Day 1 of the 2023 Autumn Festival at Chester Racecourse provided good weather, good crowds, and even better racing. The feature race of the day arrived at 3:20pm in the Envirosips Handicap where a small but select field provided a mouthwatering finish to a competitive 2-mile marathon. Ground conditions remained Good To Soft (Soft in places) throughout a sunny afternoon.
Race 1 – Autumn Festival Fillies’ Handicap (Class 5, 3yo+, 7f)
Recording her second course victory of the season and providing Josephine Gordon with her first course winner in seven years, Lockdown Lass (7/2JF) proved just too good in the opening contest, holding off Agnes Grey (11/2) by ½ a length for trainer Gary Hanmer. With the field quickly reduced to eleven runners after the unfortunate unseat of Second Collection (66/1) out of the starting stalls, pacesetting duties were left to Hoof It Hoof It (12/1) and Lockdown Lass at the head of affairs, both getting across from wide berths in Stalls 8 and 10 respectively to lead the way through the opening half mile. As Agnes Grey attempted to make headway around the home turn, the leaders still looked to be sitting pretty out in front, but both now being asked for their efforts by their riders as the majority of runners in behind struggled to make any inroads. Swinging out wide into the home straight, Lockdown Lass galloped on relentlessly under Josephine Gordon, aided all the while by the loose Second Collection to her inside as the final furlong loomed. Although briefly looking in danger from a staying-on Agnes Grey in second place, Lockdown Lass pulled out just enough in the final furlong, readily seeing off her rivals in tidy style; Exigency (9/2) proved to be an eyecatcher in third place having met traffic problems around the home turn. Snapping up a long losing sequence on the Roodee, Josephine Gordon has already surpassed last year’s total of 8 wins with 18 so far this term!
Race 2 – Horseradish Catering & Events Restricted Maiden Stakes (GB/IRE Incentive Race) (Class 4, 2yo, 7f)
Sweeping through late in the day to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, racecourse debutante Greer (8/1) was delivered to perfection by Jason Hart in Race 2, pushed clear to score by 1 ½ lengths for trainer John Quinn. Quickly into stride out of the gates, Greer maintained a prominent position throughout the opening half mile of the contest, racing close behind early leader Our Havana (4/1) in the chasing vanguard, with market leader Berkshire Nugget (11/8F) positioned in midfield along the inside rail ahead of Amancio (18/1). As the field raced through halfway and on towards the turn into the home straight, Our Havana looked to have things sewn up out in front, galloping on a couple of lengths clear as Berkshire Nugget got shuffled back through the field having been cut off on the bend. However, making relentless headway towards the inside as many struggled to live with the increase in tempo, Greer soon appeared to be a big danger to the runaway leader with just over a furlong to go, staying on well under the Jason Hart drive to cut the deficit with every stride. Floundering out in front and lugging to his right, Our Havana soon gave way in the final furlong, leaving Greer to storm home on the far side to steal the race from seemingly nowhere; Amancio stuck on well for third ahead of the unlucky Berkshire Nugget. Having another big season, Hart has three Group level successes to his name so far this year, including Big Evs in the Molecomb Stakes!
Race 3 – Roodee Handicap (Class 4, 3yo, 6f)
A day for the record books, Glendown (15/2) sailed clear in the final furlong of the third race of the day to record an emphatic success for jockey Duran Fentiman, the rider’s first win at the track for 16 years! Breaking away on terms and content to sit towards the head of midfield, Glendown appeared to be travelling nicely for Fentiman through the opening three furlongs of the contest, the field taken along by River Usk (16/1) and Umming N’ Ahing (11/1) as market leader Captain Cuddles (6/4F) raced towards the rear of midfield through the halfway stage. Racing towards the outside of the leading pair, Glendown made his move to challenge for the lead upon passing the two-furlong marker, gradually coming under more pressure as River Usk began to fade. Seemingly in a world of his own, Glendown soon found himself in a commanding lead on the run towards the final furlong of the contest, Umming N’ Ahing merely keeping on at the one pace to try and hold on for place money. Forging further clear with every stride in the closing stages, victory was never in doubt for Glendown, eventually coming home 2 ¾ lengths to the good for winning trainer Tim Easterby; Captain Cuddles stayed on smartly through beaten horses to finish in second place. Owned by Ontoawinner 10 & Partner, winning connections also had plenty of joy in recent years with solid sprinter Staxton, whose various wins included the Great St Wilfrid Handicap and the Ayr Silver Cup!
Race 4 – Envirosips Handicap (Class 4, 4yo+, 2m)
Notching his fourth win in a row for the season, Baez (100/30) plucked on gamely under Paul Mulrennan to squeeze home by a neck in the fourth race of the day, bringing home the prize for trainer Jim Goldie and holding off a late surge from Tuddenham Green (4/1). Always in a prominent position, Baez raced in third place through the opening mile and a half of the contest, the field led for the most part by Two Auld Pals (16/5), with market leader Wonderwall (11/8F) plodding along in second place as Tuddenham Green hunted them up at the rear of the chasing pack. With little change to the running order in a slowly run contest, Two Auld Pals was the first to feel the pinch at the head of the field, gradually worn down on his outside by Wonderwall as Baez briefly got caught on heels around the home bend. Despite travelling well into the straight, Wonderwall was next to struggle under increased pressure, his finishing effort leaving a lot to be desired as Tuddenham Green and Baez swept down the centre of the track to fight it out. Locked in battle for over a furlong, there was little to separate the new leaders, the pair going at it hammer and tongs as the winning post drew nearer. However, gamely sticking her neck out and not willing to surrender her winning streak, Baez pulled out just enough in the shadows of the post to secure yet another victory, with Tuddenham Green coming home a valiant second. Owned by J S Morrison, the colours of Baez were also carried to success at Royal Ascot when Bijou D’Inde won the St James’s Palace in 1996!
Race 5 – Expleo Handicap (Class 4, 3yo+, 7f)
Swooping clear under Franny Norton in the final furlong, Evocative Spark (15/2) secured his second course victory in taking style during the fifth race, coming home over 3 lengths clear of his rivals for winning trainer Darryll Holland. Coming out of a wide berth in Stall 9, Evocative Spark was generally stuck out wide and towards the rear of midfield through the opening half mile of the contest, the field led by Gis A Sub (12/1) and Song For Whoever (18/1) in the main, with Stone Soldier (10/1) stalking them all the while in third place. Still with a fair bit of traffic in front of him as the runners made their way through halfway around the home turn, Evocative Spark still travelled comfortably for Franny Norton, his rider waiting patiently for the right gaps to appear as Stone Soldier pushed his way into a narrow lead. Now racing widest of all and with plenty of daylight ahead of him, Franny pushed the button aboard Evocative Spark, merely having to nudge his mount into the lead as the furlong pole came into view. Not to be denied a second course win, Evocative Spark was simply uncatchable in the final furlong, storming home in tremendous style to see off Stone Soldier by 3 ¾ lengths, with Beauty Choice (11/1) staying on for third. With this success now his 18th of 2023, winning trainer Darryll Holland has successfully exceeded his previous seasonal best of 17 winners!
Race 6 – Tote Handicap (Class 4, 3yo, 1m 2 ½f)
Leading the field from pillar to post, recent Epsom winner Bear On The Loose (3/1F) repeated the trick in the sixth race of the afternoon under Benoit De La Sayette, eventually running out a stylish 3-length victor for trainer Kevin Phillipart De Foy. Getting away to a strong start, Bear On The Loose very quickly established an uncontested lead through the opening couple of furlongs, chased closest of all by Cantora (13/2) and Kristal Klear (12/1), with the likes of Arkendale (9/2F) and recent Haydock scorer Pearl Eye (7/2) further back in the field. Travelling kindly on the front end, Bear On The Loose kicked on again passing the three-furlong marker, the rest of the opposition now pushed along to maintain their positions. Pressing a couple of lengths clear upon entering the home straight, Bear On The Loose readily saw off the brief challenge of Cantora passing the two-furlong point, his biggest challenger now appearing to be Pearl Eye, who stayed on pluckily in his red noseband to move within three lengths of the lead with a furlong to go. However, not stopping out in front and only having to be kept up to his work under hands and heels, Bear On The Loose was not for stopping in the closing stages and willingly powered home to record his third win of the season; Pearl Eye held on for second place ahead of a rallying Arkendale. A trainer on the rise, Kevin Phillipart De Foy has already tasted Listed success this year with Inquisitively at York’s Ebor Festival!
Race 7 – National Racehorse Week Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap (Special Rider Conditions) (Class 4, 4yo+, 7 ½f)
Highlighting a dramatic upturn in form, Give It Some Teddy (4/1) relished the drop into an amateur riders’ contest in the final race of the day, coming from last to first under Mrs Emily Roberts to score in tidy fashion and providing trainer Tim Easterby with a double on the day. Slowly away and looking unlikely to make any immediate impact, Give It Some Teddy sat in a long last place through the opening four furlongs of the contest, the field well strung out as previous course winner Muntadab (9/2) led the way. Making their way past the three-furlong marker, market principal Ey Up Its The Boss (9/4F) quickly made up ground to sweep into a narrow lead as the tempo increased, with Give It Some Teddy still racing out the back having latched onto the tail of the field. As the relentless gallop set by the early leaders gradually took its toll on the majority of runners, Give It Some Teddy suddenly found himself in third place upon entering the home straight, racing alongside stablemate Ugo Gregory (5/1) as Ey Up Its The Boss tried his hardest to maintain the lead. However, rapidly asserting in the final furlong and merely having to be pushed out to make sure, Give It Some Teddy soon put paid to the favourite’s chances and quickly stormed 3 lengths clear of Ugo Gregory to collect his tenth win under rules; Ey Up Its The Boss faded into a well-beaten third place. Operating at an impressive 27% strike rate, Emily Roberts has ridden 4 winners from just 15 rides this year!
Race report by Adam Perkins
THE AUTUMN FESTIVAL FILLIES' HANDICAP STAKES (CLASS 5 3+yo)
Distance: 7f 1y | Prize: £12,000
THE HORSERADISH CATERING & EVENTS RESTRICTED MAIDEN STAKES (CLASS 4 2yo)
Distance: 7f 1y | Prize: £9,999