Cannock Chase can see off Huxley rivals

Bill Esdaile
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Progressive Cannock Chase primed to win today on route to bigger prizes

SIR MICHAEL Stoute hasn’t quite scaled the heights that we have come to expect over the past few seasons, but four winners at Royal Ascot last June secured him the top trainer award at the meeting and he has a powerful squad for this campaign.

He has won this afternoon’s Huxley Stakes (2.40pm) a record five times – including three straight wins with Maraahel between 2005 and 2007 – and one of the yard’s leading hopes this season is undoubtedly CANNOCK CHASE.

The Lemon Drop Kid colt won last year’s Tercentenary Stakes at the royal meeting and he was far from disgraced when finishing third to Western Hymn in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown last month on his reappearance.

Stoute’s horses often come on for their first run of the season and the Sandown outing will have blown the cobwebs away. Cannock Chase is exactly the kind of horse his handler does so well with and it will be no surprise if he ends up winning a couple of big Group One races this summer.

There isn’t much between the field on ratings, but my selection undoubtedly has the most potential to improve this season and he is worth supporting at 2/1 with Betway.

Maverick Wave dotted up in a handicap at Chelmsford last time and has obvious claims. However, he has only ventured outside handicap company once where he was beaten in the Listed Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield back in February.

If the ground continues to deteriorate that will bring in Ralph Beckett’s Air Pilot, who was very progressive last season and loves getting his toe in. But he might just lack the class of Cannock Chase and is also making his seasonal debut.

The Betway Lincoln winner Gabrial is unproven over this trip, while Windhoek is another making his seasonal bow. Grandeur is regressing and Fattsota is probably just a handicapper, so Cannock Chase rates a very strong bet.

Betway are also giving money back as a free bet (up to £25) if your horse finishes second, beaten less than a length, in any race at Chester this week.

The opening IG Handicap (2.10pm) was won by Tres Coronas 12 months ago and David Barron’s eight-year-old comes back for more off a 5lb higher mark.

He has claims again, as does Andrew Balding’s impressive recent Epsom winner Collaboration, but my eye is drawn to one of Dr Marwan Koukash’s three runners.

GABRIAL’S KAKA has always been well regarded by his owner and trainer Richard Fahey and he now looks like he needs this step up to 10 furlongs.

He was disappointing in the Lincoln two starts back, but ran on well at Haydock last time and the extra two furlongs might just do the trick here.

The concern is his draw in stall 11, as Jamie Spencer is going to have to use all his nous to produce him at the right time, but I’m not as worried about wide draws when the ground is soft at Chester as the runners tend to come towards the stands rail.

Gabrial’s Kaka is only 3lb higher than when easily winning the competitive Spring Cup at Newbury last year and his owner loves nothing more than a winner on the Roodee.

■ Pointers…
GABRIAL’S KAKA e/w 2.10pm Chester
CANNOCK CHASE 2.40pm Chester