on his penultimate run at the 2m 2f distance. He couldn’t be ruled out entirely, but may just find himself outpaced here.
7 CLIFF FACE – Inconsistent sort for Sir Mark Prescott who finished a good second at Ascot on her penultimate start before being tailed off at Newmarket on her latest start in Listed company. She now drops back into handicaps with the headgear enlisted, only a pound above her mark when second at Ascot in July. If bouncing back she’d be a solid each way contender, but she does have a point to prove now.
8 SHRAAOH – Has hit the frame on the majority of his starts since being switched to handicaps by Sir Michael Stoute, running into third on his latest start at Haydock. He had excuses on his latest start at Goodwood, but he is starting to become very expensive to follow and he needs something more under Ted Durcan. The step up in trip should suit on his previous efforts and he couldn’t be discounted based on his previous efforts, so he does merit deep consideration.
9 GRACELAND – Deadly consistent five year old mare for Michael Bell who has placed on her last two runs, running a career best on her latest start when only beaten around a length at Ascot, with her tendency to be keen early hampering her finishing effort. She remains on the same mark and if she manages to settle better this time, she looks set for a big run under Louis Steward, with conditions absolutely fine.
10 APPHIA – Finished fifth in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot three starts ago before a good fifth in Listed company at Newmarket in July. She did produce a lesser showing on her latest start, well beaten in sixth at Newmarket in the Chalice Stakes and connections reach for the cheekpieces as a result. She makes her handicap debut off a mark of 98, which as a lightly raced sort does give her an each way chance under Josie Gordon, though others do make more appeal for win purposes at the weights
11 CURLEW RIVER – Highly progressive in handicaps for Mark Johnston, winning her second race on the bounce when making all in great fashion at Brighton in August. She found Listed company at York on her latest start too much though, setting the pace but well beaten when headed. She drops back into handicaps off a mark of 95 which is nine pounds above her last winning mark, pitched into a much deeper race. She is unlikely to get a soft lead here and others are preferred.
12 CAPE COAST – Progressive three year old for Mark Johnston who has won two of her last three starts, just failing on his hat-trick bid when a head second at Ascot in July. He is only four pounds higher here but looking at his profile, he’s likely to improve more than that under Franny Norton. The form of that latest run has been boosted and he looks very tough to beat for in form connections.