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orse alk
Hopes burn bright for Chester Cup favourite Countrywide Flame

The ultra-competitive two-and-a-quarter-mile Chester Cup is one of the big highlights of the forthcoming Chester May meeting and could present this term’s Champion Hurdle third Countrywide Flame with a live opportunity to add another big prize to his career haul.

The smart dual-purpose performer, trained by John Quinn in North Yorkshire, ran a blinder when beat just over four lengths in the blue riband hurdle contest behind the superb Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham in March before failing to strike a blow at the smart Zarkandar at Aintree a few weeks later.

Given a month to freshen up, there are good reasons for believing that the current 7/1 ante-post favourite for the historic Chester Cup Handicap will go well back on the level, having found only one too good for him at Newmarket in October when runner-up to Aaim to Prosper in the 34-runner Cesarewitch Handicap, beaten only half-a-length, the pair finishing clear.

Set to race off a 4lb higher mark than at HQ, the five-year-old faces no easy task but does appear to be on the upgrade on the Flat and looks sure to give connections a very good run for their money. The gelded son of Haafhd has already shown that he can handle the unique challenge of the Roodeye having won over two miles at the track last September on his only previous visit to the former Roman chariot circuit, beating Ardlui by three-quarters-of-a-length.

The Donald McCain-trained Overturn (10/1 with bet365) has top weight of 9st 12lbs, but the 2011 winner and last year’s runner-up to Ile De Re (8/1) – also expected to be in a tremendous line-up – appears as good as ever after another cracking NH run when second in Grade 1 company at Aintree in the John Smith’s Magull Novices’ Chase.

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