Warm sunny skies, good ground conditions and familiar names at Chester Racecourse this weekend
With sunny skies and warm weather scheduled for the afternoon, racegoers flocked in their thousands to the Budweiser Midsummer Meeting at Chester Racecourse. The feature race of the afternoon came at 3:41pm in the Free Placepot Every Saturday At tote.co.uk Apprentice Handicap Stakes (Class 2), in a race worth over £100,000 in prize money. Ground conditions remained Good (Good To Firm in places) throughout the afternoon, on a day filled with plenty of familiar names!
Race 1 – Budweiser King Of Beers Restricted Novice Stakes (GBB Race) (IRE Incentive Race) (Class 4, 2yo, 6f)
Favourite backers got off to a flying start in Race 1 as the well punted Self Praise triumphed by 1 ¼ lengths as the Evens Fav, in doing so ending his recent sequence of second place finishes. Having broken slowly here 8 days ago, Pink Stripes read the memo correctly this time and broke fastest away from Stall 2, leading the way in the early stages ahead of Kessaar Power and Self Praise out wide. Racing prominently on the inside rail, Brother Sebastian raced enthusiastically behind the leaders, waiting patiently to play his hand late under David Allan. Rounding the turn into the straight, Pink Stripes stuck to the rail and kicked for home with under two furlongs left to race, with Kessaar Power going with him. However, making strong headway having travelled widest of all into the straight, Self Praise was gathered up by Harry Davies and quickly scooted clear up the run-in, bounding away by a just under 2 lengths at the line for local trainer Hugo Palmer. One to make note of in behind, Gottaifan made up a fair amount of ground in the final furlong, finishing a decent fifth on his first ever racecourse start for Tom Dascombe. A very promising apprentice, this was another feather in the cap of Harry Davies, who has already amassed over 40 winners in his debut season as a flat jockey. Congratulations Harry, and good luck in the 2022 Apprentice Jockey Championship!
Race 2 – Corona Fillies’ Handicap Stakes (Class 4, 3yo+, 7 ½f)
In a race full of mixed fortunes for the market principles, it was the 13/2 Michael Appleby-trained Queen Of Burgundy that prevailed in the second race of the afternoon under Frederick Larson, holding on gamely by a head at the line. Having been squeezed out and almost immediately cut-off, the 11/4F Rock Melody had a troubled start out of the stalls and settled herself at the rear of the field in the early stages. At the other end of the field, Soller Bay and Queen Of Burgundy set the gallop at the head of affairs, the latter racing slightly wider throughout the race ahead of Keeper’s Choice and Verraux Eagle; Cygneture sat in last place. As the field of runners made their way to the home turn, the leaders increased the tempo in a bid to kick clear of the opposition, stealing over a length on the field as they entered the straight. Travelling well in behind but struggling for room, favourite backers looked to be back in with a shout as Rock Melody began to make headway from rear division. However, with Keeper’s Choice staying on well down the centre of the track to challenge the leader, Rock Melody just couldn’t quite find the gaps at the right time and eventually could not reel in Queen Of Burgundy, who kept on well for pressure in the final furlong of the straight to triumph under a smart ride from Frederick Larson. After a career best tally of 109 winners in 2021, Michael Appleby looks set for another stellar season on the flat, especially since his smart sprinter Raasel has already claimed Listed and Group 3 glory in 2022, winning 8 of his last 10 races!
Race 3 – Beck’s Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 3yo+, 5f)
In a race littered with familiar Roodee favourites, Look Out Louis put his previous course experience to good use and showed an impressive turn of foot to succeed by 1 ¾ lengths, keeping on strongly to win at a huge 22/1 SP. Breaking sharply and getting across from the widest stall, Sampers Seven took the bull by the horns in an early scrimmage for the lead, setting the pace ahead of Count D’Orsay and Apollo One amongst others. In midfield, Look Out Louis raced widest of all alongside Live In The Dream and Shamlaan, with Manaccan sticking to the rail under Tom Queally. As the runners swiftly made their way into the home straight, it looked to be anyone’s race with a whole host of challengers making their moves with less than two furlongs to go. Opting to stick to the inside of the track, Sampers Seven kicked for home and looked sure to fight out the finish with the final furlong in sight. However, not to be denied, Look Out Louis powered home down the centre of the track and showed no ill effects from a very wide trip by kicking clear in the final furlong to victory, with late runs from Manaccan, Count D’Orsay and Navello not proving enough to peg back the runaway leader. A trainer who is no stranger to success on the Roodee, Julie Camacho looks to have another Chester specialist on her hands, having previously trained likeable sprinter Judicial to win 4 of his 5 races on the Roodee, including the Queensferry Stakes (Listed) in both 2020 and 2021!
Race 4 – Free Placepot Every Saturday At tote.co.uk Apprentice Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 4yo+, 1m 4 ½f)
Although 13th of 14 in the Chester Cup on his only previous run on the Roodee, Haliphon repeated his last time out win at York by staying on strongly to win the feature race of the day under Ben Sanderson, winning at odds of 10/1 and holding off stablemate Alfred Boucher, providing trainer Ian Williams with a 1-2 finish. Early doors, the pace was set by the well-backed 5/2F Star Caliber and Desert Emperor at the head of affairs, followed closely by previous May Festival winner Haseefah back in third place amongst others. Racing towards mid-division, Euchen Glen and Alfred Boucher hugged the inside rail for much of the early stages, with Haliphon racing nearer last than first after the first circuit was completed. Shortly after the 3f marker and Star Caliber surrendered his lead, Haseefah swept to the front to challenge Desert Emperor on the turn into the straight, with Topanticipation making stylish headway to go up in to third. However, travelling sweetly on the rail, Alfred Boucher looked ready to pounce under Benoit de la Sayette, and soon stayed on well to lead with a furlong to race. Widest of all though and finishing with a wet sail from the rear of the field, Haliphon responded well for his riders’ urgings in the final furlong and quickly made a strong enough challenge to steal the lead from his stablemate in the dying strides. A trainer used to bagging big prizes, Ian Williams has also proven he can mix it in graded races over jumps, most recently winning a Grade 3 handicap hurdle on Grand National day with Party Business!
Race 5 – Goose Island Midway Maiden Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 3, 3yo+, 1m 4 ½f)
Only six runners went to post in the fifth race of the day, but that didn’t take anything away from a thrilling finish in which Aimeric got up in the dying strides to overhaul the 10/11 Fav El Habeeb by ½ a length. Setting a modest gallop up top, talented hurdler Luttrell Lad led the way ahead of Herbertandflorence in the early stages, with Chuvelo racing closely in behind the leaders. Looking back to mid-division, the two market principals Aimeric and El Habeeb raced side by side, with Ain’t No Sunshine never a threat in rear having broken slowest of all. Heading to the 3f point, the running order shuffled slightly as Herbertandflorence weakened away tamely, leaving Luttrell Lad and Chuvelo at the front of the pack. However, travelling notably well behind the leaders, El Habeeb made rapid headway to challenge Luttrell Lad rounding the home turn and soon kicked a few lengths clear, with Chuvelo’s run now levelling out. It wasn’t over yet though, as no sooner had El Habeeb kicked clear of the remainder, Aimeric then made an eye-catching run down the centre of the track under Ray Dawson, having been under pressure for a couple of furlongs. A son of Frankel, Aimeric soon came upsides El Habeeb and edged ahead less than 50 yards from the line, going on to score and break the hearts of the SP Fav and those who had backed him. Utilising all his strength in the saddle, Ray Dawson once again proved that he is a very talented jockey on his day, having also ridden five Group winners since 2021 including the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes aboard Mawj!
Race 6 – Camden Hells Handicap Stakes (Class 3, 3yo, 1m 2 ½f)
There was a surprise result in the penultimate race of the afternoon when Harry Davies brought up the double aboard Sheer Rocks for Eve Johnson Houghton, staying on well to win by ¾ of a length at odds of 8/1. Attempting to make all from the front, Chairman led the field along early doors with Highland Premiere never more than a length behind, the pair racing ahead of Sheer Rocks and odds-on SP Fav Post Impressionist in midfield, with John The Baptist bringing up the rear having struggled from the outset. Travelling well at the head of affairs, Chairman looked to be in prime position rounding the home turn, that was until they made their way into the straight and challenges emerged on his outside in the shape of Highland Premiere and Sheer Rocks. With a furlong left to race, Post Impressionist was out of the reckoning, unable to go with the pace set by Chairman, who was keeping on gamely under pressure. However, with 100 yards to go, Sheer Rocks came to life under the Harry Davies drive and quickly settled the race in a matter of strides, winning a shade cosily in the end for trainer Eve Johnson Houghton. A respected trainer in her own right, Eve Johnson Houghton’s finest hour came in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2018 when her admirable miler Accidental Agent sprung a 33/1 shock on the first day of the prestigious meeting!
Race 7 – Magners Cider Handicap Stakes (Class 5, 4yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
With the first four home only separated by a length at the line, the final race of the day proved to be a thrilling one, with victory going the way of Precision Storm at 13/2 under Ray Dawson, bringing up a double on the day for the jockey. In a race with no less than three owned by Dr Marwan Koukash, it was his namesake (and recent course winner) The New Marwan that set the early pace, racing on the inside of Precision Storm and a length ahead of Pacino and Greek Flame. An unlucky third here a week ago, Angels Landing was kept in rear division by treble-seeking Harry Davies, followed on her outer by previous course winner Golden Melody. Rounding the turn with two furlongs to go, Ray Dawson made his move aboard Precision Storm and quickly managed to steal a length on the field, with Golden Melody and Greek Flame giving chase in behind. With a furlong to go, a strong run from Greek Flame threatened to overhaul the new leader, but Precision Storm gamely ran on under strong handling from Dawson and managed to hold on bravely by a short head at the line. Reaching a career best of 12 turf winners in 2021, trainer Mark Loughnane looks to be on the right path with 9 winners already in 2022; good luck for the remainder of the turf season, Mark!
Race report by Adam Perkins
The Budweiser King of Beers Restricted Novice Stakes (Class 4, 2yo) (for horses in Bands B, C and D)
Distance: 6f 17y | Prize: £11,547
The Free Placepot every Saturday at Tote.co.uk Apprentice Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 4yo+)
Distance: 1m 4f 63y | Prize: £101,000