The weather came good on the final day of the Boodles May Festival, just in time for Roodee racegoers to enjoy the flagship event; the Tote Chester Cup (Heritage Handicap). With more Group class action coming at 2:40pm in the Huxley Stakes (Group 2), it was a day to remember at Chester! Ground conditions remained Soft (Heavy in places) throughout.
Race 1 – CAA Stellar Earl Grosvenor Handicap (Class 2, 4yo+, 7 ½f)
A return to the Roodee proved the winning ticket for Revich (9/2) in the first race of the afternoon, kicking clear by 3 lengths at the line under Jim Crowley for the Richard Spencer stable, recording his fourth victory at the track. Rousted along in the early stages, Revich was kept to the inner rail towards the rear of the field with Witch Hunter (50/1), the pair sitting a good 5 lengths off the leader Wobwobwob (7/2F). As the field came past the 2f marker and into the home straight, Revich still had work to do on the inside rail, Crowley waiting for a gap to appear aboard the course specialist. However, soon after Wobwobwob attempted to slip the field entering the final furlong, Crowley said ‘go’ aboard Revich, timing his run to perfection as the eventual winner slipped through between rivals and quickly blitzed away in taking style, with Witch Hunter and Percy’s Lad staying on best of all to fill the places, albeit 3 lengths in arrears. A classy rider and former champion jockey, Crowley’s finest moments last season came aboard the superstar Baaeed, claiming four Group 1s!
Race 2 – Precision Facades Handicap (Class 2, 4yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
Another to show a benefit of a return to Chester, Pride Of America (4/1) stayed on determinedly in the final furlong to hold off Savvy Victory (3/1F) by a length under Hollie Doyle, taking his Roodee record to 2-2 for jubilant trainer Amy Murphy in the Precision Facades Handicap. Sharp out of the gates on his first run after wind surgery, Pride Of America quickly established a healthy lead under Hollie Doyle in the early stages, racing ahead of Certain Lad (14/1) and Savvy Victory for the most part. Attempting to get first run on the field, Doyle pushed her mount more vigorously with a couple of furlongs to go, grabbing the race by the scruff of the neck and swiftly galloping over 3 lengths clear as the home straight beckoned. However, looking more and more like a sitting duck with every stride, Pride Of America was soon joined by Savvy Victory upon entering the final furlong, the pair locked in battle as the winning post loomed. Nevertheless, despite the challenge of the market leader, Pride Of America pulled out more in the closing stages, sticking his neck out impressively to bring home a memorable victory for Amy Murphy. Yet another winner on the CV of Hollie Doyle, the talented pilot also scooped four Group 1s in 2022, including aboard Nashwa in the Nassau Stakes!
Race 3 – IRE-Incentive, It Pays To Buy Irish Huxley Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1, 4yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Point Lonsdale (5/6F) in the Huxley Stakes, but the 4-year-old colt rallied gamely in the closing stages to hold off the challenge of Mujtaba (4/1) by a neck, sealing a third victory of the week for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore. Pushed along after a sluggish start out of the stalls, Point Lonsdale raced prominently for much of the contest, kept up to his work by Ryan Moore to keep tabs on early leader Poker Face (10/1) for the first ¾ of a mile. Apparently struggling to keep up with the pace and under strong pressure from over two furlongs out, Point Lonsdale was ridden even more vigorously upon entering the home straight, attempting to mow down the leader in the centre of the track. Poking his head in front, Point Lonsdale sneaked into a slender lead with a furlong to go, but all the while Mujtaba (4/1) rallied under a strong Jim Crowley drive, darting towards the inner rail and looking certain to go close. However, game under pressure, Point Lonsdale ran on straight and true in the final 100 yards to just hold on in the shadows of the post ahead of the game Mujtaba in second, and Layfayette (20/1) in third. Another Group race, another record for Ryan Moore, with the success of Point Lonsdale now his eighth win in the Huxley Stakes!
Race 4 – tote Chester Cup (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2, 4yo+, 2m 2 ½f)
A race in which jumps trainers often do well, this year’s Chester Cup went the way of the 2022 November Handicap winner Metier (5/1), bringing home the spoils for former Champion Hurdle winning trainer Harry Fry after an inspired ride from Saffie Osborne. Racing towards the rear of the field for much of the big race, Metier travelled well within himself on the outside of The Grand Visir (33/1), the field headed by previous course winners Emiyn (9/1) and Call My Bluff (11/4F). With little change to the running order throughout, Harrison Shaw seized the initiative aboard Emiyn, slipping the field on the turn into the straight and extending his lead even further with Call My Bluff in hot pursuit. Still with five horses in front of him, Metier caught the eye staying on well down the centre of the track, slowly cutting back the deficit on the outside of Zoffee (11/1) and Rajinsky (14/1) with little more than a furlong to travel, the lead now controlled by Call My Bluff. As Zoffee produced his challenge around 100 yards from the finish to take a narrow lead, Metier found a second wind under Saffie Osborne’s urgings, moving upsides the leader just in the nick of time to steal the race in the dying strides, the pair separated by a neck at the finish; Call My Bluff held on for third ahead of a rallying Law Of The Sea (40/1). Another race for the history books, by scoring aboard Metier, Saffie Osborne became the first ever female rider to win the Chester Cup; congratulations, Saffie!
Race 5 – Boodles Darley Maiden Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 2, 3yo, 1m 4 ½f)
Riding his second winner of the day, Ryan Moore had to earn his fee aboard Banderas (5/4F) in the fifth race of the day, guiding his mount home by a neck in a thrilling finish to bring home the spoils for trainer Michael Bell. Prominent from the outset, Banderas raced in the slipstream of leader Chronograph (14/1) for much of the contest, the pair chased by newcomer King Of The Plains (5/1) in third place and Kingsley Pride (12/1) in fourth. Kicking for home shortly after the three-furlong pole, Chronograph looked to be in prime position on the turn for home under Harry Davies. However, staying on stoutly for pressure under a power-packed Ryan Moore, Banderas gradually wore away the leader’s advantage down the final stretch to take front rank with 100 yards to go, narrowly prevailing at the line by a neck; King Of The Plains ran well on debut to finish a close third. A trainer enjoying an illustrious career of big winners, one of Michael Bell’s finest moments came in the 2017 Ascot Gold Cup when his popular stayer Big Orange also prevailed by a narrow margin!
Race 6 – White Oak Apprentice Handicap (Class 4, 4yo+, 1m 4 ½f)
The gamble on the Gordon Elliott trained Irish raider By Your Side (85/40F) was foiled in the penultimate race of the day, the contest eventually won impressively by Greystoke (11/2) under a smart ride from Benoit De La Sayette to provide jumps trainer Alan King with a nice winner. Close-up with the pace throughout, Greystoke sat prominently behind leaders Punxsutawney Phil (28/1) and Two Brothers (3/1) under Benoit De La Sayette for much of the race, followed closely by previous course winner The Nu Form Way (11/2) on the inside rail. As the pace increased around the home turn, Greystoke travelled strongest of all and soon found himself in a narrow lead ahead of Two Brothers, with Punxsutawney Phil rapidly weakening away into an eventual last place finish. Merely needing to be ridden out after a couple of reminders, Greystoke never really looked like being caught in the final furlong, ultimately staying on strongly ahead of Two Brothers and The Nu Form Way to record a smart victory; By Your Side plugged on well into a well beaten fourth place. Making his mark very early on in 2023, having recorded a career-best 67 winners in the 2022 season, Benoit de la Sayette also steered home Migration in this year’s Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster!
Race 7 – tote Fantasy, Who’s In Your Stable Chester Plate Handicap (For The Bobby McAlpine Memorial Cup) (Class 2, 4yo+, 2m 2 ½f)
The final race of the May Festival also saw the biggest priced winner of the week when 33/1 shot Zinc White stormed home to triumph by 2 ¼ lengths for trainer Ian Williams, providing Jim Crowley with another winner on the day. Dominating from the front under Callum Hutchinson, Whimsy (28/1) maintained a strong gallop at the head of affairs, holding a commanding lead ahead of Justus (9/2) in second, with eventual winner Zinc White sitting towards the rear of the field alongside previous course winner Novel Legend (11/8F). As Whimsy began to flounder around the home turn, new challengers in the shape of The Predictor (14/1) and It’s Good To Laugh (17/2) emerged from mid-division, with Zinc White and Novel Legend also making rapid headway on the turn for home. Making a sweeping move out wide of runners, Zinc White stayed on best of all in the home straight, careering away into the lead with a furlong to race under a well-timed ride from Jim Crowley, with hot favourite Novel Legend unable to reel in the winner late-on; It’s Good To Laugh held on for third ahead of The Predictor. A trainer known for his exploits with both flat and jump horses, Ian Williams is also a Chester Cup winning trainer, claiming the prize in 2018 with smart stayer Magic Circle!
Race report by Adam Perkins
THE CAA STELLAR EARL GROSVENOR HANDICAP STAKES (CLASS 2, 4+yo)
Distance: 7f,127y | Prize: £40,000
THE IRE-INCENTIVE, IT PAYS TO BUY IRISH HUXLEY STAKES (CLASS 1) (Group 2, 4+yo)
Distance: 1m,2f,70y | Prize: £120,000
THE WHITE OAK APPRENTICE HANDICAP STAKES (CLASS 4, 4+yo)
Distance: 1m,4f,63y | Prize: £20,000