Family Funday made its long-awaited annual return to Chester Racecourse on Sunday 31st July 2022. On an afternoon filled with family-friendly fun and some top-quality horse racing on show, Roodee fans of all ages were spoilt for choice! After some heavy morning showers, the ground conditions remained Good to Soft (Soft in places) throughout the afternoon, with weather conditions improving as the day went on, courtesy of sunny spells and moderate wind levels.
Race 1 – Britvic Nursery Handicap Stakes (Class 5, 2yo, 7f)
Favourite backers were off to a flying start in the first race of the afternoon as the 5/4 market leader Kiss N Cuddle proved just too good in the dying strides under Ben Curtis, prevailing by a head at the line. Having finished sixth on her last three outings on the Roodee, Pink Stripes flew to the early lead in the opener, closely followed by Kiss N Cuddle who broke well from the widest stall. In-behind these, Midnight Flame raced prominently under Tom Marquand, but Have Secret sat in last place, toiling after breaking slowly from the stalls and giving away many lengths to the field. Travelling well as the runner made their way to the home turn, Curtis seized the initiative aboard Kiss N Cuddle, the pair soon kicking over 3 lengths clear of their nearest pursuers, with the increase in tempo catching out Midnight Flame and Chuck Taylor in mid-division. With under two furlongs to race, Kiss N Cuddle had no reason to worry and quickly scooted clear in fine style, with only an impressive late run (considering her early position) from Have Secret threatening to reduce the winning margin to something more respectable. As the winning post loomed large, Kiss N Cuddle began to throw out distress signals and soon found Have Secret at his hind quarters, but pulling out a bit more, the SP Fav bravely held on by a head in the final few strides; Midnight Flame eventually filled out third place, having been outpaced from two furlongs out. A trainer that enjoys sending plenty of runners to Chester, David Evans also enjoys a Royal Ascot success, having trained the talented but quirky sprinter Rohaan to win back-to-back runnings of the Wokingham Stakes in 2021 and 2022!
Race 2 – British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes (Class 4, 2yo, 7f)
Fans of Frankel progeny were in clover after Race 2, as Frankness ran out an impressive winner under Rob Hornby, scooting clear of the opposition by 3 ¼ lengths to add another win to the Andrew Balding tally of Chester winners, returning as the well-fancied 9/4 2nd Favourite. Setting the early gallop, the James Fanshawe-trained two-year-old Endeared (Evens Fav) was keen to get things moving under Silvestre De Sousa, holding sway ahead of Perfect Play and Frankness out wide. In rear division, one that made a notable hash of exiting the starting stalls was Utilis, who raced at the tail of the field throughout under Ben Robinson. Rounding the turn into the straight, Endeared upped the ante and stole a length from the opposition with just under 2 furlongs to go, stalked all the while by the strong travelling chestnut filly Frankness under Rob Hornby. Now in a position to set sail for home, Frankness willingly kicked away from the long-time leader Endeared, and soon quickened impressively to secure what was a relatively straightforward victory. Making late progress in behind having dwelt badly at the start, Three Yorkshiremen and Utilis both plugged on under pressure to finish in third and fourth place respectively and could be ones to keep an eye on for the future. Another trainer-jockey combination lethal on their day, Balding and Hornby also combined to win the Darley July Stakes (Group 1) this year with talented filly Alcohol Free. Well done, team!
Race 3 – Freddie Wilson Queensferry Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1, 3yo+, 6f)
Manor House Stables didn’t have to wait long for a winner on Family Funday, scoring in the feature race of the day with promising 3-year-old Ebro River, who settled the race in a matter of strides to hold off Princess Shabnam by 1 ¾ lengths as the 5/2 Joint Favourite. Awkward when leaving the stalls and having to settle for a position in rear division, Bielsa did not have the best of starts to the third race of the afternoon. However, breaking smartly like so many Johnston runners do, Tippy Toes led the way under Jason Hart for much of the contest, closely followed by Ebro River on her inside. Still travelling well into the home straight, Tippy Toes kicked for home with just over a furlong left to race, trying to steal first run on the field. However, tracking every move and shortly moving alongside under Ben Curtis, Ebro River showed a smart turn of foot in the final furlong of the contest to quicken a couple of lengths clear of the remainder, winning a shade cosily in the end from the fast-finishing Princess Shabnam back in second place, gaining some very valuable black type for trainer S P C Woods. We not only extend our congratulations to jockey Ben Curtis for this victory (Ben’s second of the day), but also to owners Al Shaqab Racing who claimed a valuable Irish Group 1 in the 2021 renewal of the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes, with none other than Ebro River himself!
Race 4 – Kids Pass Handicap Stakes (Class 3, 3yo+, 7 ½f)
Not content with just one winner on the day, Hugo Palmer soon brought up a quickfire double in the fourth race of the day when Roodee regular Fools Rush In showed a determined attitude under Harry Davies to record a smart 1 ¼ length victory, returning at odds of 13/2. Getting across from Stall 10, Sweeping led the field under Hollie Doyle in the early stages, in close company with previous course winners Paws For Thought and Gabrial The Devil. Looking further back, the 4/1F Red Mirage was kept in midfield for much of the contest under David Probert, with fellow course winners Fools Rush In and Gabrial The Wire racing closer to last than first. Swinging around the home bend and with a 1 length advantage, Sweeping soon came under strong pressure in the home straight when Paws For Thought came upsides and Master Zoffany attempted to claw back the deficit alongside Red Mirage. However, with a furlong to go and racing widest of all, coming with a strong late burst from the rear of the field was two-time course winner Fools Rush In, eventually staying on best of all as the winning post loomed, leading in the final strides to break the heart of favourite backers up and down the land. Sticking to the task and plugging on when tapped for toe, both Paws For Thought and Sweeping earned creditable mentions back in third and fourth place, but the most credit deservedly went the way of winning jockey Harry Davies. A jockey struggling to hold onto his apprentices’ claim, Davies has already amassed 48 winners in his debut season as a flat jockey!
Race 5 – Boulton Group EBF Conditions Stakes (Class 2, 2yo, 6f)
Having already achieved another Roodee victory earlier on in the afternoon, Andrew Balding quickly became the second trainer of the day to bring up a double when 12/1 rank outsider Tostado showed grit and determination to wrestle back the advantage and hold on by ½ a length from Cold Case in the dying strides of Race 5. Quickest away and keen to grab the lead on the rail, Tostado set a strong gallop in the early part of the contest, followed closely by Rogue Spirit and Cold Case in behind, with Priors Dell and Rock Of England completing the quintet in rear. Closely grouped as they made their way into the home straight, the five runners were soon all under strong pressure from their riders, with Rogue Spirit responding well to take on Tostado for the lead shortly before the furlong pole. Nosing into a marginal lead with less than 200 yards to go, Rogue Spirit looked set to fight out the finish with the fast-closing Cold Case down the centre of the track. However, brave and up for a fight, Tostado responded gamely for David Probert’s urgings to steal back the lead 50 yards from the line and kept on well to defy Cold Case, who eventually worried Rogue Spirit out of second place. Yet another trainer-jockey combination always to be feared, Balding and David Probert achieved more notable success at last week’s Glorious Goodwood Festival when winning the Lennox Stakes!
Race 6 – GBR Everyone’s Turf Handicap Stakes (Class 4, 3yo+, 1m 4 ½f)
A fine ride from one of racing’s leading lights told the story of the result for Race 6, as The Nu Form Way was produced wide and late under Hollie Doyle to run out a cosy winner by 1 ¼ lengths at big odds of 18/1. In a race in which five of the eleven runners had a previous victory at Chester to their name, it was Roodee regular Emiyn who took up the early lead under Harrison Shaw, showing the way ahead of fellow course winner Restorer racing alongside Enthused on the inner rail. Looking to the middle of the chasing pack, 16/5F Wynter Wildes raced mostly in and around fourth place, ahead of outsiders The Nu Form Way and Bamboo Bay; held up in rear came Speak and Lunar Jet. With little change to the running order as Emiyn led the way into the home turn, there were very few candidates not under strong pressure, with many struggling to go with the increased tempo. Darting to the inside rail under Rowan Scott, Wynter Wildes looked a possible winner with just over a furlong to race, going head-to-head with Emiyn for the lead. But no sooner had Wynter Wildes taken the lead, he then came under stronger pressure due to the strong late charge from Speak, the three-year-old filly looking all but certain to claim a smart victory having come from rear division. However, the complexion of the race changed for one final time when The Nu Form Way displayed a remarkable late burst of speed to overhaul the new leader with less than 100 yards to race, flying down the near-side rail under Hollie Doyle to win in style. Having looked to be going nowhere fast with 2 furlongs to race, this performance displayed once again how talented Hollie Doyle is in the saddle, also proven by her recent Group 1 wins aboard star filly Nashwa at Chantilly and Goodwood!
Race 7 – White Horse Kids Eat Free Handicap Stakes (Class 4, 3yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
Talented hurdler Cormier proved he was a multi-talented individual in the final race of the day when going on to triumph by 2 ½ lengths under Harry Russell for trainer Brian Ellison. Showing the way up front having got across well from wide berths, Baby Steps and recent course winner Precision Storm set the early gallop, never more than a couple of lengths ahead of Natchez Trace and Tiempo Star racing prominently. In midfield, the 7/2F Typical Woman sat comfortably under Hollie Doyle throughout, racing alongside Cormier who sat widest of the runners overall. With just 3 furlongs to race, many of the runners came under pressure on the run to the home turn, but travelling notably well and creeping ever closer, Cormier swept round the outside of the early leaders and set sail for home upon entering the final 2 furlongs. Another making ground, City Streak challenged Cormier for the lead as the field made their way into the home straight, both darting over to the near-side rail in a bid for victory. With Precision Storm having nothing left to offer and eventually being overtaken by Golden Melody for third place, City Streak and Cormier were in a straight fight to the line as they passed the furlong marker. However, determined and not to be overhauled, Cormier responded well for pressure to stay on well in the final 200 yards, settling the race in great style under Harry Russell. Another with a knack for success in both codes, Brian Ellison trained some big jumps winners last year, including the Sky Bet Chase with Windsor Avenue and the Morebattle Hurdle with Cormier!
Race report by Adam Perkins
THE BRITISH STALLION STUDS EBF NOVICE STAKES (Class 4, 2yo)
Distance: 7f 1y | Prize: £11,546
THE FREDDIE WILSON QUEENSFERRY STAKES (Class 1, 3+yo) (Listed)
Distance: 6f 17y | Prize: £51,000
THE GBR EVERYONE'S TURF HANDICAP STAKES (Class 4, 3+yo)
Distance: 1m 4f 63y | Prize: £11,400