Racing: Candle Smile to keep Hills in shade

THERE ARE huge wooden panels hanging in the Chester grandstand which list the winners of the Chester Cup all the way back to 1893, but as yet, the name of Barry Hills appears only once. It is almost 20 years since Arapahos gave Hills his only success in the most sought-after race of the week, which is a little surprising, given that he has won most of the contests at the May meeting about half a dozen times. If he is ever to add another gilt-lettered entry to the roll of honour, it will surely be today.

Rainbow High is Hills's Chester Cup runner, and at first sight - not to mention the second and third too - he looks like a favourite who cannot be opposed. He had nine lengths to spare when he won so easily at Newbury first time up, yet he races today off just a 10lb higher mark, and while staying events sometimes produce exaggerated winning distances, the time there was good enough to suggest that there was no fluke involved.

Rainbow High is also a four-year-old, and his frame should still have room for improvement. Since there were plenty of bookmakers at Newbury too, it seems remarkable that he is available at 7-2 this morning. But he is, which either makes him the value bet of the season or indicates that this is more competitive than it appears.

The latter is probably the case. Rainbow High, for one thing, showed such a sharp turn of speed to win his last race that he may not necessarily appreciate a step up in trip today. He is also up against horses with form in Group races abroad, notably Invermark and Generosity, whose trainer, Paul Cole, won this with a similar type in Merit three years ago.

Yet there is no race quite like the Chester Cup anywhere in the Calendar, and the form of previous runnings is sometimes as relevant as more recent performances elsewhere. One of the abiding memories of last year's race is the scrimmage on the turn for home which left Candle Smile with little more than fresh air where a leg had previously been. At the time, CANDLE SMILE (nap 3.10) was going as well as anything, and would probably have finished in the frame at least. From a 5lb lower mark today, he is surely an excellent each-way bet at around 12-1.

The Cheshire Oaks has fallen out of favour as a Classic trial, but there is no end of potential - both in terms of bloodlines and form - in today's field. Maiden's Blush has already made a winning start to the season, while All Our Hope represents a trainer in form in Sir Michael Stoute, but Signorina Cattiva (next best 3.45) should beat them all, judged on a 10-length win at Leicester last year and a good showing in a strong Newmarket maiden.

The other race of interest to punters is the sprint handicap which opens the card. Paradise Lane showed in the last race yesterday how important a low draw and fast start can be around Chester, and if Ranaan (2.10) can hit the ground running, he will be difficult to catch.