After the first two classics of the season last weekend, the flat racing campaign continues throughout May as we head towards the Oaks and the Derby at Epsom next month and it does so with the May Meeting at Chester which begins on Wednesday.
This is usually a decent form guide for the season ahead with some key races on the calendar over the course of the week. The Cheshire Oaks is among the highlights on the opening day of the meeting. We have a bet for that and one other on the card.
The opening day of the 3-day meeting sees a decent renewal of the Cheshire Oaks, with a field of 10 lining up in this Listed contest over a trip just shy of a mile and a half. Joseph O’Brien’s Above The Curve is a warm order for this having won a mile and a quarter maiden at Leopardstown comfortably on just her second start when coming clear of one of today’s rivals Thoughts Of June. She looked a nice prospect that day & could easily be better than this lot but her price is short given there are some doubts over her ability to act around the tight turns of Chester. Thoughts Of June has now twice finished behind Above The Curve & there’s nothing to suggest she will turn the tables today. Second best in the market is the Crisford’s Night Battle who is ridden by dual Guineas winner James Doyle. She won a slowly run affair at Lingfield on her one and only start but doesn’t yet hold an entry in the Oaks at Epsom next June. That said, her yard is in cracking form so she isn’t easily dismissed. Hello Jumeirah is another that has won her only start & that was over this trip so stamina is assured but around the tightest the tracks, I fear she may be outpaced.
All of the above are drawn 6 or higher which, even over this trip, can be a big disadvantage if you don’t get a good early position so that draws me to the Beckett-trained Moon De Vega who has been handed the best draw in stall 1. On her first 2 starts, she was slow from the gates & stayed on both times to finish 5th over an inadequate mile trip. However, last time out on her most recent start, she broke well, something she’ll need to do today, & made virtually all the running when edging out subsequent winner Suffrajet by half a length, the pair coming almost 3 lengths of the third horse home. A couple of things were noticeable that day; firstly, she was headed but battled back really well to get up close home & secondly, she was very strong through the line suggesting this step up in trip will bring around improvement. Furthermore, that win was on soft & whilst the going is still described as good, there’s a bit of rain about so any easing in conditions will almost certainly suit her more than most. The only concern is that it’s her first run of the season but she’s clearly well regarded being pitched into this company & with 4 places on offer, she’s well worth an each way investment.
Back Moon De Vega (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 9.00 William Hill BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
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A maximum field of 14 has assembled for the last race on the card, a competitive handicap over 7 furlongs. The market is headed by the Buick-ridden Ffion who, despite being 2 from 2 on the all weather, is yet to get her head in front on turf, finishing 2nd in 4 of her 8 races. Given this is a joint-high career mark, she’s drawn wide in 11 & it’s his first start for 7 months, she’s opposable. Gobi Sunset has a better draw, is down markedly in grade & ridden by Franny Norton who rides this track so well but he disappointed massively on his only run at the track. Broken Spear won this last year off a similar mark so should be expected to run his race, but he doesn’t appear the most obvious type to follow up.
Course form is a big plus at Chester so it’s hard to ignore the claims of Paws For Thought. A 4 year old who has won 3 of his 15 career starts but what’s more interesting is his form at this track. He won a nursery by over 3 lengths off a mark of 75 before reappearing on this card last year & winning a Class 3 by over 2 lengths off a lofty mark of 87. Two further runs at the track yielded a 4th of 9 off 93 in a Class 2 & a 4th of 12 off 89 in a Class 3. What’s interesting is that today he races in a Class 4 (is 2 from 3 in handicaps in the grade) & is off a mark of 84 (last time he ran off a mark so low, he won by 6 lengths off 81). All of his form has come with a bit of cut in the ground so any rain will be a big plus whilst there are no doubts over his ability to show up after an absence. His form did tail off at the end of last season but new surroundings (he moved yards recently) & back at his favourite track should see him right in the mix.
Back Paws For Thought (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 5.00 Sky Bet BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)