Starting a preview of a two-and-a-quarter-mile handicap with an assessment of the draw might seem an odd thing to do, but where the 188Bet-sponsored Chester Cup – run on a tight left-handed track – is concerned the evidence supports it.
With a run of just two furlongs to the winning post, after which the majority of the race is on the turn for two full circuits, there is precious little time for a jockey to get a good position. What happens here can dictate much of what unfolds subsequently.
That the draw has an effect is indisputable, as the following figures – using a % of rivals beaten measure for the stall in question and the stall on either side – for the race in the last 10 years, ignoring the flag start of 2012, show.
The stalls highlighted in green have a positive expectation, while those highlighted in red have a negative one. It can be seen that a draw just off the inner has been best, while wider stalls (but not the very widest of all) have been worst.
In addition, the Early Position Figures for Friday’s declared runners have been included, from which it can be seen that the two most obvious pace-forcers occupy the two innermost stalls.
There are other factors to consider, of course, even before moving onto the individual horses’ form and suitability for the test they will be faced with. The following are the more significant findings from the last decade of this famous handicap.
Again, those %RB figures are the most meaningful, but place impact values (the factor by which horses in each category have made the first four compared to chance) are worth looking at also.
Four-year-olds are the best age-group by the former measure, but six-year-olds have done best by place IV (and have also provided half of the winners in the last decade). A close-up position last time has been a positive, but a really poor one has not been disastrous, either.
A good chance on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings is an asset – as is to be hoped! – while a short turn-around since a horse’s previous run has been historically better than a long one.
Additionally, we can consider the form of trainers with runners in this year’s Chester Cup, as judged by %RB in handicaps since the start of the turf Flat season in Britain. The figures are much of a muchness, with the exception of David O’Meara, who has made a good start with 61.4%RB.
O’Meara trains the gelding called Grandee, who has a few other things in his favour. In addition to that inside draw, Grandee is a four-year-old who finished second last time, and that last time was only 13 days ago. He has a bit to find on Timeform figures, but we can’t have everything.
That effort was Grandee’s first since joining O’Meara from Jessica Harrington’s stable in Ireland, and it saw him come clear of the remainder when beaten one and a half lengths by Great Hall at Ripon: he gets to go off the same mark here.
The major question mark where Grandee is concerned is his stamina. The Ripon race was at a mile and a half, and Grandee has yet to race beyond a mile and three quarters. Indeed, he did not finish all that strongly on the one occasion he tried the latter trip (when third in a Listed race) but seemed to do too much too soon on that occasion.
Other than that, Grandee has impressed as a staying type pretty much throughout his career: he was winning at a mile and a half on softish going (Listed race at Leopardstown) as early as June of his three-year-old career.
I would be pretty confident a Listed winner and Listed placed horse could go close off a mark of 100 in even a handicap as competitive as this one.
Pricing the race up, I had Grandee at 8/1 – he is available at several points bigger at the time of writing – and the most over-priced in the race. A case can also be made for Time To Study, despite his mid-field draw, following his solid second to Torcedor in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot last week.
He is only 3 lb higher than when beaten a neck at Musselburgh on his return and is a typically tough sort from the Mark Johnston stable who could well get better as the season goes on. He should also be around the 8/1 mark in my book.
The maths says this is a better race to back each-way than win only, and that is before any special concessions are made. The win book at early prices was 114% but the place book (assuming a quarter of the odds the first four places) was just 93%. That should inform your betting, whichever mast you end up pinning your colours to.
Recommendations: 1 pt e/w GRANDEE at 16/1, 0.5 pt e/w TIME TO STUDY at 12/1, both ¼ odds first four places