Last year Mukhmal won this race on his second start after victorious on debut. Mark Johnston's colt was made 4/1 for the Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) at Royal Ascot but disappointed. His best performance came in the Molecomb Stakes (Group 3) when fourth, beaten less than three lengths.
Astley Hall defied his inexperience on debut at Redcar to win in the style of a fair juvenile. Racing in the colours of David Armstrong, this chestnut son of Dutch Art is a home bred out of a winning mare similarly owned and trained. Richard Fahey trains his two year olds to run well on debut - a point exemplified by his statistics. However, this February foal veered markedly to his left [from a wide draw] at Redcar but had the talent to catch his foe and although looking rather unaware of what racing is all about ran to the line with purpose. The form of that race has been franked. Furthermore, this good-looking colt is likely to improve. A low draw is particularly important on Chester's turning track and stall five is just fair. He most certainly wouldn't want to be tardy from the stalls but those cobwebs are likely to have been blown away on that racecourse bow.
Rah Rah hasn't been seen for over one month since winning over 5f on debut at Kempton. It was a day where Mark Johnston's stable made the headlines with three two year old winners. Clearly Kingsley House have made it their business - with a larger string of juveniles - to show the way. This stable have a lot of very expensive horses and it shows in their physicality - big, strong, beautiful. This daughter of Lonhro (AUS) out of a Group placed mare. She won well on debut by just under four lengths. The form of that race has taken a knock with the second struggling to win. A filly with ability.
Silver Swings was very well backed on debut and won in a race that will turn out a few winners. David Evans grey colt, a son of Zebedee, has a plum draw in stall one and was sharp away at Windsor on his first start so he is most likely to take advantage of this favoured position. He looks a great purchase at 17,000 [yearling]. Connections have high hopes this two year old is heading for Royal Ascot and a bold show will be needed to justify those ambitions.
Lone Irish raider An Duine Uasal heads from County Kildare to the Roodee. Adrian Keatley is owner-trainer and a cheap yearling buy at just 5,000. This bay colt won on his second start and wouldn't have any problems with the ground. The blinkers have been applied for the first time no doubt in an effort to hit the gates running.
Bill Turner hasn't made a mark with this year's crop of two year olds and the majority have shown limited ability. Thee And Me wasn't fancied on debut and after showing pace faded out of contention. The form of that race has been franked to some extent. This son of Canford Cliffs was a big drifter in the betting second start in a four-horse race at Wolverhampton. It looked a poor race for a maiden. Turner's charge travelled with panache, winning with ease at odds of 18/1. He won in something next to a canter which sounds impressive however I just think it was a akin to an egg and spoon race. The betting suggests bookmakers have similar thoughts. I'd take a watching brief.
Mick Appleby is a talented trainer, the type to prove he can go places and City Of Stars jumped in the deep end when making his debut at Stakes class, taking on a previous winner in Ravehoe, trained by Mark Johnston. This Irish bred son of Lilbourne Lad was well backed that day and I have little doubt the stable fancied him to go very well. He was bustled along for mot of the way and given a pretty hard race for a horse having its formative start. I wouldn't expected this bay colt to improve a great deal. The form looks fair although I just wonder if he will be quite pacey enough to stick with a few of these and a wide draw doesn't help.
Eve Johnson Houghton knows her horses and always has a fair two year old in the ranks. In Haste is an Irish bred son of Clodovil out of a winning mare who was trounced when tried at Group class. This grey colt was purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales for 16,000. The debut at Bath was in a very restricted race type and pretty ordinary contest. I imagine connections were disappointed not to win that day because I'm sure they expected a tidy victory. In Haste had little luck stuck behind a wall of horses and rallied well in the closing stages with John Fahey vigorous in the saddle, realising he could win if not running out of time. He finished an unlucky second. This is a rise in class and more is needed.
Fashionable Spirit is an Irish bred daughter of Invincible Spirit who cost 85,000 at the yearling sales. She ran well on debut at Chelmsford City behind Silk Bow, who won well but showed little on debut in the Brocklesby Stakes. Time may tell that was a fair race, and finishing second, in front of Anwar who was beaten easily by Rah Rah, shows ability although this is a stiff contest.
David Evans has a second representative in Nag's Wag who ran at the weekend at Stakes level after a debut win at Bath at odds of 16/1. This daughter of Approve ran well at Salisbury, Sunday, if not showing a little too much pace and perhaps not finishing her race. This January foal is a compact horse, with a fluent stride. She has a wide draw but could well hold a decent position.
Conclusion: A tricky race to make me want to rush down the bookmakers for a mega bet. Stakes races are difficult to assess with progressive juveniles, winners that have not been tested. Chester throws into the mix a draw that can define your chance - win, lose or draw. A low stall can be a marked advantage to a horse with pace. Silver Wings is likely to hold his rail position and if a few of the fancied runners with wide draws have any issues it will make their life difficult. Astley Hall is a good-looking colt and could be a nice two year old but needs to be wiser today. A tardy start would make this a tall order. Rah Rah has a good draw and will be battling for the lead. A watching race to enjoy.