Chester Cup tips and runner-by-runner guide to Chester 3.40 on Friday

Falcon Eight tops the weights for the Chester Cup as the 2021 hero attempts to regain the crown.

Dermot Weld’s veteran runner will have to beat a maximum of 16 rivals in Friday’s 15:40 if he’s to join the exclusive club of multiple winners, but he took his form to new heights at the end of last season when landing Group 3 honours.

It is perhaps unsurprising that a deep field has been assembled because the Chester Cup is one of the premier staying handicaps of the season, with last year’s Newmarket and Irish Cesarewitch scorers, The Shunter and Magellan Strait, among the contenders.

Zoffee was beaten a neck in last season’s renewal and could prove tempting off a 3lb lower mark, although just one eight-year-old has claimed the spoils since the race was extended to 2m2½f in 1994.

Aztec Empire, Duke Of Oxford and Grand Providence all take their chance after being prominent in the antepost market and they could be worth noting as horses aged six and younger have won eight of the last 10 renewals.

The latest Chester Cup odds are on the Paddy Power website and Paddy Power app, otherwise Timeform’s guide to the runners as well as betting tips from the racing boffins can be found below.

Chester Cup verdict

Timeform: Emmet Mullins has quickly established himself as a force in big-field handicaps across all spheres and his THE SHUNTER is fancied to return in style having been last seen on the Flat bagging Newmarket’s Cesarewitch Handicap. Andrew Balding looks to hold a strong hand and his duo Aztec Empire and Grand Providence both look equipped to go well. Duke of Oxford, Too Friendly and Magellan Strait complete the shortlist in a cracking Chester Cup.

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

Chester Cup runners and riders

The following horses have been declared for the Chester Cup 2024.

Falcon Eight

Trainer: D. K. Weld Jockey: Oisin Orr Age: 9 Weight: 9st 12lbs Draw: 15

Smart 2m winner who resumed with a below-par sixth in listed race at Saint-Cloud (14.9f, heavy) 39 days ago. No surprise to see him bounce back with that run under his belt.

***

Magellan Strait

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien Jockey: William Buick Age: 5 Weight: 9st 4lbs Draw: 2

Useful gelding who bagged Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh (16.8f, heavy) last September. Returned with odds-on success in small-filed Dundalk event so he’s much respected in his hat-trick bid.

***

The Shunter

Trainer: Emmet Mullins Jockey: Ben Martin Coen Age: 11 Weight: 9st 3lbs Draw: 13

Smart winning hurdler/chaser who is lightly raced in this sphere but still added the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October. Posted a good fifth back hurdling at Punchestown following month and very much of interest on his return here.

*****

Citizen General

Trainer: Ed Dunlop Jockey: Clifford Lee Age: 5 Weight: 8st 12lbs Draw: 9

Resumed winning ways at Kempton (2m) in February but only eleventh of 13 in handicap at Newcastle (16.2f) 42 days ago. Needs to get back on track.

***

Spirit Mixer

Trainer: Andrew Balding Jockey: Callum Hutchinson Age: 6 Weight: 8st 11lbs Draw: 17

Landed hat-trick in first half of 2022 but seen only sparingly since and below par in 2m AW handicaps both starts this spring. Cheekpieces are now reached for.

**

Emiyn

Trainer: Declan Carroll Jockey: Zak Wheatley Age: 7 Weight: 8st 9lbs Draw: 7

C&D winner who shaped as if needing the run when eleventh of 14 in handicap at Thirsk (12f, heavy) 20 days ago. Can take a step forward with a visor added.

***

Zanndabad

Trainer: A. J. Martin Jockey: Richard Kingscote Age: 5 Weight: 8st 9lbs Draw: 10

Fairly useful on the Flat and over jumps for his current yard, posting a good second in novice hurdle at Ascot (19.3f, good) 47 days ago. No forlorn hope back in this sphere.

***

Solent Gateway

Trainer: Hugo Palmer Jockey: Saffie Osborne Age: 6 Weight: 8st 9lbs Draw: 5

Ended 2023 with sound in-frame efforts at Newbury and York but has run poorly both AW outings this spring. Has a bit to prove on back of that with a visor added.

***

Aztec Empire

Trainer: Andrew Balding Jockey: Oisin Murphy Age: 5 Weight: 8st 9lbs Draw: 4

Pair of AW wins early last year and better form on turf thereafter, going close in valuable handicap (16.3f) at York In August. Gelded and returns on a lenient mark so very much one to consider.

****

Zealandia

Trainer: Ian Williams Jockey: Jim Crowley Age: 7 Weight: 8st 9lbs Draw: 11

Back to winning ways at Newcastle (16.2f) in January only to come in ninth in 2m Kempton handicap since. Needs to bounce back.

***

Aqwaam

Trainer: Ian Williams Jockey: Franny Norton Age: 6 Weight: 8st 7lbs Draw: 6

Posted a career best when winning 2m handicap at Lingfield in March. Not seen to best effect when seventh at Kempton (16f) 34 days ago so he’s one for the shortlist.

***

Zoffee

Trainer: Hugo Palmer Jockey: Harry Davies Age: 8 Weight: 8st 7lbs Draw: 1

Runner-up in this in 2023 and back with Hugo Palmer after a couple of underwhelming hurdling efforts for Olly Murphy. No surprise to see him go well once more.

***

Duke Of Oxford

Trainer: Michael Bell Jockey: David Egan Age: 4 Weight: 8st 7lbs Draw: 16

Ended 2023 with a brace of 2m Kempton wins and he recorded another good effort when second of 13 in handicap at Newcastle (16.2f) 42 days ago. Can make his presence felt once more.

***

Too Friendly

Trainer: James Owen Jockey: Silvestre De Sousa Age: 6 Weight: 8st 6lbs Draw: 8

Won 3 times over hurdles for current yard last summer and added to his tally back on the level in 2m Kempton handicap in March. Only eighth hurdling at Plumpton since but no forlorn hope.

***

Forza Orta

Trainer: Kevin Ryan Jockey: Rowan Scott Age: 6 Weight: 8st 6lbs Draw: 3

Off 7 months before posting an encouraging seventh of 14 in handicap at Thirsk (12f, heavy) 20 days ago. Significantly up in trip and needs considering.

***

The Grand Visir

Trainer: Ian Williams Jockey: Joe Fanning Age: 10 Weight: 8st 6lbs Draw: 14

It’s now 25 runs since his last win in 2019 and this veteran came in a well-beaten last of 14 to Duke of Oxford in handicap at Kempton (16f) 156 days ago. Hard to make a case for.

**

Grand Providence

Trainer: Andrew Balding Jockey: Hayley Turner Age: 4 Weight: 8st 6lbs Draw: 12

Nathaniel filly who scored 3 times in 2023, latest in 2m2f handicap at Newmarket in September. Resumed with a promising third in 2m Newbury handicap so she’s firmly in the picture.

***

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