Thursday 9 May 2019 5:28 pm

Horse Racing Betting Tips: Cleonte can strike again for Balding in the Chester Cup

Bill Esdaile is City A.M. racing editor and managing director of Square in the Air.

Bill Esdaile is City A.M. racing editor and managing director of Square in the Air.

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LOOKING at the previous winners of this afternoon’s SportPesa Chester Cup (3.35pm) and there is one surprising omission from the list of successful trainers.

Mark Johnston, who last season became the most successful trainer in British racing history when he saddled his 4194th career victory, does not appear on the roll of honour.

Yet, that may change later today as Johnston’s progressive AUSTRIAN SCHOOL heads the betting after bolting up at Musselburgh last month.

There is no getting away from the fact the four-year-old is well treated here under just a 3lb penalty and connections couldn’t have picked a better draw in stall five.

This son of Teofilo looks to have strengthened up over the winter and it’s hard to envisage him not being in the mix.

At just 4/1 with Ladbrokes, those facts haven’t been lost on the bookmakers though and Johnston’s wait to win Chester’s historic race may well be over.

My only niggling concern is whether he will definitely see out this 2m2½f trip, as he seemed to be outstayed on both attempts over two miles last season.

The fact he has matured over the winter may well help him see out the extra two furlongs, but it certainly is a concern.

One trainer whose name does appear on the list is Andrew Balding who won this race two years ago with Montaly.

The eight-year-old never really fired last season and it requires a leap of faith to expect him to roll back the years.

However, Balding holds an excellent chance with the six-year-old CLEONTE, who rounded off a good season last term by finishing third to Low Sun in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket.

The former Andre Fabre-trained inmate suffered a troubled passage through at both Royal Ascot and the following month at Newbury, before eventually gaining a much-deserved victory at Ascot in August.

He reappeared in the Group Three Sagaro Stakes back at that same venue last week and really caught the eye running on late to finish third behind Ascot Gold Cup-bound Dee Ex Bee.

On the back of those efforts he lines up this afternoon off a 4lb lower mark than the handicapper would like and as long as those exertions haven’t left a mark, he is the one to beat.

Champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa takes the ride and the pair will break from stall one.

Connections may have preferred to have been drawn a little off the fence as there is a little pressure to get out and secure a handy position, but there is no better man for the job than De Sousa.

The Brazilian has spent virtually every Wednesday for the last four months riding at Happy Valley in Hong Kong so nobody will know the importance of getting a good early position on a tight track more than him.

Cleonte is one of only a few guaranteed stayers in the race and the 11/2 looks well worth taking.

Shabeeb looks an interesting new recruit for last season’s winning trainer and owner combination of Ian Williams and Dr Marwan Koukash, but looks very short for another one not guaranteed to last out.

Cesarewitch winner Low Sun has the able assistance of Ryan Moore, but stall 17 makes things very tough on his first start of the season.

The Willie Mullins team also saddle Whiskey Sour who has been in good form over hurdles, but fluffed his lines on the Flat last season and has never been to Chester.

At a bigger price my last vote goes to FUN MAC who was third in this two years ago and second last year.

Admittedly his form deteriorated at the end of last season, but the handicapper has given him a chance off just 93.

That is 8lbs lower than 12 months ago and he has proved that he goes well fresh.

At 16/1 with Coral, he looks another rock-solid stayer and the best each-way pick in the race.





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