Mike Vince recalls a few notable Chester Cups from years gone by and ponders just how tricky the fantastic race has been for punters.
It’s just about the only Flat race in the calendar where the jockeys need to remember to count the circuits and the Chester Cup, first run as the Tradesmans Cup in 1824, is the one race during the three days of the May Festival on the historic Roodeye (where racing began ion 1539) punters start trying to solve days ahead.
And looking at past renewals is likely to make the solution more difficult!
The last time the race was run was in 2019 was memorable for all sorts of reasons. The ground was wet after incessant rain, officially soft but on the third day of the meeting muddy to the naked eye, and it was the race that finally saw the name of Franny Norton, who has been imperious at Chester for years, on the winning jockeys list.
He squelched to a six-length win on Making Miracles, trained by Mark Johnston at 16/1, having led after they had gone a furlong, with Who Dares Wins second and the Willie Mullins-trained Whiskey Sour third.
Making Miracles was one of three Mark Johnston ran in the race. His others included the favourite Austrian School who finished 9th, beaten more than 40 lengths.
Who Dares Wins had finished third the year before, when on good ground there was also a six-length winner - Magic Circle under a motionless, and now Sporting Life columnist, Fran Berry, giving Dr Marwan Koukash a cherished win at a track he so loves. It was a second win in the race for trainer Ian Williams - well represented again this year and with an excellent record overall.
But in recent seasons this has been a quite rotten race for favourite-backers.
Since Anak Pekan won in 2004 just one market leader has won it and that was David Pipe’s Mamlook in 2010 when at 7/1 he was one of the biggest-priced favourites in that time.
What this race can do to you is probably best illustrated by the story of Anak Pekan, ridden by Philip Robinson for the late Michael Jarvis, who stormed to victory in 2004 when a heavily-backed 2/1 market leader.
A year later he carried 18 pounds more and was sent off at amazingly 16/1. He duly won it for a second time.
It’s not just football that can be a ‘funny old game’.
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