|1pt win Harrison's Cave in 14.35 Chester at 10/1 (Sportingbet).||Looks like a decent stayer in soft conditions and hold-up style lessens draw impact.|
|0.5pts e.w Merchant of Dubai in 14.35 Chester at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4 General).||This trip and ground combination can unlock further improvement.|
The ground has turned soft on the Roodee ahead of the StanJames.com Chester Cup and there aren't many previous renewals that were run on such conditions to point us in the right direction.
Just four times in the last 25 years has the Chester Cup ground had the words 'soft' or 'heavy' in the going description so it's difficult to assess if the usual bias favouring low-drawn, prominent racers applies.
What I would say is that all is not lost if you're drawn out wide this year, particularly if you're a hold-up horse, as there's a lot of pace in the race drawn low-to-middle.
Shubaat (drawn 3), Eternal Heart (5), Never Can Tell (6), Overturn (8) and Kazbow (11) all like to either make it or race up with the pace and unsurprisingly three of these characters are in the top three in the betting.
Last year's winner Overturn and the lightly-raced and lightly-weighted Shubaat make obvious appeal but I think there's a chance they could go too quick up front and set this up for a finisher.
If you can tear yourself away from the low-drawn horses there's some real value to be had out there and the one that catches my eye at 10/1 is Aidan O'Brien's HARRISON'S CAVE.
This son of Galileo is drawn out wide in 15 but he's a hold-up horse anyway so Ryan Moore won't be busting a gut to try and get a prominent position from his wide berth.
He'll be dropped in for a late run and he looked a staying handicapper of some potential when winning at Navan on his final start in Europe last year.
Since then he's been well beaten in the Breeders' Cup Marathon and on his seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown, but I wouldn't be too concerned about his latest effort as he made good headway before being eased late on - clear signs that he was done for fitness.
He should come on for that run and crucially the ground has come right in his favour, as he loves it soft.
Since been stepped up in trip to over a mile he's unbeaten on such conditions, winning his maiden and the aforementioned Navan handicap with ease when there was plenty of give in the ground.
He looks like a typical O'Brien late-developer to me and he could be an extremely well-handicapped stayer in these sort of conditions.
He's only a double-figure price because of the draw so snap it up.
I also think it's worth backing MERCHANT OF DUBAI at 33/1 as he's another one who will love the ground.
Jim Goldie's charge was dropped to a competitive mark ahead of the November Handicap where he stayed on well for third in soft conditions, strongly suggesting he needs further than a mile-and-a-half.
He's a thorough stayer but has yet to run over a trip as long as this and I think it will unlock further improvement in a horse we already know is capable off a mark of 94.
Again, he hasn't got the best draw in 10, but he's versatile regarding tactics and Graham Lee can do what he wants with him.
I'm sure he'll be staying on well towards the finish, well enough to have a small each-way play at 33s in any case.