We’re back! For the first time since 2019, Chester Racecourse hosted the Boodles May Festival with a crowd of racegoers, eagerly anticipating some top quality racing over three exciting days.
Day 1 of the festival, Boodles City Day, had it all this year with exciting finishes and impressive winners aplenty for racing fans to enjoy, five races of which were broadcast live on ITV Racing. The feature races of the day included the Weatherbys Bloodstock Pro Cheshire Oaks at 2:40pm and the Boodles Chester Vase at 3:10pm, both of which have proven to be solid pointers towards the Epsom Oaks and Epsom Derby. Ground conditions were Good to Soft to begin with but eased to Soft after Race 2, due to ongoing light rain that remained for most of the afternoon.
Race 1 – ICM Stellar Sports Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes (Class 2, 2yo, 5f)
Bookmakers were in clover during the aftermath of Race 1 as the 10/11 SP Fav, Star Of Lady M, failed to live up to market expectations and finished a well beaten last of six runners. Having led for most of the way under Danny Tudhope, Star Of Lady M hung badly right alongside Dunnington Lad rounding the home bend, leaving the perfect gap for Absolutelyflawless to pounce and stay on well to win by 1 ½ lengths under a well-timed ride from Laura Pearson at odds of 6/1. This was familiar territory for winning owner Dave Lowe, whose classy sprinter Kachy (noted for his unbelievable speed out of the starting stalls) won 3 times from 3 starts at Chester as part of a truly glittering career on the flat. Many congratulations to Dave Lowe and winning trainer Dave Loughnane!
Race 2 – tote.co.uk Free Chester Placepot Every Day Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 3yo, 5f)
It didn’t take long for the punters to recover from a surprise winner as the well-backed 11/8 SP Fav, Live In The Dream, delivered the goods under Ryan Moore for trainer Adam West. Having broken well from the Stall 2, Moore urged his mount to the front and faced his only real challengers 2f from home. Not to be denied, Live In The Dream showed a smart turn of foot to surge clear in the home straight and succeed by 2 ¼ lengths from the staying-on Nymphadora in 2nd place, Shamlaan in 3rd, and last season’s Lily Agnes winner Navello back in 4th place. With plenty of May Festival successes in previous years and a full book of rides on the week for top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, Ryan Moore got his festival off to the perfect start, with the possibility of even better to come.
Race 3 – Weatherbys Bloodstock Pro Cheshire Oaks (for the Robert Sangster Memorial Cup) (Listed Race) (Class 1, 3yo, 1m 3½f)
Ryan Moore’s May Festival campaign continued to thrive in Race 3, as Thoughts Of June showed a likeable attitude to hold off the 5/4 SP Fav Above The Curve and land the big spoils at odds of 7/1. Having led from the start of the race, Thoughts Of June kicked 3 lengths clear 2f from home with Above The Curve hanging in behind her as they made their way into the straight. With Thoughts Of June now a sitting duck, Shane Crosse encouraged the SP Fav to claim victory, but his mount got going too late and couldn’t quite reach the winner, who prevailed by just a neck. A quick double on the day provided Ryan Moore with his 5th Cheshire Oaks success, but even more noteworthy was that it also provided Aidan O’Brien with his 7th success in the race; a joint record with Barry Hills!
Race 4 – Boodles Chester Vase Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1, 3yo, 1m 4½f)
Ryan Moore again! Changingoftheguard ran out a supremely impressive winner of the Chester Vase at odds of 100/30 in Race 4; a notable trial for the Epsom Derby. Well-berthed in Stall 2, Moore sent Changingoftheguard straight to the lead, ahead of the very well-backed 4/11 SP Fav New London, under William Buick. Having tracked the leader throughout New London appeared to be travelling well within himself, that was until Changingoftheguard upped the pace 2f from home and left the outpaced SP Fav behind to surge clear by 6 ½ lengths at the line. It was a case of ‘another race, another record broken’ for O’Brien and Moore, as Changingoftheguard provided Moore with a record 8th Chester Vase, and O’Brien with a record 10th Chester Vase (including 10 of the last 15 runnings)! The pair also teamed up to win the Chester Vase in 2013 with Ruler Of The World, who then went on to win the Epsom Derby on his next start. Could Changingoftheguard do the same?
Race 5 – Deepbridge Handicap Stakes (Class 3, 3yo, 6f)
Danny Tudhope provided a significant winner in the career of trainer Hugo Palmer in Race 5, as the very speedy SP Fav Ever Given scooted clear by 4 ¾ lengths to win at short odds of 11/8. A familiar story to so many Chester winners, Ever Given flew out of the gates into an uncontested lead and merely had to be pushed out in the final furlong to win quite cosily ahead of the staying-on Tolstoy, who had been stuck in traffic rounding the home bend, and Lucky Man. With this win, Hugo Palmer had now trained his first May Festival winner since relocating to Manor House Stables in Cheshire, and who better to provide that for him than Ever Given, who amassed over £150,000 in prize money in his first season, including a win at Chester in July 2021. Congratulations to Hugo and his team!
Race 6 – Edinburgh Gin Maiden Stakes (Class 3, 3yo, 1m 2½f)
More joy for favourite-backers came in Race 6 as the Godolphin 3-year-old Secret State won stylishly by 3 ¾ lengths under the Champion 2020/21 flat jockey William Buick, at odds of 13/8. Berkshire Breeze set the pace for much of the race under David Probert, with Secret State prominent with fellow Godolphin inmate Honiton a few lengths behind the leader. Biding his time, Buick made his move aboard Secret State 2f from home and quickened away well in the final furlong to see off any potential challengers. Fresh off the back of training Coroebus to win the prestigious 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, Charlie Appleby looks to have yet another superb staying prospect for the future!
Race 7 – Stephen Wade Handicap Stakes (Class 4, 4yo+, 7f)
As the first day of the Boodles May Festival came to a close, William Buick pulled off a quick double when his mount Ffion just prevailed by a short-head from long-time leader Paws For Thought, at odds 5/2 as the SP Fav. Breaking from Stall 11, Ffion raced keenly in rear throughout the race before being hampered whilst attempting to switch right-handed on the final turn into the straight when making headway. As early leader Gobi Sunset weakened quickly, Paul Mulrennan attempted to get first run on the field when sending Paws For Thought clear over 2f out, but the determined attitude of Ffion and William Buick’s partnership gradually wore down the leader in the dying strides. The reigning Champion jockey was not the only one celebrating a double though, as Ffion had also just provided trainer Dave Loughnane with his second winner of the day! Having trained a personal best of 42 winners in 2021, Loughnane has started the 2022 season off very well with 20 winners already since the turn of the year. Good luck to Dave and his team for the remainder of the flat season!
Race Report by Adam Perkins
The ICM Stellar Sports Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes (Class 2, 2yo)
Distance: 5f 15y | Prize: £31,047
Tote.co.uk Free Chester Placepot Every Day Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 3yo)
Distance: 5f 15y | Prize: £40,000
The Weatherbys Bloodstock Pro Cheshire Oaks Cup (Listed, 3yo)
Distance: 1m 3f 75y | Prize: £88,500