As the curtain came down on the 2022 season at Chester Racecourse, over 14,000 racegoers showed their support for the Roodee on a day jam-packed with close finishes. The feature race of the day came at 3:25pm for the inaugural running of the Deepbridge Watergate Cup Handicap Stakes, with a huge £100,000 available in prize money! Ground conditions were Good To Soft, and the weather remained mostly dry throughout with sunny intervals and mild windy spells.
Race 1 – Boodles Ashoka EBF Novice Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 3, 2yo, 7f)
Punters received an early shock in the first race of the afternoon when 18/1 outsider Stenton Glider strode past the 1/4F Prepense in the home straight to record a stylish win for jockey Andrew Mullen and trainer Hugo Palmer on racecourse debut. Quickest away from Stall 2, Deguello set the early tempo under Paul Mulrennan, followed in close proximity by hot favourite Prepense and racecourse novice Stenton Glider. Racing in midfield, Lunacy kept company with King’s Code for much of the contest, the field completed by early stragglers Pink Walls and Winnaretta. Rounding the turn into the straight, Deguello came under strong pressure to maintain his position at the head of the field, only to be swallowed up by the smooth travelling Prepense with just under two furlongs to go. However, as the 1/4F set sail for home, the looming presence of Stenton Glider forced Richard Kingscote to push for home earlier than may have been expected, and when his mount did not respond to the added pressure, Andrew Mullen swept Prepense aside and edged into a slender lead at the furlong pole. With no real danger coming from the opposition, Stenton Glider kicked for home and ran on well in the closing stages to see off Prepense by 2 ½ lengths, with the staying-on King’s Code back in third. Another winner for the now local trainer Hugo Palmer, he also recently recorded a Group 3 victory in Germany when Dubawi Legend scored in the Goldene Peitsche at Baden Baden!
Race 2 – Boulton Group Handicap Stakes (Class 4, 4yo+, 7f)
Favourite backers were put through the wringer in the first but came roaring back to life in the second race when previous course winner Ffion flew down the outside to claim victory in the shadows of the post, going off the well-backed 9/4F under Chester specialist Richard Kingscote. In the opening stages, the lead was quickly grabbed by the well-drawn Cliffcake out of Stall 3, stalked all the while by Royal Musketeer and Paws For Thought either side. Close-up in behind the leaders, Poet’s Magic sat in a handy position alongside Yanifer who raced wide, with Ffion and Melody Of Life among those in rear division who failed to gain a prominent spot upon leaving the starting stalls. Appearing to be full of running around the home turn, Cliffcake kicked a couple of lengths clear of the field under John Egan, with Yanifer and Melody Of Life having to race fairly wide to make any ground on the leader. As Royal Musketeer faded out of it and the effort of Poet’s Magic flattened out, Yanifer looked set to record his second course and distance win of the year having stolen the lead from Cliffcake with just a furlong to go. However, widest of all and coming home with a wet sail, Ffion appeared out of nowhere under a power-packed Richard Kingscote to eventually wear down Yanifer with less than 50 yards to race, going on to score almost a shade cosily by ¾ of a length; third place went the way of Melody Of Life, with Cliffcake ½ a length back in fourth. Another winning trainer having a successful season, David Loughnane has also claimed Group class glory in 2022, with stable stars Go Bears Go and Lola Showgirl scoring three Group 3s between them: a fantastic effort!
Race 3 – Mr & Mrs Dobson Nursery Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 2yo, 7f)
A combination of smart riding and willing determination proved vital to the outcome of the third race as Tyrone’s Poppy stayed on well to just hold on in the dying strides and provide a winner for Tim Easterby and Paul Mulrennan. Adopting his usual tactics of front running, Kiss N Cuddle had to race very wide to get to his favoured position, eventually dictating matters alongside Dark Thirty and Ludo’s Landing on the inside. Racing prominently but slightly further back, Tyrone’s Poppy kept company with Kyeema throughout the early stages, with Celtic Champion racing towards the rear ahead of Coco Jack and Zaman Jemil. With just under two furlongs left to race, as Dark Thirty and Kiss N Cuddle began to fade away under pressure, Kyeema travelled well on the outside to sweep into the lead, closely followed even wider by Tyrone’s Poppy. With some late scrimmaging leaving gaps for Zaman Jemil and Three Yorkshireman to stay on for eventual third and fourth places, the battle for the lead was won by Tyrone’s Poppy, stealing the initiative from Kyeema. Flying late on the scene and looking a serious threat to the new leader, Coco Jack stayed on well from rear division but ultimately arrived too late, losing out by the narrowest of margins in the shadows of the post to the game Tyrone’s Poppy, under the never-say-die Paul Mulrennan drive. Having recently scored in the Bronze Cup at Ayr with Danzan, another trained by Tim Easterby, winning owners Reality Partnerships are certainly having a good time of it in recent weeks. Congratulations to all connected!
Race 4 – Deepbridge Watergate Cup Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 4yo+, 2m 2 ½f)
Course experience and a brilliant attitude proved the key to success in the feature race of the day when course regular Emiyn led from pillar to post to score a big £100k prize for winning owners Fab Five and trainer Declan Carroll. Leading from the outset, Emiyn set the tempo at the head of affairs under Zak Wheatley, holding sway from Star Caliber, who raced keenly throughout, with Call My Bluff and Alpine Stroll keeping company alongside Frankenstella in the early stages. Struggling to get closer to the pace due to wide berths, Anna Bunina raced widest of all for much of the contest, racing ahead of Reshoun, Alfred Boucher, and Land Of Winter towards the rear of the main bunch; Cormier and Sir Chauvelin shared last place throughout. With three furlongs to race, there was some drama towards the rear of the field as after being hampered on the turn, recent Ebor 2nd (and 5/2F) Alfred Boucher was quickly pulled up by Richard Kingscote having lost his action, eventually being found to have gone lame on his front fore; we all wish him a speedy recovery! With much of the field now under strong pressure from their riders, Emiyn was sent for home by Zak Wheatley and managed to increase their lead to more than 3 lengths as they rounded the home bend with Star Caliber clinging onto second place ahead of the staying-on Call My Bluff. Looking certain to score over a furlong out, joy turned to fear for Emiyn backers as Call My Bluff relentlessly tried to reduce the deficit, getting to within a length of the leader with 100 yards to go. However, not to be denied, Emiyn stuck his neck out when it mattered and held on bravely to triumph by a head, with a further 1 ¾ lengths back to the gallant Star Caliber in third place and another length to the eye-catching Land Of Winter in fourth. Securing his 13th winner of the season (a career best), today’s victory was also the biggest of Zak Wheatley’s career as an apprentice. Huge congratulations, Zak!
Race 5 – Envirosips Handicap Stakes (Class 4, 3yo+, 1m 6 ½f)
A thrilling finish to the fifth race saw Novel Legend finally get off the mark under rules at odds of 5/1 under a well-timed ride from Rowan Scott, fending off Lady Valentine and Australian Angel in a three-way photo finish. Sharply away and into an early lead, Mancini set the pace under Richard Kingscote for much of the contest, accompanied mainly by Lady Valentine and 2/1 Australian Angel in the leading group. Amongst those in midfield, Novel Legend sat adjacent to the inside running rail throughout, with Pub Crawl on his outside ahead of The New Marwan and Heart Of Soul, the pair (along with Mancini) bidding to provide Dr Marwan Koukash with yet another victory at his beloved Chester Racecourse. As the tempo increased rounding the turn into the straight, little had changed at the head of affairs, with Mancini still just about clinging to the lead but challenged strongly on his outside by Australian Angel and Lady Valentine. Having momentarily been short of room as the challengers swamped Mancini, notable headway was also being made by Novel Legend, who quickly darted to the outside of the leaders in search of a clear run upon entering the home straight. With Mancini now out of the reckoning in fourth, Australian Angel fought her way to lead at the furlong marker and looked set to play a big role in the finish. However, responding well for Rowan Scott’s urgings, Novel Legend stormed down the outside and clawed back the leaders in the final 100 yards of the contest to get up on the line and defy the renewed effort of 40/1 chance Lady Valentine by a head, with Australian Angel just a nose behind her in third place. Owned by Boniface Ho Ka Kui, Novel Legend looks another progressive 3-year-old to follow, with the owners’ Deauville Legend also proving a huge success in 2022 after victories in the Bahrain Trophy and Great Voltigeur Stakes!
Race 6 – Beck’s Novice Stakes (GBB Race) (Class 4, 3yo+, 7 ½f)
Another close finish came in the sixth race of the day when Silent Monarch edged out the consistent Follow That Star in the final few yards of the contest, scoring at odds of 11/4 under Jason Hart, for trainer George Boughey. Leading from the flag-fall, Dolly Gray set the pace at the head of affairs, followed closely by Silent Monarch racing wide, and Jupiter And Mars holding the third-place spot. In midfield, Follow That Star moved well throughout, racing on the outside of Al Baahy on the rails and ahead of Darkest Dream in between horses; early straggler Blue Hawaii struggled for the duration. One-by-one as the field all gradually came off the bridle, Dolly Gray surrendered her lead upon entering the final two furlongs, with Jupiter And Mars opting to stick to the far rail as Silent Monarch and Follow That Star took a more central route down the middle of the track. With Jupiter And Mars soon beaten after passing the furlong marker, the fight was left to Silent Monarch and Follow That Star, who battled hammer and tongs all the way to the line. Always doing enough under the handling of Jason Hart, Silent Monarch eventually ran out a smart winner and although only prevailing by a neck, did so in admirable fashion from the consistent Follow That Star in second, and Al Baahy who stayed on well for third a further 3 ¼ lengths behind the runner up. A budding young trainer with a knack for success, George Boughey’s third season as a trainer has been his best yet, with five Group race winners including the Group 3 March Stakes with Derby runner-up Hoo Ya Mal!
Race 7 – Deepbridge Innovative Investing Handicap Stakes (Class 5, 3yo+, 7 ½f)
A huge field for the penultimate contest resulted in a further exciting climax when the Tim Easterby trained Devilwala produced a strong, late run to claim what looked an unlikely victory at one stage at odds of 14/1 under Jason Hart: his second winner in a row. Somewhat surprisingly, given their starting prices and stall positions, a trio of outsiders in Pacino, Independent Beauty, and She’s The Dancer led the way in the early stages. Always prominent on the inside, Surprise Picture sat handily under Jason Watson throughout the contest, ahead of the midfield battalion including 2/1F Metabolt and Devilwala racing wide, with previous course winner Devasboy towards the rear. Attempting to steal first run on the opposition, Surprise Picture quickened over 3 lengths clear round the home turn as the early leaders fell away rapidly towards the tail of the field. Chasing the new runaway leader in vain, Parys Mountain and Hello Zabeel came out of the pack in an attempt to reel in Surprise Picture with just under two furlongs remaining, but the leader gamely kicked on and looked set for a taking victory. Yet, with just one furlong to negotiate, the eye was immediately drawn to both Devasboy and Devilwala who after having to race wide into the straight, were now flying at the leader with great force. Idling in front and unable to live with the new found challenge, Surprise Picture conceded the advantage to Devilwala, who swept to the front in the final 50 yards to eventually hold off Devasboy by ½ a length, with Surprise Picture a further neck behind in third. After this superbly judged ride by Jason Hart, Devilwala had also provided owner Mr M J Macleod with a welcome winner, an owner whose colours were carried to success in the 2017 Chester Stakes by My Reward (another Tim Easterby recruit). Congratulations to all the team at Habton Grange!
Race 8 – Boulton Group Season Finale Fillies’ Handicap Stakes (Class 5, 3yo+, 1m 2 ½f)
The most convincing winner of the day did not appear until the very last race of the afternoon when 11/2 chance Cave Diver chalked up by 3 ¼ lengths under Pierre-Louis Jamin for trainer Clive Cox. Pulling her way to the front and running freely throughout, Atlantis Blue set a strong early gallop under double-seeking Paul Mulrennan, racing ahead of Bungley and Cave Diver in the prominent vanguard, with Qabilah and Sweet Fantasy sitting either side of the 11/4F Angels Landing towards the rear of midfield. Having set such a strong pace at the head of affairs from the get-go, Atlantis Blue soon had the rest of the field under stern pressure as the runners made their way to the two-furlong marker, with a staying on Sweet Fantasy sweeping past Bungley to challenge Cave Diver for second place upon swinging into the home straight. With Angels Landing and Qabilah unable to land a blow coming to the furlong marker, it was soon clear that the leading trio had the race between them. Game under pressure from her rider, Cave Diver kept finding in the final furlong of the contest, and with little response from Sweet Fantasy on the near side and the strong gallop finally starting to catch up with Atlantis Blue, Pierre-Lous Jamin kicked his mount clear to record a stylish victory in what was the final race of the Chester Racecourse season. Owned by the powerhouse operation that is Cheveley Park Stud, Cave Diver looks to be a progressive filly going forward, for an owner that has already recorded 7 Graded jumps winners and 4 Group races on the flat in 2022!
Race report by Adam Perkins
The Deepbridge Watergate Cup Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 4+yo)
Distance: 2m 2f 140y | Prize: £100,000
The Deepbridge Innovative Investing Handicap Stakes (Class 5, 3+yo)
Distance: 7f 12y | Prize: £10,000