Live chance for Phantom

Greg Wood says an outsider has the form to lift the Chester Cup
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When Top Cees was led in to the winner's enclosure after the Chester Cup two years ago, the only sound was the gentle clip-clop of his hooves, so convinced were the spectators that on his previous outing at Newmarket his true merit had been carefully concealed. We may discover this afternoon whether Lynda Ramsden, his trainer, has now been forgiven, since Top Cees will set off as one of the market leaders for the 1997 renewal, but it could be that while the form from 1995 will assist in finding the winner, it will be a different horse in the frame when they pass the winning post for the third time after an 18-furlong gallop around Chester.

Consider this. When Top Cees won the Cup two years ago, he raced off a handicap mark of 72. Back in third place, racing off 90, was The Flying Phantom. Today, the respective marks are 87 and 78, an overall swing of election proportions, and yet while Top Cees is an 11-2 chance with the Tote this morning, The Flying Phantom, who is 27lb better off with Mrs Ramsden's horse for a five-and-a-half length beating, is available at 12-1.

It is true that The Flying Phantom has not raced on the Flat for almost two years, but three runs over hurdles this winter, the most recent just 42 days ago, should ensure that he is fit and ready for today's assignment.

"The owners were keen to have another crack at Chester so this has been the plan for some time," Phil Green, assistant to Mark Tompkins, the gelding's trainer, said yesterday. "He was aimed pretty high earlier in his career, he's run in the Derby and the Ascot Gold Cup and taken on all sorts of good horses, and if you go through his form you can find some really good bits, most notably in the Chester Cup. He's a tough customer, we know he'll handle the track and we're hoping he'll go very well."

The best-backed runners in today's field are Bowcliffe Court, already a winner this season after a winter move from Barry Hills to Reg Akehurst, and Henry Cecil's Canon Can, but neither appears particularly well-handicapped, and THE FLYING PHANTOM (nap 3.45) is an excellent each-way bet at the early odds.

The main event on the undercard is the Cheshire Oaks, four of the five runners in which are still engaged in the original Oaks, but such is this contest's record as a Classic trial in recent years that it seems likely that Kyle Rhea (3.45), the only one without an Epsom entry, will come home in front. Perfect Paradigm (next best 2.10) is still in the Derby, but while the premier Classic is a hopeless cause, the opening handicap, off a mark of just 85, should be well within reach.