Racing: Take Oath to cruise the Dee

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BARRY HILLS does not like to depart from tradition at Chester's May meeting. Each year he travels from Lambourn and stays at the Tarporley home of Chester's chairman, Bobby McAlpine. Barry does not mind accepting the hospitality as he once trained Cormorant Wood to send the McAlpine tartan flashing home first in Newmarket's Champion Stakes. The old confederates relive the moment over rounds of golf.

Then the two men go to work at the Roodeye. Bobby ensures the racecourse runs smoothly. Barry does the same with his horses. And they win. "Winning at Chester is always special," Hills said yesterday. "It's a challenge to get a horse here and work out the race tactics. Whether you should be in front or behind. There's more to it than other places."

It is a conundrum that Barrington William Hills has solved most successfully in the Dee Stakes, which came to him for the 10th time when Prolix won 12 months ago. He has previously used the contest to sharpen the Derby aspirations of Sir Harry Lewis and Blue Stag.

Today's representative is Through The Rye, who finds other Derby entrants Oath, Bombard, Little Rock and Tayil ranged against him. If Hills can collect again it will be some achievement as Through The Rye has plenty to find on official figures. "He might struggle," the trainer said. "He's off a rating of 90 and stepping up a class. But I'm sure he'll run a good race."

Bombard will mesh some Derby form together here because Paul Cole's colt was fourth behind Fantastic Light in Sandown's Classic Trial. Sir Michael Stoute has been mopping up Blue Riband rehearsals with regularity and his unbeaten Little Rock will probably start favourite. Both his wins, at Leicester last year and Sandown on his reappearance, were on softish going and he is unproven in today's conditions. The value, therefore, may lie with OATH (nap 2.40), who was second at Newbury last month at a time when Henry Cecil was insisting that all his horses would come on considerably for their debuts.

Warren Place will expect to take the day's other Listed race, the Huxley Stakes, in which they have a horse named for the venue. Chester House (3.40) has yet to reach the heights forecast for him but he was only two short-heads away from winning York's International Stakes last season and any sort of relationship to that form will see him home today.

Sadian (next best 3.10) was a rare failure for Cecil last year when, after finishing a neck behind High-Rise in Lingfield's Derby Trial he ran dreadfully in the Derby and the Irish equivalent. He was subsequently switched to John Dunlop and collected the John Porter Stakes at Newbury last month, dispelling suggestions that he needs soft going to give his best.


Nap: Oath

(Chester 2.40)

NB: Sadian

(Chester 3.10)