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Mukhmal (Paul Hanagan) Chester 7.5.14

Chester's Boodles May festival starts on Wednesday

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Chester clues: four things to watch out for this week

CHESTER is arguably one of Britain's most unique courses and, hot on the heels of the Guineas, there will be Classic clues, one of the biggest staying handicaps of the year and a whole host of Marwan Koukash runners. Here is everything you need to look out for over three days of brilliant racing at Chester.

Epsom clues

There could be a shake-up in the betting for both Epsom Classics. Ante-post Investec Derby favourite US Army Ranger is set to follow the exact same path to Epsom as 2013 Derby hero Ruler Of The World, by tackling Thursday's Group 3 Chester Vase (3.10) having won the same Curragh maiden on debut.

US Army Ranger

US Army Ranger: follows the same Derby path as Ruler Of The World

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

Should US Army Ranger meet with defeat at Chester and one of O'Brien's six entries in Friday's Dee Stakes (2.40) fail to pick up the baton, leaving Ballydoyle without an outstanding Derby contender among their colts, it must surely increase the tantalising prospect of Minding becoming the first filly to contest the Derby since Cape Verdi in 1998.

Somehow could also shorten for the Oaks if she is successful in Wednesday's Cheshire Oaks (2.40).

Star stayers

Trip To Paris went on to win the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot after capturing last season's Chester Cup (3.10) from a mark of 94, and plenty of connections in this year's race will be eyeing up Group-race targets later in the campaign.

Trip To Paris wins the Chester Cup

Trip To Paris won the Chester Cup and Gold Cup at Royal Ascot

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Ante-post favourite Steve Rogers is a prolific winner and possesses the potential to develop into a Group performer. He has been handed the crucial advantage of an inside stall, as has Simon Crisford's topweight Gang Warfare, who has climbed the ranks by winning his last four starts. Dermot Weld has done well on the Flat with classy bumper horses in the past and has already won a November Handicap with Cheltenham Festival winner Silver Concorde.

The Chester Cup is not the only race likely to throw up Gold Cup clues, with Friday's Group 3 Ormonde Stakes (3.10) another race sometimes used as a stepping stone to the Royal meeting.

Stand-out jockeys

Not every horse will be seen to best effect around the tight turns of Chester this week and the same can be said of many riders. With trackcraft playing such a crucial role, one man sure to be in demand is Franny Norton, who has ridden 44 winners at Chester in the last four seasons - 20 more than his nearest pursuer - and whose mounts are showing a healthy level-stakes profit of £35.19 to a £1 stake.

Franny Norton - Our Jonathan - Ayr - Sept 2011

Franny Norton: the man to follow at Chester?

  PICTURE: John Grossick (  

Next in on the winners' list is Richard Kingscote, who has ridden 24 winners at the course in the past four seasons and will be hoping to strike in the opening race as he partners recent Newmarket winner Fiery Character in the Lily Agnes Stakes. Will the speedy, low-drawn two-year-old, hailing from an in-form yard and ridden by a man who knows his way around the Roodee prove difficult to beat? Punters clearly think so as she has been installed as the 6-4 favourite.

Have horse will run

Marwan Koukash's love of Chester is no secret and the owner is set to be heavily represented at the course once again this week. Koukash has declared 18 horses across the first two days of the meeting, including the veteran Gabrial, who will be running at the Chester May Festival for the fifth time. Gabrial has been beaten both times he has contested the Group 3 Huxley Stakes, including last year when he finished a close-up fourth, but can he make it third-time lucky on Thursday?

Marwan Koukash: hoping Our Jonathan can win gold again

Marwan Koukash: heavily represented at Chester this week

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Koukash has won the Chester Cup twice in the last three seasons and has five representatives in this year's renewal, including last year's fourth Gabrial's King, who was originally first reserve but has snuck into the final field at the eleventh hour to bolster his owner's strong squad.

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