Sky Sports Racing senior analyst Jamie Lynch is back with five selections for Saturday’s high-quality meeting at Chester.
ALSAKIB – 2.20
In a strange way, it’s almost as much the races she hasn’t contested, as the one she has (and won), that defines Orchid Bloom ahead of her overdue reappearance at Chester in the 2.20.
In the recent past she has been withdrawn not once but twice from graduation races, firstly at Ascot and then a Listed event at York only last week, and, for the future, her standing entry in the Coronation Stakes says a lot, all of which fosters the feeling that she’s held in high regard, very high regard, by William Haggas.
However, regards her impressive 2-y-o win at Newmarket, she needed testing ground, and the rising ground (out of the Dip), to really turn it on in the end and, as such, it’s hard to believe that ALSAKIB won’t get the jump on her at some stage around Chester, given the style and strength of what he did on his debut at Kempton last month.
Significantly sent off favourite, he split two previous winners, smooth in the process, as if he’ll fit well with Chester, just unable to catch Onight who had an edge in experience but also position, having dictated. Under her penalty, Orchid Bloom will indeed have to be bordering on Listed class to beat the lower-drawn, stronger-travelling Alsakib, who is bidding to give Andrew Balding a remarkable fifth win from the last six editions of this novice.
SIOUX WARRIOR – 2.55
I can’t be the only one whose mouth wants to say Battaash when referencing Battaah, missing only an ‘s’, also missing a few mph relative to him, but that’s not the reason why all the heat will be on Battaah in the 2.55, more that his form was hugely hoisted by Elite Status’ striking success in the National Stakes at Sandown on Thursday.
All the same, Elite Status basically toyed with him at Doncaster, and don’t forget that SIOUX WARRIOR finished one place ahead of Battaah when both made their debut. There was only half a length between them that day, but Sioux Warrior looked even more superior for a long way, nosing ahead briefly before running green under pressure, yet to cultivate a cutting edge.
Battaah has the advantages of an extra race and the plum draw in one, but Sioux Warrior has the bigger ticket to improve, not just from the way he shaped at Doncaster but also his pedigree, being a half-brother to Royal Aclaim, who’ll be among the favourites for the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday, and both her and Sioux Warrior’s sire (Sioux Nation) love fast ground, which this will be more like than Doncaster.
PONS AELIUS – 3.35
It’s a simple case – a class case – for PONS AELIUS, whose last three races have been in 0-95 company and now finds himself in a 0-75, a good bit beneath him in truth.
If this race was on the All-Weather then Pons Aelius wouldn’t be eligible because the handicapper has split his rating (he’s 82 on synthetics), and in the Newmarket handicap in which he finished second to favourite Adjuvant last week, every other horse in that race is overqualified for this 0-75.
It’s a fairly quick turnaround (eight days) for a stayer, but Pons Aelius thrives on a busy schedule, and it’s worth noting that two of his wins last year came off a similar tight timeline of six and seven days.
This will be his first experience of Chester but he’s the right type for it, being a prominent racer who’s equally at home over shorter trips, therefore has more gears, as well as more class, relative to most in here.
RED MIRAGE – 4.05
In the feature handicap at 4.05, as many as six of the field ran at the Boodles May Festival, two from the lesser-level 0-85 (Paws For Thought in third and Roudemental ninth), and four from the better-class handicap over the same extended 7f as this valuable prize, including Boardman (in fifth) who has won this the last two years, though the jury is now out as to whether he’s still the same force at the age of seven.
Percy’s Lad did best of the quartet in third, from a wide draw and a position closer to the strong pace than probably ideal, and so he deserves to be the favourite for this for sure, but RED MIRAGE might beat the lot of them, with a feeling that this was possibly his main target over and above the Boodles May Festival.
That’s because last time was his reappearance, as well as his debut for John Quinn, and his SP of 11-1 told of lukewarm expectations, on top of the fact he was held up more than usual (from stall 10), which inadvertently helped as the race went, but the way he came home was still encouraging with an eye to him being spot on for this.
Stall four is perfect as the three inside of him are all front-runners, inviting him to take up the stalking ‘box seat’, the same platform that gave him lift off over this course and distance in May 2022.
CHILLHI – 5.45
This represents one of the earliest opportunities for the 3-y-os to take on their elders with a big chunk of change, as much as 17lb weight-for-age over 12f at this time of the year, and the results in this very race highlight its value: in the three prior editions, the four 3-y-os who ran in the races generated two wins and a second.
There are two 3-y-os lining up this time, Demilion, the obvious one after his second over the course and distance at the Boodles May Festival, but CHILLHI is equally interesting.
Bar a few assignments when flying too high, Chillhi has the happy habit of nudging up his rating by the race, in line with going up in distance, and even though he’s not bred to stay this far, he shapes like he will, rallying at the end of 10f at Ascot a fortnight ago when beaten just one-and-three-quarter lengths into fifth behind Masai Mara and Westerton, either of whom would be a short-priced favourite for this handicap.
He’s got even more reason than Demilion to improve again here.