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Chester Cup Tips – Preview of May Meeting Highlight + a 16/1 Tip

The Chester Cup is the feature race of this great week of action in the north west. With a full field of 17 heading to post, Joe Napier previews the marathon handicap, and gives his 1-2-3 selections.

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Last year saw a victory for the National Hunt contingent, as Metier scored for Harry Fry and Saffie Osborne.


GRAND PROVIDENCE

(Andrew Balding/Hayley Turner)

With Oisin Murphy riding a stablemate, Hayley Turner gets the chance to make it back-to-back wins for female jockeys in the race with the leg up on Grand Providence. He was favourite for this even when outside of the top 17, but three defections at the declaration stage saw him narrowly qualify, and he will look to make good on some long-held promise.

Three-year-olds are very rarely developed enough to hold their own over these sorts of trips against their elders, but the son of Nathaniel did just that last season, taking the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket over 2m2f before finishing mid division in the big race itself. He was in need of every yard of the 2m trip at Newbury on reappearance, which should have blown those pesky cobwebs away, and he may well be on the cusp of significant improvement from his current mark of 90.


DUKE OF OXFORD

(Michael Bell/David Egan)

Another four-year-old unexposed in these waters, Duke Of Oxford is comfortably the least experienced of these on turf, with only two runs to date. That is because he has excelled on the all-weather, while disappointing significantly on grass at three, being beaten 114 lengths in the Chester Vase on soft last year, then 38 lengths at Royal Ascot.

He is almost certainly worth another go on turf now though, having excelled on the artificial surface at Kempton at the end of 2023. He won twice over 2m at the Surrey venue and has placed twice more at Newcastle since. A further step up in trip should also suit well enough, although there will be a big question mark about his adaptability to this track.

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AZTEC EMPIRE

(Andrew Balding/Oisin Murphy)

The other Andrew Balding runner alongside the market leader, Aztec Empire gets the benefit of Oisin Murphy being able to do his weight of 8st 9lb (8st 6lb would likely have been too low for Grand Providence). Consistency was the key for him last season, placing in three successive class 2 staying handicaps, but the leap to the winners’ enclosure remained elusive.

He ended his last campaign on a low note at Haydock, but he had been a regular at big meetings throughout the summer. He now returns off a mark of 92, which is on the high side, but one which he could yet improve to defy if the ground remains quick enough. The last three winners have come from the rear, so this sometimes headstrong sort may be able to settle and finish with a late burst.


THE SHUNTER

(Emmet Mullins/Ben Coen)

Immaculately campaigned to win both a Cheltenham Festival handicap in 2021, as well as the Cesarewitch as a ten-year-old last season, The Shunter continues to pop up and snare big prizes. His defeat of Pied Piper at Newmarket must have owed at least something to the reserves of stamina which allowed him to win over 2m5f over obstacles.

His mark is now 6lb higher than for his Newmarket success and he is without a run in any code since November. He is capable enough fresh, but at the age of 11, he would be the oldest winner of this handicap by three years, and some rain would probably be needed for him to pull off the most unlikely double.


THE FIELD

There will be no 150/1 shock in this, though that is what Magellan Strait pulled off in the Irish Cesarewitch last term. He has now risen to a mark above 100 though and another big handicap victory looks unlikely even though he has a good draw for his prominent racing tactics.

Zoffee knows how  to run well fresh here, having been runner-up a year ago and is now 3lb lower, albeit in poorer form. Falcon Eight has the opposite issue in being in arguably the form of his life, but his rating of 109 looks fairly monstrous. He will have to give away 8lb and more all round and was second last in this a year ago.

It is difficult to know what to make of Zanndabad, whose two flat runs for Tony Martin have been poor despite some decent hurdles showings. Conversely, Too Friendly won nicely at Kempton on his first flat start since embarking on a National Hunt career, and promises to be suited by this as well. His mark still looks feasible.

Aqwaam, Citizen General and Zealandia have all progressed on the all-weather over the winter, but return off significantly higher turf marks than last tested on grass. Emiyn looks too ground dependent on soft, so others worth a look could be Forza Orta on his first attempt at this distance and even rank outsider and veteran The Grand Visir, whose mark of 89 is generous even on the balance of last season’s slightly declining form.


VERDICT

Grand Providence could prove too progressive and is seriously considered, but off the same bottom weight of 8st 6lb, TOO FRIENDLY may crack this for the jumps boys again. Although trainer James Owen is largely dual purpose, his six-year-old has almost exclusively been a hurdler over the last few seasons, and was second at Listed level at Kempton last October. His return to the flat saw him win nicely on the all-weather at Kempton and suggested he could be well-treated on the flat if taking on more assignments on the level this year. Forza Orta won on his first start over 2m at York and has had a return run to get him fit for this and is next best, while 2021 one-two Falcon Eight and The Grand Visir are not entirely discounted.

  1. Too Friendly
  2. Forza Orta
  3. Grand Providence

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