David Ord's horse-by-horse guide to Friday's 188Bet Chester Cup and he takes Mark Johnston to land the valuable pot.
NAKEETA: Real credit to connections and deservedly enjoyed his day in the sun when winning the Ebor at York last season. Ran a wonderful race from a high draw when fifth in the Melbourne Cup on only subsequent start and proven in this race having finished second in last year's renewal. Ticks plenty of boxes despite his welter-burden.
PRINCE OF ARRAN: Dined at the top table last season and found wanting but comes here off the back of a good spell in Dubai. This is a more realistic test than he sat for much of 2017 but now 24 pounds higher than his last winning domestic mark (three above from the one he won off at Meydan in February) and needs to be right on his A-game.
TIME TO STUDY: Typically progressive handicapper for his stable last term and resumed on an upward curve this time around. Looked a little unlucky not to make a winning return at Musselburgh and ran a cracker to be second upped in class in the Sagaro at Ascot. Must be a leading player.
SHADOW SADNESS: German import and very hard to assess with no form over here. Handicapper has gone for 103 as an opening shot and he will need to be ahead of it to overcame stall 11 on his British bow.
SAIGON CITY: Impressive winner on reappearance at Doncaster and can be forgiven a flop at Nottingham last time as the undulations there catch out many-a-horse. Clearly needs to bounce back which won’t be easy given his draw of 16.
MAGIC CIRCLE: This race was the plan when Marwan Koukash handed over 70,000 guineas at the Horses In Training Sales and he’s a horse who looks perfect for it. Two negatives, though, and they are price and ground conditions, as ideally he'd like more cut. Ran well to be fifth from a bad draw in this last year though and must be on any shortlist.
FUN MAC: Third in this on reappearance last season from stall 13 and a pound lower and housed in five this time around. Has to be respected, for all his running style means he'll need luck around.
MY REWARD: Enjoyed the run of the race when scoring from a four pounds lower mark here last season but that’s decent form. Stable going well too but yet to conclusively prove he gets this trip.
WHO DARES WINS: Unlucky in running when fourth in this last year from a mark of 92 and again comes here fresh from a hurdling campaign (and a fine run at Aintree). Eight pounds higher this time around but a bigger worry is stall 15 despite the booking of Ryan Moore obviously offering hope to his supporters.
VENT DE FORCE: Offered next to nothing on first start for new yard at Nottingham last month and overall recent record is very patchy. Hard to enthuse over.
STARGAZER: Formerly with Sir Micahel Stoute and very positive signs in two runs for the excellent Philip Kirby, being demoted to second having passed the post first at Newcastle last time. Clearly in great heart right now and will go well if he stays.
WATERSMEET: Another teak-tough Johnston handicapper who rattled off a hat-trick on the all-weather over the winter. However, he didn’t seem to get home when fifth in this last year which is a worry, while his overall record on turf isn't quite so strong.
GRANDEE: Fascinating addition to the David O'Meara team and a lot to like about his first start for them when second at Ripon. Was highly-tried by Jessica Harrington last season (including a tilt at the Irish Derby). Three pounds well in on his revised mark here, he's definitely of interest but he’s another who has to prove he stays this far.
CAYIRLI: Sprang a 50/1 surprise in the Queen’s Prize at Kempton on his reappearance and patently capable on his day ,but now five pounds higher and this is much deeper.
DUBAWI FIFTY: Progressive last season and fine fourth in the Cesarewitch in the autumn. Two from three on the all-weather since and race not run to suit last time. Easy to see him going well here and he’ll look to go forward early from stall ten.
SILVER CONCORD: Third in this for Dermot Weld back in 2016 but while the Keith Dalgleish team have done a very good job restoring his confidence over timber this winter, he came up short when upped in grade on his final start at Aintree. He’d need to be back towards his peak on the Flat to win a Chester Cup from a mark of 97.
JUKEBOX JIVE: Thoroughly likeable stayer who made a pleasing start to his campaign at Newbury. That showed he can remain competitive from his current mark and ran well on his handicap debut at this track last season. The worry is the draw as he likes to get on the pace and it won’t be easy from 14.
As you'd expect, a fiercely-competitive renewal. Magic Circle is clearly a worthy market leader but he won't have his optimum conditions and preference is for TIME FOR STUDY who has made a bright start to the campaign. He represents a yard really going through the gears and is certain to stay every yard of the trip. Grandee isn't, but is very interesting for David O’Meara and should go very close if he does. Fun Mac ran well in this last season and can do so again, while the admirable Nakeeta is sure to be on the premises.
1. Time For Study
4. Fun Mac