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Chester Cup Odds: Andrew Balding pair right in the frame

A maximum field of 17 runners go to post for Friday's Chester Cup and Andrew Balding could hold the key to the £170,000 staying handicap, which is the most valuable race held across the three-day May meeting.

The Kingsclere trainer, who won the race with Montaly in 2017, saddles three runners in this season's renewal including the top two in the market - ante-post favourite Grand Providence and Aztec Empire - while he is also represented by Spirit Mixer.

The Chester Cup, a Class 2 handicap taking place over 2m 2½f, was won 12 months ago by Metier as Harry Fry became the latest national hunt trainer to claim the Roodee feature.

Chester Cup

Chester Cup Odds

Grand Providence

The draw has always been crucial to success at Chester and Grand Providence, the 6/1 favourite for the race, will emerge from stall 12 in a bid to win the Chester Cup under Hayley Turner.

The four-year-old filly impressed as a three-year-old, winning three of her nine races including the Cesarewitch Trial in September, before finishing down the field in the Newmarket handicap the following month.

Grand Providence, who runs off bottom weight on Friday, caught the eye on her seasonal debut at Newbury, staying on to finish third over two miles. She should appreciate the step up in trip.

Aztec Empire

Balding also saddles the steadily progressive Aztec Empire with the five-year-old son of Sea The Stars stepping up to the two-and-a-quarter-mile distance for the first time.

Aztec Empire has failed to win his last six races despite having been sent off favourite on three occasions, the latest of which came at the backend of last season when he was beaten 47 lengths in Haydock's Old Borough Cup.

However, that run looked too bad to be true and connections will be hoping that the return of Oisin Murphy, who rode the horse when beaten a neck in a valuable handicap at York's Ebor Festival in August, will eke out more improvement.

Duke Of Oxford

Duke Of Oxford was beaten 114 lengths by runaway winner Arrest in last season's Chester Vase, but Michael Bell's charge returns to the Roodee with a real chance of landing this valuable pot.

The four-year-old gelding transformed into an all-weather stalwart in the winter, winning twice at Kempton over two miles then finishing runner-up to the impressive Pryden on All-Weather Championships Finals Day.

While Duke of Oxford's form is generally progressive, jockey David Egan has some work to do as his mount will break from stall 16.

The Shunter

A number of dual-purpose horses have been successful in the Chester Cup over the years and the oldest runner in the field, The Shunter, will bid to add his name to that list for jockey Ben Coen, trainer Emmet Mullins and powerful owner JP McManus.

The 11-year-old was last seen finishing fifth over hurdles at Punchestown in November having previously claimed a huge flat prize when winning the Cesarewitch in October.

The 2021 Cheltenham Festival hero has been put up six pounds for his Newmarket heroics but it would be wrong to rule him out for his powerful connections.

Emiyn

Certain horses relish the unique test demands of Chester and three-time course winner Emiyn is one who fits firmly in that category.

In nine appearances on the Roodee, Declan Carroll's seven-year-old has finished in the first four on all but one occasion - in this race 12 months ago when only beaten four-and-a-half lengths by Metier.

Sent off at 33/1 over an inadequate trip when 11th at Thirsk last time out, this has clearly been the plan for Emiyn, who is likely to attempt the running having been drawn in stall seven.

Zoffee

Zoffee looked to have last season's Chester Cup at his mercy when he struck the front in the final furlong but Hugo Palmer's eight-year-old was pipped on the line by the charging Metier.

Not much has gone right since for the son of Zoffany, who finished 15th in the Cesarewitch and then underwhelmed in two runs over hurdles, but he does get to race off a three pounds lower this time.

Magellan Strait

Aidan O'Brien won this race with Cleveland in 2022 and son Joseph will attempt to follow in his father's footsteps with Magellan Strait, who caused a huge shock when winning last season's Irish Cesarewitch at 150/1.

The five-year-old son of brilliant Derby winner Australia scrambled home at a short price on his only subsequent appearance at Dundalk in January.

He remains unexposed as a stayer and he has landed a plum draw in stall two. Expect William Buick to go forward from that berth.

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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