“I love the race; it’s hard to explain, like a relationship. The plan starts now for next year! It’s the race I’d like to win more than anything else – the Chester Cup. I only had five in the race this year,” said Marwan Koukash as he celebrated a third success in the Stanjames.com Chester Cup on the opening day of the Boodles May Festival.
A maximum field provided the unique Chester spectacle with Montaser as the pace-setter. As the field entered the straight for the final time the winner looked to be Angel Gabrial, also in the ownership of Koukash. Jockey Ryan Moore had other ideas as his mount, Suegioo closed the gap and had sufficient pace to survive a drift across his path by the leader and gain a half length advantage on the line.
“He’s matured, he’s strong and the rain this morning helped him. Ryan gave him a great ride , he said the horse picked up when the runner-up came across. He’s always shown plenty of ability in valuable handicaps,” said winning trainer Marco Botti.
Overcoming the outside draw, Paul Hanagan tracked across to the inside rail and sent his mount, Mukhmal, into what proved to be an unassailable lead in the traditional opener of the Boodles May Festival to land the Manor House Stables Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes by a comfortable margin of one and a quarter lengths from Roudee. Hanagan said: “He’s a very straight forward horse with a lovely temperament and he gave me a lovely feel in the race.”
A discussion over lunch with the owners will determine whether Anipa will be supplemented for the Oaks. “We thought she’d handle Chester and she’s improving, she’s got a big heart,” said trainer Roger Varian following success with Anipa in the Weatherbys Private Banking Cheshire Oaks . Secret Pursuit was the pace setter running the rail and jockey Andrea Atzeni brought his mount wider into the straight and overhauled the leader to win by half a length.
Varian added: “She had a good draw and a good position in the race; there’re weren’t too many anxious moments. I knew she’d stay and the step up in trip helped and she’s much better on turf.” Despite considering the Ribblesdale as a likely target, Anipa earned a quote of 33/1 for the Epsom Oaks next month.
Sir Maximilian galloped down the centre of the Roodee straight in fine style to land the Stellar Group Handicap by two and three quarter lengths for jockey Stevie Donohoe and returned a starting price of 7/1.
Winning trainer Tim Pitt explained: “Chester was always the plan. The rain came fine and he had a nice draw. There was lots of pace and he has good mid-race speed, it worked out. I’m still getting to know him because he’s very laid back at home.”
“It’s a big ask for a horse to come round Chester, he’s never turned in his life. He came back on the bridle and he’s done it nicely,” said trainer John Gosden after landing the Boodles Diamond Maiden Stakes with Prince Of Stars on only his second outing. Jockey William Buick had a few anxious moments keeping the horse straight as he progressed to win by one length.
Swan Song came down the centre of the track, passing the early leader Masamah on the way to victory in the Stella Artois Conditions Stakes, recording a one-length winning margin. Andrew Balding the trainer said: “I’m delighted, the owner thought she could improve, like her dam. They’d gone hard and nothing was going to come from behind, she’s got stacks of speed and she’s a charming filly in everything she does – except the stalls.”
Day one of the Boodles May Festival concluded with the Diabetes UK Handicap Stakes and provided trainer Ian Balding and jockey David Probert with a quick double courtesy of the 3-1 favourite Storm Force Ten, the winner by a head.
Owner Robert Waley-Cohen, better known in the national hunt sphere said: “Wonderful, what a pleasure. It’s my first visit to Chester Racecourse and my fourth home-bred winner this week, what a lot of fun!”
Attendance on Day one of the Boodles May Festival was 14606.