Trainer Freddie Meade is leaning on a rejuvenated Oisin Murphy as the team seek a big Festival winner with Cheshire Oaks contender Ashtanga on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
The former champion jockey will head to Chester full of confidence after a memorable weekend at Newmarket that saw him lift the 1000 Guineas crown with Mawj and ride 125/1 shot Hi Royal to an unlikely second in the 2000 Guineas.
He has been a man in demand since returning in February from a 14-month ban for Covid and alcohol breaches but will need to produce another good effort if Ashtanga is to out-run the top two in the Cheshire Oaks market.
She is currently an 8/1 hope behind Savethelastdance – joint-favourite for the Oaks at Epsom – and Ralph Beckett’s Luckin Brew.
Meade, who trains in partnership with his father Martyn, has been impressed with his filly, who won a Nottingham maiden in October last year on her second career start.
“She was a filly that was always going to have a good growth spurt and fill out over the winter,” Meade told Sky Sports Racing. “She won nicely at Nottingham and has just improved this winter so we’re excited to get her back and see what she can do.
“All her figures from Nottingham suggest a step up in trip is going to be right up her street. This is the first test to see where we are with her.
“Chester has always been the plan and we thinks it will suit her. If we’re looking towards Epsom then she’ll learn an awful lot there.”
As ever with Chester’s tight turns, the draw can often make or break a horse’s chances but Meade is positive on their positioning in stall four and trusts Murphy will know what to do from there.
“We’re drawn four, which is nice enough,” Meade added. “We’re not right on the rail so there are options when it comes to the ride.
“We’re delighted to have Oisin, he’s been great and shares our enthusiasm for her. Hopefully they can have a good spin round and do the business.
“It’s always a lottery how you jump at Chester but at least we’ve got the right man to do the steering.”
Meade could also be represented by Epic Poet in Friday’s Group Two Huxley Stakes. A non-runner on the day of the Earl Of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket last month, the four-year-old is a recent acquisition from France having switched from Jean-Claude Rouget’s yard.
“We’re in deep discussions as to what to do with him,” Meade said. “He had a bit of an allergen issue when he was meant to run in the Earl Of Sefton which was really frustrating because I think race would have really suited him.
“We’re still getting to know him so it’s either the Huxley or the Festival Stakes at Goodwood later in the month.”