Richard Hannon’s Armor made a really nice impression when keeping up the gallop to score on debut at Doncaster and looks a likely type for the week’s opener.
However, fillies have a fantastic record in the Lily Agnes Stakes, with seven of the last nine renewals going to the girls. Tom Dascombe’s Devious Angel didn’t look the most straight forward when pressured at Newmarket on debut, despite a quick start, though did right those wrongs when winning at Southwell. For a two-time winner trainer she could go close. However, the value could be with Roger Fell’s Lucy Lulu. Though this is a quick turnaround from her Doncaster win, there was a lot to like that day. Despite being weak in the betting, she travelled strongly and certainly knew her job to win. She’s bred to be pacy and could go well at a price.
Zeyaadah stayed on best of all in the mud at Newmarket to score on her final start as a 2yo, remaining unbeaten and recording a victory over last weekend’s Pretty Polly winner Mystery Angel. She looks like she’ll appreciate this step up in trip but you have to go back to 2002 for the last filly to win the Cheshire Oaks on seasonal debut.
Instead, it might pay to side with John Gosden’s sibling to Too Darn Hot and Lah Ti Dar, Darlectable You who has least to prove about the trip. She looked babyish when running on late at Newcastle for second, but possibly hit the front too soon when collared late next time at Newbury. She’s clearly learning as she goes, but she’s bred to be smart and is shaping up to be just that.
Course form can often be important at Chester, and one that certainly ticks that box in this event is Tom Dascombe’s filly, Harmony Lil. She reeled off a pair of victories here over 6f last term, getting up late both times for victory. This drop back down to 5f is a slight concern, but she’s shown enough early zip to give her the chance, while her pedigree suggests she should be OK, with her dam recording both her wins at the trip. She returned this season in good form, just missing out on a victory at Ripon last month. The handicapper has put her up 3lbs, but there are enough positives to be with her.
Tim Easterby’s speedy Showalong, and last year’s Norfolk Stakes third Imperial Force are the most likely dangers.
Wirko needed every yard of the 1m2f trip in the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom last time, just getting up in the shadows of the post. A high head carriage suggests Charlie Appleby’s charge has perhaps got to learn his job a bit more, but he’s certainly got talent. The way he finished off his race certainly suggests he’s got plenty of talent, and it was encouraging to see him handle the quirks of Epsom as he tackles another track that can often catch horses out.
In the same Godolphin blue, Law Of The Sea could be one for Tote Exactas having improved dramatically from two to three, and for the step up in trip.
Uncle Jumbo looks likely to be a deserved favourite in this 6f handicap, having got no sort of run at Pontefract last time, but still managing to finish a close fourth. He went well in a couple of valuable races in 2020 and will be dangerous off an unchanged mark.
For a spot of value, you could do worse than Sir Benedict. Granted, he’s had a couple of wobbles in the last year, but there were excuses. He probably blew his chances before getting down to the start at Newmarket last month when far too keen, so hopefully that will have taken the freshness out of him. Last term he was beaten a short head over track and trip in a novice event, before showing disappointing next time. He did however, win on handicap debut off a mark of 82, so off the same rating at a track he handles, he has to be respected.
There’s a bit of guesswork to be done here, with just one of the twice having had more than two runs. The most experienced one is Solent Getaway who chased home some smart types as a juvenile, with his second to subsequent Prix Morny third Rhythm Master being the pick of his form. Most recently he was second to Final Voyage on the all-weather, with that winner scoring twice subsequently. He sets the standard and looks the one to beat.
Of the lightly raced types, Richard Hannon’s Fascinating Shadow is related to plenty of winners and showed plenty of promise when third on debut.
The hat-trick seeking Black Friday is clearly on the up and will be popular in the finale on day one of the May Festival, but not only does he have to find a bit more at the weights, but he’s got a wide draw to contend with here.
At bigger prices, the pair of Sir Maximillian and Broken Spear are of interest. The former often saves his best for Chester, with four wins and two places from six outings on the Roodee. The veteran finds himself 4lbs below the mark he scored from over course and distance in September and might just be well treated.
Broken Spear needs to show that he stays 7f, but he certainly battled on well in the mud at Catterick to pull clear with the eventual winner two starts back. He was a no show at Southwell, but he’s a much better animal on the turf and could bounce back.