The feature race on the opening day of Chester’s prestigious May meeting on Wednesday, May 8, is the Group 3 Chester Vase (15:35).
This 1m 4f contest for colts is a key trial for the Epsom Derby and the last participant who went on to taste success in the Classic was Wings Of Eagles, who finished runner-up here in 2017.
Eight are set to go to post in this year’s renewal, and the Martyn Meade trained Technician looks decent value at 4/1 with BetVictor to land the spoils following a fine run last time.
He was runner-up to Bangkok in the Group 3 bet365 Classic Trial over 1m 2f at Sandown. After tracking the leaders on the inside, the son of Mastercraftsman was denied a clear run two from home when the eventually winner swooped to the front.
When switched by jockey Oisin Murphy to see daylight, Technician squeezed through a tight gap a furlong from home and stayed on strongly to be baeten just 1 1/4 lengths.
Given how the race panned out, it was a terrific effort against very highly-rated rival and – granted a clear passage – Technician would have given Bangkok plenty to think about.
Prior to that, he had made all to win impressively by 3 1/4 lengths over 1m 4f at Leicester, so the step back up to that trip looks sure to suit.
The booking of Frankie Dettori also catches the eye and is another positive, as he has a tremendous strike rate of just under 43 per cent when teaming up with the yard in the past 12 months having ridden three winners and two placed from just seven rides.
O’Brien trio command utmost respect
Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien is the most successful in the history of the race with eight winners courtesy of Soldier Of Fortune (2007), Golden Sword (2009), Treasure Beach (2011), Ruler Of The World (2013), Orchestra (2014), Hans Holbein (2015), US Army Ranger (2016) and Venice Beach (2017).
He saddles three in an attempt to enhance that incredible record and the form pick is Norway, a 7/2 chance with Unibet.
This son of Galileo came good at the third time of asking as a juvenile when scoring by 6 1/2 lengths at Naas.
Norway then showed a willing attitude to follow-up in the Listed 1m 2f Zetland Stakes at Newmarket by a length from I’ll Have Another.
He the ran well in defeat on his final start of the campaign when a four-length fourth of 10 in a Group 1 over 1m 2f at Saint-Cloud in France, so this represents a drop in class and Norway looks the type to develop into a smart three-year-old.
Stablemate Gentle Bellini steps up significantly in grade, having won his maiden at Cork on seasonal reappearance and looks an each-way alternative in the betting at 10/1 with Betfair.
The other O’Brien inmate Sir Dragonet, however, looked a very smart prospect when quickening clear to score by three lengths in a 16-runner maiden at Tipperary last month.
He has bags of untapped potential and falls into the "could be anything" category, so can be backed at 8/1 with William Hill.
Mehdaayih the choice in Cheshire Oaks
The other Classic trial on competitive seven-race card is the Cheshire Oaks (14:25) – a Listed contest for fillies ron over 1m 3f.
Trainer John Gosden has won the race twice before, most recently in 2017 with subsequent dual Arc winner Enable who also went on to capture glory in the Group 1 Epsom Oaks.
He saddles Fanny Logan and Mehdaayih this time around. Preference is for the latter, who has a progressive profile and has won two of her four starts.
This daughter of the mighty Frankel opened her account at the third time of asking as a juvenile when running on strongly to beat the aforementioned Fanny Logan by a neck in a nine-runner contest at Yarmouth.
The front two pulled 4 1/2 lengths clear of the third home Maqsad.
That one is unbeaten in two starts since and was very impressive last time out when romping to a five-length success in a Listed contest at Newmarket to earn a top-price 8/1 quote for the Epsom Oaks.
That gives the form a very strong look, and Mehdaayih comes into this race fit having cruised to a facile 14-length success in a minor contest at Chelmsford on seasonal reappearance.
This demands much more, but Mehdaayih is clearly an exciting prospect; so, in a wide-open looking renewal, she looks worth a punt at 6/1 with Ladbrokes to take the step up in class in her stride and complete the hat-trick.
Secret Thoughts, a 7/2 shot with Coral, is the sole representative for last year’s winning trainer O’Brien and ran well when fifth in a Group 3 on return to action at Leopardstown, so is feared most.
She Can Boogie a Diamond gem
In the Boodles Diamond Handicap run over the flying 5f (15:00), She Can Boogie looks decent value at 6/1 with Paddy Power to make a winning return to action given that she has proven form at the venue.
Trained locally by Tom Dascombe, this three-year-old filly has won once and been placed twice in three starts over course and distance.
That victory saw her show blistering early pace to make all and beat Thegreatestshowman by 2 1/2 lengths.
She Can Boogie then backed that up with a solid length third to Dave Dexter here when collared late on soft ground which didn’t suit.
The daughter of Dandy Man went on to land back-to-back contests at Nottingham by a short-head on each occasion, and was also far from disgraced when last seen in action at Wolverhampton back in December when finishing a two length fourth of her current rating of 88.
That mark looks exploitable and She Can Boogie has bagged a decent draw in stall five from which to attack. She also hails from a yard in good form that loves to have winners at the meeting.
Top Breeze has bagged the plum draw in stall one, meanwhile. and looks sure to make a bold bid. This Richard Hughes trained three-year-old colt has won three of his for starts, showing improved form in each outing.
He comes into the race having posted a career-best effort last time out when making all to land a competitive 11-runner handicap over 6f at Newmarket by a length.
A 6lb rise in the weights for that taking success looks fair, as Top Breeze is clearly going the right way and remains unexposed and open to further progress. He is 4/1 favourite with Betway to go in again.