The final day of the prestigious Boodles May Festival sees the highest profile and most valuable race of our season take place, the historic Tote Chester Cup. It is supported by its consolation race, the Chester Plate, and the card also features the Group 2 Huxley Stakes.
The Chester Cup started its life as the Tradesman’s Plate back in 1824 when it was first run. Originally, the Stand Cup was the feature race of Chester’s May meeting, when this was the only fixture held each year on the Roodee. However, the Tradesmen’s Plate (then the Tradesmen’s Cup) quickly became the feature race of the meeting in the mid-1800’s before its name was changed to the Chester Cup in 1892.
As the longest race run at Chester with the biggest field each year, the Chester Cup is the highlight of the year at the course and one of the major handicaps of the British racing calendar. Nine horses have famously won the race twice, with dual winners including the likes of Rainbow High, Top Cees, Anak Pekan and the Champion Hurdler Sea Pigeon.
The last two editions of the race have provided winning connections with particularly memorable victories, as 2018 saw Magic Circle storm clear to make it a fourth Chester Cup win for Dr Marwan Koukash, ten years after the owner’s first success which also came with trainer Ian Williams. This was followed by a first win in the race for course specialist jockey Franny Norton and trainer Mark Johnston, who teamed up for an emphatic win with Making Miracles.
Earlier on the card, our Group 2 Huxley Stakes is named after the small village located on the outskirts of Chester and the origins of the Tradesman’s Cup go back to 1824 when the Chester Cup was originally run under this name. Despite the Huxley Stakes only first being run in 1999, it has already established a top-class roll of honour which led to the race being upgraded to Group 2 status for the first-time in 2018.
The most successful horse in the Huxley Stakes is Maraahel who completed a remarkable hat-trick of wins in the race between the year of 2005 and 2007 for Sir Michael Stoute, before only missing out on a fourth victory by a neck in 2008. Other leading performers to have won the Huxley Stakes include John Gosden’s Debussy who was an impressive winner of the race in 2010 and it served as a springboard to further success as the four-year-old won the Grade 1 Arlington Million before finishing a close third in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket. The 2014 edition saw Frankel’s brother Noble Mission make just about all under a fine front-running ride from James Doyle, ahead of a field that included the 2013 Huxley winner Danadana and Sir Michael Stoute’s Telescope. Noble Mission finished off an excellent campaign with success in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October beating a quality international field; a clear indication of the class of runners this race attracts to the Boodles May Festival meeting.