Kew Gardens looks in a different league to his rivals and a worthy red-hot even-money favourite with Boylesports to land the feature race on day two of Chester’s May Festival, on Thursday, May 9 – the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes run over 1m 5f (15:35).
This four-year-old hails from the all-conquering Irish yard of Aidan O’Brien, who saddled Idaho to land the spoils 12 months ago, and has form of the very highest order in the book.
He enjoyed a tremendous time last season when progressing with each outing and winning four times, landing the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot before running out a ready 1 1/4 lengths victor in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp in France.
Following a solid third in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York, Kew Gardens then enjoyed his finest hour when given a superb tactical ride by Ryan Moore to capture Classic glory when forging clear and stay on strongly to La Ti Dar by 2 1/4 lengths in the St Leger at Doncaster.
The son of Galileo went on to round off a busy campaign with a fine four-length seventh of 16 to wonder filly Enable in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp ,when staying on strongly from well off the pace to be nearest at the finish down in trip over 1m 4f.
It was a terrific effort, given how the race panned out and this represents a return to much calmer waters.
A 7lb penalty for his Group 1 success means he has to give weight all-round to five rivals, but it will be disappointing if Kew Gardens doesn’t prove up to the task and take this en route to more big race successes this season.
Cup winner Magic Circle feared most
If Kew Gardens does fail to live up to expectations then the Ian Williams trained Magic Circle, who can be backed at 9/2 with Ladbrokes, looks the obvious on to take advantage.
This seven-year-old took his form to a new level last season after joining Williams, winning the 2m 2f Chester Cup on seasonal reappearance at this meeting in runaway style by six lengths.
The son of Makfi then followed-up with another six-length romp in the Group 3 Henry VIII Stakes over 2m at Sandown.
Magic Circle was then put away in a bid to land the Melbourne Cup, but trailed in a distant 19 1/2 length 16th of 24 to Cross Counter in the Group 1 handicap at Flemington after breaking a blood vessel.
He is owned by Dr Marwan Koukash, who loves nothing more to have winners at his favourite track, and now returns to action following a 227 day break but has gone well fresh in the past, so fitness is unlikely to be an issue.
Magic Circle also receives 7lb from Kew Gardens, so on adjusted ratings comes out 3lb on top of that rival. However, the drop back to 1m 5f is not ideal as all his best form has come over further.
Circus Maximus looks just the trick in Dee Stakes
The main supporting race om a competitive seven-race card at the Roodee is the Listed 1m 2f Dee Stakes (14:25). Ballydoyle maestro O’Brien has won the race seven times, including the last two runnings.
He is represented by Circus Maximus and Mohawk in this year’s renewal, and preference is for the former who is a 5/4 shot with William Hill.
This beautifully bred son of Galileo came good at the second time of asking as a juvenile when running on strongly to land an 18-runner maiden at Gowran Park by two lengths.
Circus Maximus then did well when pitched into Group 3 company and finishing third to Persian King in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket.
He ran a blinder on his final start when a length fourth of 11 to stable companion Magna Grecia in the Group 1 Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
Although clear at the two marker and holding every chance inside the last, Circus Maximus then edged left and was unable to find any extra close home.
Given that Magna Grecia ran out the impressive winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on seasonal reappearance, the form reads very well in relation to this lower grade affair.
Circus Maximus is also officially rated just 2lb below Mohawk, yet receives a handy 5lb from his more exposed stable companion. So, with further progression assured, he looks the one to be on in this.
Fox Chairman a big player under SDS
Fox Chairman could not have been more impressive when winning on debut last month; so, despite being upped in grade, looks a formidable opponent for Circus Maximus under in-form champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa.
That success came in a 13-runner maiden at Newbury where, after being sent off a heavily backed 15/8 favourite, the Andrew Balding trained son of Kingman quickened clear at the furlong marker to win easily by four lengths from Migration.
The runner-up is a useful sort who has since finished a fine second on handicap debut in the Esher Cup at Sandown, whilst the fourth home Fifth Position has come out and won since to give the form a boost.
Given that Fox Chairman also gave away ground that day after being slowly away, it was a performance which suggested he was an exciting prospect who needed keeping firmly onside.
He is also entitled to come on a bundle for that experience and is a 3/1 chance with Betfred to take the step up in class in his stride and follow-up.
Copper Knight drawn to attack in opener
In the 5f Gateley PLC Handicap that gets proceedings underway (13:50), Copper Knight looks to have lots going for him following a highly promising run on seasonal reappearance.
This Tim Easterby trained five-year-old has won two of his three starts over course and distance.
He won three times last season, with the last of those successes coming off a mark of 97 at Nottingham when bursting through rivals at the furlong marker to get up in the final 75 yards and beat Teruntum Star by three-quarters of a length off a mark of 97.
Although now 3lb higher in the weights, Copper Knight showed that he could be competitive off his current rating of 100 when an eye-catching and keeping on 4 1/4 lengths fourth of 16 to Saaheq at Musselburgh 19 days ago.
That run should have put the son of Sir Prancelot spot on for this and, at a venue where a low draw is a big advantage, Copper Knight has bagged the plum draw in stall one from which to attack from the off.
At 4/1 with Paddy Power, he looks well worth a wager now returned to a track which clearly plays to his strengths.
Spoof is 1-1 over course and distance and looks an each-way player at 16/1 with BetVictor despite being drawn high as he is a hold-up performer who needs to be dropped-in and delivered late.
Irish raider Alfred Arcano, who can be backed at 20/1 with Coral, is another with claims now eased in grade following a fine fourth to Kachy last time out in a valuable conditions contest on All-Weather Finals Day at Lingfield.