Despite the continued downpours throughout the afternoon, racegoers came in their thousands to attend the brand-new Oktoberfest fixture at Chester Racecourse in 2023. The feature race of the day came at 2:05pm in the ITV-televised Watergate Cup Handicap (Class 2) where Emiyn bid to retain his 2022 crown. Ground conditions ranged between Soft and Heavy throughout the day.
Race 1 – Oktoberfest Race Day 30th September Restricted Novice Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 4, 2yo, 6f)
A Franny Norton special provided a dramatic end to a four-runner contest in Race 1 when outsider of the field Activated (11/1) arrived late on the scene to come home a neck in front for winning trainer Michael Bell. Content to race on the inside behind early leaders Berkshire Nugget (15/8) and Robbo (5/6F) through the opening half mile of the contest, Activated (11/1) held her position well in third place, with back marker Eye Of Dubai (15/2) bustled along from the outset. Pushed along upon rounding the home turn, Activated still had a couple of lengths to find on the leaders, Robbo now pressing home the advantage as Berkshire Nugget gradually faded out of contention once headed. Despite having taken the lead, Robbo soon looked to be in a world of trouble entering the final furlong, Activated now finding her stride down the centre of the track as Franny Norton pushed his mount into a clear second place, followed by Eye Of Dubai in hot pursuit down the outside. Three now in line with half a furlong to go, Activated found that little bit extra in the dying strides, gamely sticking her neck out to see off the fast-finishing Eye Of Dubai in second place, with Robbo unable able to see off his challengers when it mattered. A 14th winner of the year for the Bronte Collection, the winning owners also tasted Group 3 success recently in the Acomb Stakes with Indian Run!
Race 2 – Watergate Cup Handicap (Class 2, 4yo+, 2m 2 ½f)
Class and ability to handle rain-softened ground proved the winning formula in Race 2 when Tashkhan (3/1F) scythed through the mud to hold off last year’s Watergate Cup victor Emiyn (9/2) by a length, bringing home the spoils under Ben Robinson for trainer Brian Ellison. Racing prominently from flag-fall, Tashkhan travelled sweetly in third place through the opening mile and a half, leaving Emiyn (9/2) to set the pace out in front at his beloved Roodee, followed by regular dual-purpose performer Earlofthecotswolds (40/1) in second place. As the tempo increased on stamina-sapping ground, Emiyn looked to slip the field on the run down to the two-furlong marker, strongly ridden to maintain his lead ahead of the pushed along Tashkhan in second place, with Yorkindness (7/1) struggling to hold onto third place ahead of recent course winner Baez (7/2) as the field made their way into the straight. Game out in front and unwilling to go down without a fight, Emiyn did his level best to hold onto the lead upon entering the final furlong, gradually being worn down by classy operator Tashkhan on his outer. Finally surrendering the advantage at the half-furlong pole, Emiyn was soon swallowed up by classy operator Tashkhan in the closing stages, pushed clear by Ben Robinson to record a first win under rules for over two years. Consistent season-by-season, Ben’s career highlight to date came aboard Nicholas T when winning the 2021 Northumberland Plate!
Race 3 – Commonhall Street Social Novice Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 3, 3yo+, 7 ½f)
One of the easiest winners of the afternoon came in the shape of Prince Of Zenda (6/5) in Race 3, positively careering away up the home straight to a 12-length victory under Hayley Turner, providing another Roodee success for local trainer Hugo Palmer. Breaking sharply from Stall 3, Prince Of Zenda quickly raced into a commanding early lead under Hayley Turner, holding an advantage of a couple of lengths over market leader Britannica (11/10F) in second place through the opening half mile, with Night Breeze (9/1) and Shaka (20/1) sharing last place as the field made their way towards the home turn. In cruise control and rapidly clearing away from the opposition, Prince Of Zenda soon looked to have the race in the bag upon entering the home straight, kicking on by over five lengths from a strongly ridden Britannica in second place, the remainder now struggling to make any inroads from the rear. Showing a real liking for the tough conditions, Prince Of Zenda soon had the race in safe keeping down the home straight, the Kingman gelding extending further and further clear with every stride in the final furlong and eventually coming home 12 lengths to the good ahead of Britannica in second place. With 46 winners now in the bag for the 2023 season, Hugo Palmer has now exceeded last season’s tally of 43 winners, operating at a solid 12% strike-rate for the year!
Race 4 – Boodles Handicap (Class 3, 3yo+, 5f)
Recording his fourth victory of the campaign and enhancing his Roodee record to 2 out of 3, Democracy Dilemma (4/1) scampered clear in the final furlong to make all under Joe Fanning in Race 4, coming home 2 ¾ lengths clear for winning trainer David Evans. Another to fly out of the starting stalls, Democracy Dilemma quickly established a telling lead through the opening couple of furlongs, racing ahead of recent course winners Seantrabh (6/1) and Count D’Orsay (7/2F) in the early stages, with Thankuappreciate (11/1) bringing up the rear having been slow to break. Still firmly in control and ploughing through the rain-softened ground with the minimum of fuss, Democracy Dilemma stole a couple of lengths on the field around the home turn, travelling smoothly out in front as Count D’Orsay tried to make his move up the inside rail. Making their way into the straight, Democracy Dilemma responded well under pressure from Joe Fanning, merely shaken up by his rider to maintain his position through the final furlong and a half, eventually coming home a very comfortable victor ahead of the ever-consistent Count D’Orsay in second place, and the eye-catching Thankuappreciate in third. A jockey in flying form this season with 80 winners to his name, Fanning also took the Ayr Gold Cup last week aboard Julie Camacho’s smart sprinter Significantly!
Race 5 – Horseradish Catering & Events Fillies’ Handicap (Class 4, 3yo+, 1m 6 ½f)
Making all and showing a real liking for the tough track conditions, Dreams Adozen (5/4F) readily made up for a couple of recent second place finishes by coasting 15 lengths clear at the line in Race 5, comfortably in command for handler Charlie Johnston and providing Joe Fanning with a double. Sailing into the lead and holding sway throughout the opening circuit, Dreams Adozen was always to the fore during the fifth race, followed closely by Ae Fond Kiss (9/1) for the most part, with Tafsir (7/1) and Surrey Belle (9/4) towards the midfield. Travelling kindly through the three-furlong point, Dreams Adozen appeared to be the only one that could handle the heavy going, his nearest challenger Ae Fond Kiss now tapped for toe as the field made their way for home. Kicking on out in front under easy handling, Dreams Adozen very quickly established an unassailable lead upon entering the final furlong of the contest, rapidly asserting in the closing stages to win by what can only be described as a country mile ahead of Ae Fond Kiss and Tafsir; what a day for the progeny of Kingman! Already in the winner’s enclosure over 140 times in his first season as a sole trainer, Charlie Johnston has also tasted Group 3 glory in Germany recently with Carolina Reaper!
Race 6 – Restaurant 1539 Handicap (Class 4, 4yo+, 7f)
Second at the track under similar conditions in July, Ramiro (5/1) went one place better in the sixth race of the afternoon, justifying late market support to hold on by ¾ of a length at the finish, notching a second winner of the day for Brian Ellison and a third for the in-form Joe Fanning. Not the fastest away from the starting stalls, Ramiro raced in rear-division through the opening couple of furlongs, sitting just in front of market leader and recent course winner Evocative Spark (5/2F) as Legal Reform (14/1) took the field along at a steady gallop towards halfway. Still with a fair amount to do upon passing the three-furlong point, Ramiro travelled well enough under Joe Fanning, biding his time behind ridden-along rivals as Legal Reform kicked for home around the home turn. As the runners made their way into the straight, one could be forgiven for thinking Legal Reform had the race sewn up, holding a commanding lead passing the one-furlong pole as Ramiro stayed-on through beaten horses. However, building up a head of steam now in the clear, Ramiro had just too much in the tank for Legal Reform to handle, edging ahead with half a furlong to go and kicking on nicely in the closing stages to secure the victory; Broken Spear (12/1) kept on for third. A talented horse on his day, Tashkhan has finished in the first four in no less than six of his ten Group level races so far!
Race 7 – Roodee Fillies’ Handicap (Class 4, 3yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
Springing a surprise in the penultimate race and becoming the second rank outsider of the day to take home first prize, Reel Rosie (25/1) handled conditions with aplomb around the Roodee bends and ran on strongly to provide Hayley Turner and Hugo Palmer with their second winners of the day. Quickly into a prominent position out of the gates, Reel Rosie raced on the outside of market leader Atlantis Blue (15/8F) through the opening mile of the contest, the pair stalked all the while by the sweet travelling Compliant (100/3), the Cheveley Park-owned filly bidding to make up for her recent mishap on the Roodee when unseating her jockey in the final furlong. Ridden along but still very much in the firing line around the home turn, Reel Rosie kicked into a marginal lead upon entering the straight, pluckily keeping on for Hayley Turner’s urgings as many of her rivals faded under the sticky ground conditions. Compliant now the only real danger to the leader with just over a furlong to race, Reel Rosie kicked on again for Turner as the winning post loomed, gamely sticking to her task out in front and eventually extending away at the line to record a first victory since moving to Manor House Stables; that’s now five winners in 2023 when Turner has ridden for Hugo Palmer!
Race 8 – Chester Season Finale 14th October Handicap (Class 5, 3yo+, 7 ½f)
Riding on the crest of a wave to his fourth victory of the afternoon, Joe Fanning never gave in aboard King’s Code (100/30) in the eighth and final race of the day, securing a ½ length success in the shadows of the post to bring up the double for trainer David Evans. Breaking swiftly enough aboard King’s Code, Fanning settled his mount in mid-division in the early stages, racing alongside Love Your Work (13/2) as previous dual-course winner Lockdown Lass (3/1F) led the field towards the halfway point. Still travelling kindly enough out in front, Lockdown Lass stole a couple of lengths on the field around the home turn, the stamina-sapping ground looking unlikely to lend a hand to any challenges coming from in behind. However, almost grinding to a halt upon entering the final furlong and a half, Lockdown Lass was soon swallowed up by a host of challengers in the straight, King’s Code now pressing home the advantage on the inside as Love Your Work made his move down the centre of the track. Gamely sticking on under pressure with Love Your Work unwilling to give in on his outer, King’s Code pulled out just enough in the final furlong, eventually holding on by half a length in the shadows of the post; Thunder Roar (4/1) kept on for third. A trainer known for his exploits with smart sprinter Rohaan, David Evans’s stable star also recently won the Bengough Stakes (Group 3)!
Race report by Adam Perkins
THE OKTOBERFEST RACE DAY 30TH SEPTEMBER RESTRICTED NOVICE STAKES (Class 4, 2yo)
Distance: 6f 17y | Prize: £12,000
THE COMMONHALL STREET SOCIAL NOVICE STAKES (Class 3, 3+yo)
Distance: 7f 127y | Prize: £15,000
THE HORSERADISH CATERING & EVENTS FILLIES' HANDICAP STAKES (Class 4, 3+yo)
Distance: 1m 6f 87y | Prize: £12,000