London calling

Wednesday 8th May, 3:40pm

Grosvenor Square @ 5/4
Hidden Law @ 5/2
Cadogan Place @ 9/2
Agenda @ 9/1
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*prices correct at time of writing. 

Chester’s Boodles Festival is about much more than the three-days of top-notch racing – including some of the most complex handicaps of the season – because it’s also flat racing’s outstanding social occasion in the north-west of England where fans regularly find themselves getting as close as they are ever likely to get to some of their footballing idols, some more demob happy than others as the PL title race reaches its climax.

Although the Classic trials at York are perhaps more fashionable, the regular support of Aidan O’Brien and the Gosdens has made those on the examining, tight Roodeye course, including the Chester Vase (3-40), more significant than ever.

O’Brien has won the Vase multiple times in recent years, notably with subsequent (Epsom/Irish) Derby winners Ruler Of The World, Soldier Of Fortune and Treasure Beach, and Grosvenor Square is the one most talked about here. The son of Galileo is facing the driest conditions he’s faced in three starts to date, but shaped up well in successful runs at Galway and at Leopardstown (Group Three).

The stable, which also saddles the promising Dundalk winner Agenda, has not entirely hit its giant stride so far, as was well-documented at Newmarket.

In contrast, Godolphin comes to Chester with the 2000 Guineas under its belt and a contender in Hidden Law which really impressed, with striking acceleration, at Newbury, having been marginally outpointed by Cadogan Place on both of their debuts on the Tapeta at Southwell in late March.

Pappano, for Team Gosden, only adds to the intrigue having demonstrated that he’d learnt lots from his debut third when successful at Wolverhampton.

Golden West is fitted with cheekpieces having been well-beaten in France in April, his first defeat.

O’Brien and his son Joseph both hold strong hands in the Cheshire Oaks, run in memory of Robert Sangster (3-05), but none of their hopefuls has made much bigger an impression so far than Forest Fairy which overcame definite signs of inexperience to sweep aside a subsequently successful colt at Wolverhampton in February.

Being located just up the road, and at a track his highest profile owner Michael Owen adores, every one of Hugo Palmer’s (many) runners during the week need close scrutiny and several catch the eye, not least the well-drawn Grey Cuban (Thursday, 2-35), the mount of William Buick.

On Thursday, hopes are high that Jayarebe, the Feilden Stakes winner, can develop into a big player at Royal Ascot, via the Dee Stakes (3-05).

The festival’s centrepiece, the Chester Cup (Friday, 3-40), looks as devilish as ever but it’s a race at which Andrew Balding loves to have a really good go, and his intended runner Grand Providence ran an encouraging trial when third over an inadequate distance at Newbury’s Greenham meeting.

Clearly there is an element of guesswork here, but Hidden Law didn’t seem to be hiding much at Newbury so he’d be the one for me – what about you?

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