Highland Legacy ready for the big cheese test

The contrast between Newmarket and Chester, the first two meetings on the spring circuit, could hardly be more pronounced. At the weekend horses were racing on the wide, distant expanses of Suffolk's free-draining heathland; today in Cheshire they face the riverside carousel of Britain's tightest track. Given that truckles of the county's speciality foodstuff are part of the prizes this afternoon, it could be said the move has been from chalk to cheese.

No course in England can trace its ancestry further back than Chester, for it was in 1511, two years into the reign of Henry VIII, that a fair on the Roodeye – the "island with a cross" in a loop of the Dee, hard by the city walls – was first enlivened by a horserace, with the reward of a painted ball. As times went by, prizes became rather more sophisticated; in 1609, the subjects of James I competed for a silver bell, in 1685, the year that James II confirmed his place as king by defeating his illegitimate nephew, the Duke of Monmouth, in a battle at Sedgemoor, the Mayor and Corporation of Chester put up an £8 silver trophy to be run for "five times round".

This afternoon's running of the Chester Cup is the 175th since the two-and-a- quarter mile contest attained its present form in 1824. Riders were instructed "to start at the Castle-pole, run twice round and end at the coming-in Chair", and the winner, Doge Of Venice, took home 100 guineas. Today's top prize, with James II's 10-greats grand-daughter on the throne, is worth rather more, £74,772.

Plus that truckle, of course. And 50lb of crumbly Cheshire takes some shifting, and some eating.

Michael Jarvis has had to deal with it twice, the beneficiaries when he won it for the second time with Anak Pekan three years ago being the residents of an old folk's home. Newmarket's pensioners can feast again on Welsh rarebit and macaroni, for today's race may concern the two locally trained progressive four-year-olds, Jarvis's own charge Black Rock and Highland Legacy, from Michael Bell's stable.

The historic handicap, once the biggest betting heat in the calendar, has been Highland Legacy's target since he showed his liking last autumn for marathon running. His last three starts have been over two miles and he has won them all by daylight. A well-plotted seasonal debut victory 11 days ago earned the upstanding son of Selkirk the penalty that ensured he made the cut today and the ground, forecast at no firmer than good, should suit. Black Rock, by Rock Of Gibraltar, is also upwardly mobile, but has yet to prove himself beyond 13 furlongs.

The perception that a low-numbered starting berth, close to the infield rail, is preferable at Chester – only a mile and 60 yards round – is borne out by statistics, but not as emphatically as might be expected. Twelve of the last 20 winners have come from single-figure stalls, as did 24 of the 40 placed horses. Black Rock is drawn 15, the same as Anak Pekan three years ago; Highland Legacy is drawn six, a starting point which has produced three winners and three runners-up in the past 20 runnings. As a point of statistical interest, the last four horses to finish third have emerged from the number 11 stall, occupied today by Bulwark.

Highland Legacy (2.45) has match-fitness, proven stamina, ability round a sharp track (he has won at Ripon and Windsor) and the draw (just) on his side. The one statistic he must overcome is his position in the market; the race, with luck being an essential element in such a wall-of-death scramble, is not a good one for favourites. Just 37 have been successful, and a mere five in the last three decades.

Six of the nine runners in the Cheshire Oaks hold an entry for the real thing and, with the betting open and the erstwhile market leader, Chinese White, announced as bound for her local version at the Curragh, a good performance today could impact the market, particularly as last year's winner, Light Shift, went on to glory at Epsom. It can come from the High Chaparral filly Sugar Mint (2.15), whose latest victim, Duntulm, won at Newmarket on Saturday and whose trainer has an outstanding record at the track.

The 10-furlong maiden contains a selection of lightly raced, well-related, well-entered colts. John Gosden has won three of the past five runnings and can take another with Moonquake (4.00), who can show the benefit of his introduction last month. A reality check has already kicked in for some similar types in the concluding handicap; it can go to Ballochroy (4.35), fifth in a better race last time.

Chris McGrath

Nap: President Elect

(Beverley 4.15)

NB: Black Rock

(Chester 2.45)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map