Matthew Clark Summer Festival Racing at Chester Racecourse is Flourishing with Firsts
A four and a half length pillar to post victory was recorded by Flourishing in the opening race, the Laurent Perrier Maiden Stakes. Jockey Sean Levey gave his mount pace making duties, which paid off as he kicked clear into the final straight and the result was never in doubt. Levey said: “She won easily enough in the company and she knew her game today.”
Local trainer Tom Dascombe was in the winners’ enclosure following the Beefeater Handicap Stakes. Blithe Spirit ensured a brisk pace but faded inside the final furlong and three horses were in a line to provide a thrilling finish to the race. The photo finish revealed that 11/2 chance Reflektor, ridden by Paddy Piley, was the winner by a short head from fast finishing Lucky Beggar. Dascombe explained: “He got badly handicapped and he’s back down to a winning mark now. He was very terrier like and the lad gave him a great ride, he had to gun him all the way.”
The Woodford Reserve Handicap Stakes was the feature race on the card, won by the 3/1 co-favourite Lualiwa and ridden by James Doyle. Choosing the centre of the course resulted in a three quarters of a lengths success from Starlight Romance. “He’s a real game little horse and the horses in the yard are all running well now. If they came to him, he’d back them off, I’m delighted for the boss and everyone in the yard,” said Doyle.
Billy Dylan was the only previous winner in the line-up for the Matthew Clark Novice Stakes and he added a further success to his profile, despite carrying a penalty, when seeing off his rivals in an exciting finish. Three horses were across the course a furlong from home but Billy Dylan had the acceleration to open up a margin of one and three quarter lengths over the second horse home, Demons Rock. The win provided jockey Sean Levey with a double and he was promptly away to ride at the Doncaster evening meeting.
Paddock pick Hochfeld responded to Franny Norton with a late flourish to land the Hop House Handicap Stakes by one and a half lengths. The lead switched between horses as the race unfolded with Brandon Castle briefly going on half a mile from home. The eventual winner looked to be short of room but an outward manoeuvre provided a clear run and the horse galloped clear by one and a half lengths. Norton said: “I thought they’d got away from me but my horse has a fair turn of foot. I hate going wide but I had to take a chance, that’s Chester for you!”
Today was the turn of a trainer, Ivan Furtado, to record a first success at Chester, ably assisted by Franny Norton, who was recording a double, to land the Stella Artois Handicap Stakes with Normal Equilibrium, returned at 8/1. Lexis’ Hero led into the straight but Normal Equilibrium was on the inside and an extra kick provided the momentum to go on by one and three quarter lengths.
“It’s my first winner here and I’m really pleased. A bit of dig in the ground really helped the horse to let himself down. The track suits him to perfection and we’ll probably come back here at some point soon,” explained Furtado.
Zenafire, sent off at 7/2, was the half length winner of the Coca Cola Zero Sugar Handicap Stakes and provided jockey Sammy Jo Bell with her first success at Chester Racecourse. The horse has a unique profile having previously won over hurdles at Bangor on Dee.
The Matthew Clark Summer Festival proved to be very popular as the attendance was 24,448, a 19% increase on the 2016 figure of 20,605.
Racing returns to Chester Racecourse on Saturday 15 July, with City Plate Day. This fixture is hotly anticipated as we approach mid-July and enter the second half of the 2017 season at Chester. A limited number of tickets are available to buy online, over the phone and in person. Visit chester-races.com or call 01244 304 600 for more information.