Cloudy weather and a dash of rain were not enough to cast a pall over another evening of competitive racing at Chester for the 2023 Beaverbrooks Friday Night Social. The feature race of the night came at 8:00pm in the EBF Fillies’ Handicap (Class 3) in which a quality field of eight lined up. Ground conditions also changed from Good, to Good To Soft (Good in places) after the fourth race.
Race 1 – Beaverbrooks Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap (Class 4, 4yo+, 7f)
Roodee regular Paws For Thought (5/2F) put on a show in the first race of the evening, the Donald McCain inmate scooting clear up the run in to score tidily by 2 ¾ lengths under Miss Lucy Turner. In the driving seat from the outset, Paws For Thought broke well from Stall 3 and quickly asserted into a commanding lead in the early stages, stalked mainly by the likes of Maywake (9/2) and Danzan (5/1), with Mabre (10/1) and Starshiba (16/1) bringing up the rear. As the leader turned the screw rounding the home turn and accelerated even further clear, Starshiba clipped heels and took a nasty fall on the bend in rear division, but thankfully, both horse and jockey were quickly to their feet. At the other end of the field, and in a league of his own, Paws For Thought travelled strongly through the final furlong and a half, positively cruising clear of Maywake in second and a staying-on Mabre in third place to secure a very straightforward victory. Having just her second ride on the flat, Turner’s career highlight to date came in the 2022 Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival aboard Chambard!
Race 2 – Camden Town Brewery Newcomers’ Restricted Maiden Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 4, 2yo, 7f)
A field of debutants were readily dispatched by Witness Stand (9/2) in the second race on the card, Daniel Tudhope’s mount quickening away in eye-catching style a furlong from home to bring home the spoils for the Tom Clover yard. Being drawn wide proved no stumbling block for Witness Stand in the early stages, Daniel Tudhope getting his mount over to the rail in a quick manoeuvre out of the starting stalls, eventually settling into third place behind Wooton’s Jewel (3/1 JF) and alongside Mnawekh (11/1) as Indication Court (12/1) took over the lead. As the field of beginners came under stronger pressure with a couple of furlongs to race, Tudhope switched Witness Stand to the outside of the two leaders for a clear run down the home straight. Picking up well when in the clear, Witness Stand quickly put paid to the chances of Wooton’s Jewel, simply having to be ridden out to go past and win going away ahead of Mnawekh, who made eye-catching late progress to finish a solid second. Already flying along in the 2023 flat season, Tom Clover recently claimed Royal Ascot glory in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) with Rogue Millenium, also partnered by Tudhope!
Race 3 – Halliwell Jones Selling Stakes (Class 4, 2yo, 7f)
Showing a dramatic upturn in recent form, Irish raider Pretence (9/2) provided the winning ticket in Race 3 when holding off Making Dreams (13/2) in the closing stages by ¾ of a length under Shane Gray, providing Kevin Thomas Coleman with just the sixth UK flat winner of his fledgling career. Racing prominently along the inside rail, Pretence travelled nicely under Shane Gray throughout the opening couple of furlongs, sitting behind early leader Storm Alice (7/1) for the most part as Making Dreams raced in rear division. Cruising along and waiting for the right gap to appear, Pretence stalked his way into contention around the final turn, Shane Gray yet to push the button on the 2-year-old maiden as Storm Alice began to give way up front. Now in the clear with a furlong to go, Pretence galloped on strongly down the centre of the track into a narrow lead, a lead which he maintained all the way to the line, with the staying-on Making Dreams never quite able to get on terms with the leader in the closing stages. An ever-consistent jockey, Gray has successfully ridden five listed class winners in his career, including the 2019 Rockingham Stakes aboard Aberama Gold!
Race 4 – Beaverbrooks Handicap (Class 4, 3yo, 7 ½f)
On a day in which Chester Racecourse commemorated the untimely passing of Manor House Stables staff member Jess Whalley, it was fitting that her stable came up trumps with the winner of the fourth race when Pearly Star (14/1) showed a gritty attitude to see off her challengers by a neck under Andrew Mullen for local trainer Hugo Palmer. Slowly away from the starting stalls, Pearly Star raced in last place in the early stages of the fourth race, racing behind market leader Tajalat (3/1F) in the main, with River Usk (9/1) dictating the pace at the head of affairs. Although making some ground into mid-division with two furlongs to negotiate, both Pearly Star and Tajalat still had a lot of work to do to get on terms with the leaders as the home straight loomed, River Usk now challenged by previous course winner Metahorse (7/2) for the lead. Staying on strongly for Mullen’s urgings in the final furlong, Pearly Star threaded the eye of a needle between runners and surged into a slender lead with 100 yards to race, eventually denying Tajalat in the shadows of the post. An eye-catcher in second place, Tajalat was forced to make his challenge widest of all in the home straight and could certainly be one to watch out for next time. Another trainer enjoying a solid 2023 season, Palmer also recently took the £190,000 Dukhan Sprint (Group 3) in Doha with sprinter Flaming Rib!
Race 5 – EBF Fillies’ Handicap (Class 3, 3yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
Extending her winning streak to a remarkable five straight victories, an overpriced Sparks Fly (11/1) kept on stoutly by 2 ¼ lengths under Laura Pearson in Race 5 to provide Dave Loughnane with another Roodee winner. Racing in second place behind Royal runner Market Value (6/4F) throughout the first circuit, Sparks Fly was in prime position to strike from a very early stage, the leading pair racing ahead of Totnes (15/2) and Dubai Crystal (6/1) for the most part. Pushed along to challenge the leader around the bend, Sparks Fly did not look to be travelling quite as well Market Value with a furlong and a half to race, the leader yet to be fully asked for her effort. However, responding well for pressure and readily quickening clear in the straight, Sparks Fly soon settled the race with the minimum of fuss in the final furlong as Market Leader rapidly became outpaced, the new leader sauntering home and continuing her flying form in excellent style under Laura Pearson. Now with 30 winners since the beginning of 2020, winning owner Dave Lowe looks to have another progressive horse on his hands, having also owned the likes of the late, great sprinter Kachy!
Race 6 – Expleo Handicap (Class 4, 3yo, 1m 2 ½f)
Following on from a smart third place finish in the Lester Piggott Handicap at Epsom on Derby Day, Balance Play (7/4F) saw off his six rivals in comfortable fashion in the penultimate race of the evening, with Hector Crouch steering his mount home by a length for trainer Ralph Beckett. Never anywhere other than the lead, Balance Play had the luxury of setting the pace out in front under Hector Crouch, the field in behind closely bunched with the likes of Noodle Mission (14/1) and Lil’ Frank (13/2) towards the front rank, ahead of Razoni (11/1) and Theme Park (5/1) in mid-division. Travelling much the best and still in a comfortable lead around the home turn, Balance Play kicked on stoutly into the home straight as his pursuers struggled to claw back the deficit, Razoni now presenting the nearest danger with a furlong to go. Not to be denied, Balance Play galloped on mightily in the closing stages with victory never in much doubt, the progressive 3-year-old seeing out the slight step up in trip nicely ahead of Razoni in second and Theme Park in third. Another trainer with a recent Royal Ascot winner, Beckett took this year’s Royal Hunt Cup with Jimi Hendrix!
Race 7 – Remembering Jess Whalley Handicap (Class 5, 4yo+, 5f)
Another horse riding the crest of a wave at present, Ecclesiastical (7/4F) stretched his winning sequence to two in the final race of the day, accelerating away to a 3 ¼ length victory to provide Andrew Mullen with a double and trainer Tristan Davidson with his fourth winner from his last eight runners. Breaking smartly out of the gates, Ecclesiastical raced to the fore along the rail in the opening couple of furlongs, behind the leader Astapor (16/1) and ahead of the consistent Soul Seeker (13/2) as the field made their way towards the final three furlongs. Rapidly making ground along the rail and almost coming out of his jockey’s hands, Ecclesiastical soon accelerated into the lead around the home turn, the field now becoming more strung out as the tempo increased. As Astapor and Soul Seeker came under strong pressure to maintain their positions, Ecclesiastical quickly soared into an unassailable lead down the home straight, his nearest pursuers unable to offer a strong enough challenge to reel back the ever-growing deficit and leaving the 6-year-old to score with any amount in hand. Another winner in the bag on the day, Andrew Mullen now has 19 winners for the season and looks well on his way towards another solid year in the saddle!
Race report by Adam Perkins
Distance: 7f,1y | Prize: £10,000Winner Name: Witness Stand (5) Owner: Bronte Collection 1 Trainer: Tom Clover, Newmarket Jockey: Daniel Tudhope
THE BEAVERBROOKS AMATEUR JOCKEYS' HANDICAP STAKES (CLASS 4,4+yo)
Distance: 7f,1y | Prize: £12,000
THE CAMDEN TOWN BREWERY NEWCOMERS' RESTRICTED MAIDEN STAKES (CLASS 4,2yo) (for horses in Bands B, C and D which have never run)
Distance: 7f,1y | Prize: £10,000
THE HALLIWELL JONES SELLING STAKES (CLASS 4, 2yo)
Distance: 7f,1y | Prize: £18,000