THIS time last year, the unbeaten Sir Michael Stoute-trained MIDTERM was favourite for both the Dante Stakes and the Investec Derby on the back of a win in the Sandown Classic Trial.
Today he doesn’t even line-up as favourite for the Ormonde Stakes (3.35pm) at Chester having been beaten in all four starts since Sandown.
His eclipse in the Dante Stakes at York, strangely exactly a year ago to the day, was followed by a lengthy absence which forced him to miss Epsom and Royal Ascot.
In fact, we didn’t see him back in action until September when he finished a decent neck second behind Makahiki in the Prix Niel at Chantilly.
He wasn’t beaten miles in his final start as a three-year-old when seventh behind Almanzor in the Champion Stakes at Ascot and there is a definite sense of unfinished business behind the decision of connections to keep him in training.
With last season all but a write-off, he was found the perfect starting point at Newbury last month, but again fluffed his lines when fifth to Muntahaa.
The immaculately bred son of Derby-winning Galileo out of Oaks runner-up (beaten a head) Midday, raced lazily and took a long time to get going.
He would have unquestionably needed the run, but the fact his trainer has reached for a first-time visor suggests concentration was an issue too.
The additional furlong and half trip also looks well worth a try and he looks too big at this level at 4/1 with Coral.
He certainly isn’t the only under-achieving three-year-old colt lining up here on the comeback trail 12 months on.
Favourite US Army Ranger was second in last year’s Investec Derby having won the Chester Vase here, but hasn’t looked the same colt since.
His connections are hoping the step up in trip will also revitalise him as he hasn’t won in five starts since last season’s victory here on the Roodee.
Last month’s reappearance run at Naas may well have brought him along for this, but it will need to as he has become more than a little disappointing and 2/1 looks woefully skinny.
He finished behind my selection Midterm when they were beaten in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last October and I’m hoping he’ll finish behind him again.
The trip will help Red Verdon, but I’d like to see his stable in better form and the ground softer for him.
Fast ground is also a worry for Western Hymn and Diamonds Pour Moi who both become players should the heavens open.
While we are on the theme of disappointing horses, Double Up has let plenty down and can stretch his losing run out to 10 in the penultimate contest (4.35pm).
He has been sent off at 7/2 or shorter on six of those starts and there is a danger that could happen again this afternoon.
Admittedly, he has plenty of talent and could easily score here, it’s just he has become more than a little expensive to follow.
Instead, take a chance on the Julie Camacho-trained JUDICIAL who got back to winning ways at Pontefract last month.
With her stable going along nicely, the five-year-old can go well here considering he also has that all important low draw (three), not to mention a course win to his name.
The ability to handle the track is a huge plus, as is the fact he has also won on fast ground before should no rain arrive.
Aidan O’Brien has his team in rude health as he showed at Newmarket last weekend and it’s hard to see beyond his Cliffs Of Moher in the Dee Stakes (2.25pm).
However, he looks plenty short enough at around 4/6 and instead I’d rather chance one at a bigger price in the opening handicap (1.50pm).
Andrew Balding has his team in red-hot form at the moment and having landed the 188BET Chester Cup earlier in the week has great chances of another winner here with INTRANSIGENT.
The eight-year-old has been busy on the all-weather this year already and this will be his seventh run of 2017.
He has slipped to a very attractive handicap mark and looks a monster each-way price at 14/1.
Intransigent e/w 1:50pm Chester
Midterm 3:35pm Chester
Judical 4:35pm Chester