Posted: Tue 7th May 2024

Preview and tips for day one of Chester May Festival as Flat season kicks off at the world’s oldest racecourse

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales


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A surefire sign that the Summer is on the way is when the Flat racing season kicks into gear and this week, Chester hosts its season opener with the Boodles May Festival on May 8, 9 and 10.

Day one kicks off the Festival on Wednesday, with the feature race the Cheshire Vase, where six runners will battle for the £78,428 first prize. That race is at 3.35 on Wednesday, with racing on day one getting underway at 1.30 and the seven-race card coming to a close at 4.45.

The opener (1.30) is a class three handicap for three-year-olds and 14 runners have been declared for it. The Julie Camacho-trained Winged Messenger is the selection for the first race, winning on his final appearance as a two-year-old and shaping well when third on reappearance as a three-year-old when third of eight at Thirsk. A very competitive opener also sees Auric in with a shot, a winner at Kempton last month and finishing second at Windsor when last seen.

The second race of the afternoon (2.05) sees Ripon second Night In Paris hold strong claims in the 11 runner conditions stakes over the 5f distance. Kodibeat, from the Paul and Oliver Cole yard, was a winner on debut on the Kempton all-weather and is switched to turf here, while the Ed Dunlop-trained Lady Lightning can be a player too, another all-weather debut winner now moving to the turf.

Race three (2.35) is the 12-runner class three handicap over 5f and preference is for Kings Merchant, who has the eye-catching booking of top jockey Oisin Murphy on board for trainer Ed Bethell. Kings Merchant showed plenty when scoring in ready fashion at Wolverhampton but will face stern competition from Vince L’Amour, a three-year-old that hacked up on debut at Ripon and followed up with another belting win at Catterick two weeks back. He’s stepping up markedly in class at Chester but you get the feeling there is more to come from Tom Easterby’s runner.

The fourth race on the card is the Cheshire Oaks (3.05). Nine runners are in contention and the big guns from Ireland are heading over, including the Aidan O’Brien-trained Port Fairy, with superstar jockey Ryan Moore on board leading the charge. O’Brien won this race last year with Savethelastdance, who finished second in the Epsom Oaks and then strongly won the Juddmonte Irish Oaks at the Curragh.

Of the English battalion, Forest Fairy looked smart when bolting up by six lengths on debut at Wolverhampton while Beeley looked promising too when runner up at both Nottingham and Sandown.

Race five (3.40) is the feature race of the day – the Group 3 Cheshire Vase. Top jockey Moore has picked Grosvenor Square for the O’Brien yard, a twice-winner as a two-year-old who won the Eyefield Stakes at Leopardstown. O’Brien has one seven of the last ten Cheshire Vase’s and Grosvenor Square is clearly the one to beat here.

Hidden Law, for the powerhouse Godolphin yard and trained by Charlie Appleby, was touched off on debut at Southwell but looked a fabulous prospect when smartly landing the Darley Maiden Stakes at Newbury subsequently and can put up a big challenge, as can Cadogan Place, who beat Hidden Law in that Southwell contest.

The penultimate race on the Wednesday card is the maiden stakes at 4.10 and the preference here is another O’Brien runner, Gallantly, who is ready to step up to this 1m2f trip with a solid second at Leopardstown over a mile when last seen.

Finally, the day one card comes to a close with the class three handicap over 7f (4.45) where G’Daay looks primed to go three better than his fourth on seasonal reappearance at Chelmsford having blown the cobwebs off in Essex.

Chester selections – Wednesday (via horse racing odds)

1.30 – Winged Messenger

2.05 – Kodibeat

2.35 – Vince L’Amour

3.05 – Port Fairy

3.35 – Hidden Law

4.10 – Gallantly

4.45 – G’daay

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