Chester May Festival Big Race Guide

This year’s Chester May Festival gets underway, on Wednesday. This 3-day event features some great races. Here is a quick guide to the best of them…

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Chester Cup

Horses aged at least 4 years can take part in the Chester Cup and there is a £120,000 up for grabs. The horses travel a distance of 2m 2f, running left-handed on this famous Cheshire course.

In the early days, the fixture was known as the Tradesmen’s Cup and it was originally a limited handicap. It was also briefly known as the Chester Trades’ Cup, before taking its current name in 1884.

There are 9 horses that have won this fixture on two occasions. They are Leamington, Dalby, Pageant, Dare Devil, Chivalrous, Sea Pigeon, Top Cees, Rainbow High and Anak Pekan.

Leamington took the spoils in 1857 and 1859. He is a remembered as being a very good stayer and a sire of great note. The name of his dam is not on record, although she was foaled by Pantaloon. Leamington’s sire was Faugh-A-Ballagh, a winner of the St. Leger Stakes (1844) and the Cesarewitch Handicap (1844). Leamington’s big wins included the Woodcote Stakes (1855), the Chesterfield Stakes (1855), the Stewards’ Cup (1856) and the Goodwood Stakes (1857)

He was the leading sire in North America in 1875, 1877, 1879 and 1881. The best of his progeny included Aristides (1872) who won the first Kentucky Derby and Withers Stakes, Harold (1876) winner of the 1879 Preakness Stakes, Iroquois (1878) who was the the first American horse to win both the Epsom Derby and GB St Leger Stakes and Saunterer, who won the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness Stakes.

Sea Pigeon is, undoubtedly, the finest thoroughbred to have won the Chester Cup. Bred by the Greentree Stud, this Irish brown gelding was foaled in 1970, out of  dam named Around The Roses and sired by Sea Bird. Sea Bird won the Critérium de Maisons-Laffitte (1964), the Prix Greffulhe (1965), the Prix Lupin (1965), the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (1965), the Epsom Derby (1965), the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (1965) and was named British Horse of the Year in 1965. Sea Bird was given the exceptionally high rating of 145 by Timeform.

Sea Pigeon proved his worth in both flat and National Hunt races. His other big wins were the Ebor Handicap (1979), the Champion Hurdle (1980, 1981), the Scottish Champion Hurdle (1977, 1978) and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (1978, 1980).

As he was gelded, Sea Pigeon’s retirement involved little more than grazing and enjoying his own celebrity around the streets of Norton! He died in 2000, after damaging one of his pedal bones.

Cheshire Oaks

This is a Listed 1m 3f race, which is strictly for 3-year-old fillies. It was first run in 1950 and they ran a furlong further, back then. The first race was won by a horse called Requette.

The horses travel left-handed on the Chester turf. 9 stones exactly is the standard weight. Penalties are 5 pounds for Group winners, 3 pounds for Listed winners and the purse is £60,000.

Pat Eddery is the most successful Cheshire Oaks jockey. He won the race on six occasions and the last time was aboard a horse called Valentine Girl in 1999. Valentine Girl was trained by Barry Hills, who is the most successful trainer. The first of his seven victories came with Dibidale in 1974 and his most-recent winner was Alumni in 2005.

Willie Carson picked up a number of Cheshire Oaks wins and he was in the saddle when Shoot A Line was first past the post in 1980.Owned and bred by Arthur Budgett, she was trained by both Dick Hern and LeRoy Jolley.

1980 was an incredible year for Shoot The Line and she also won the Ribblesdale Stakes, the Irish Oaks, the Yorkshire Oaks and the Park Hill Stakes. Timeform rated her at 127 and she was named Top-Rated British 3-Year-Old Filly.

Older racing fans will also recall a superb thoroughbred that won the Cheshire Oaks in 1959. Cantelo was owned and bred by William Hill. From a dam named Rustic Bridge, her sire was Chanteur and she was trained by Charles Elsey. Cantelo also won the Royal Lodge Stakes (1958) and the Ribblesdale Stakes (1959), before she crowned her Classic campaign by winning the St. Leger Stakes.

Huxley Stakes

Held at Chester Racecourse in May, the Huxley Stakes is a G3 fixture for horses aged at least 4 years. The race distance is 1m 2f and horses travel left-handed. The purse is £75,000 and the standard weight burden in 9 stones exactly. However, there are various penalties for thoroughbreds that have already shown ability.

Any G3 winner faces a 3 pounds penalty. There is a 5 pounds penalty for G2 winners and 7 pounds for any G1 champion. Huxley is the name of a village which sits just outside of Chester and that is what the race is named after.

The inaugural running of the Huxley Stakes took place in 1999 and the first winner was a horse called Chester House. It won as a 4-year-old, with Kieren Fallon in the saddle. Chester House, an American dark-bay stallion, was bred by Juddmonte Farms and owned by Khalid Abdullah.

Chester Vase

The Chester Vase is a 1m 4f fixture, for 3-year-old colts and geldings, with a purse of £75,000. This event was inaugurated back in 1907. Pundits always look forward to the renewal of the Chester Vase, as it often offers pointers to the forthcoming Derby at Epsom Downs.

Tommy Weston is the most successful Chester Vase jockey. He won the race on 5 occasions. His first winner came with Vermilion Pencil in 1925 and his last with Sky High in 1946. Two trainers have 6 wins to their name. They are Alec Taylor and Jack Jarvis.

Michael Kinane’s last Chester Vase victory came aboard Soldier Of Fortune in 2007. Soldier Of Fortune’s other big wins include the Prix Niel (2007), the Prix Noailles (2007), the Irish Derby Stakes (2007) and the Coronation Cup (2008).

The most famous Chester Vase winner of modern times would have to be the ill-fated Shergar. Owned and bred by the Aga Khan, Shergar was out of a dma called Sharmeen and sired by Great Nephew – winner of the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (1967) and the Prix Dollar (1967). Great Nephew was the leading sire in GB & Ireland (1975, 1981).

Shergar also won the Guardian Classic Trial (1981), the Epsom Derby (1981), the Irish Derby (1981) and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1981).

Sadly, the horse was stolen by a criminal gang in 1983 from the stud farm he was standing at. People still argue to this day what may or may not have happened to this remarkable animal, but he was never seen again and is widely believed to have been killed shortly after the abduction.

Dee Stakes

First held in 1813, the Dee Stakes is a Listed encounter for 3-year-old colts and geldings. The purse is £75,000 and the runners and riders cover a distance of 1m 2f. There is a 3 pounds penalty for any winner of a previous Listed race, otherwise horses carry 9 stones.

In the early 19th-century, the race was open to both colts and fillies. Given G3 status, in 1971, the race was downgraded to Listed status in 1988. However, this is still an important fixture that has thrown up some very good winners over the years.

Kieren Fallon rode the Sir Henry Cecil-trained Oath to the spoils in 1999, Oath was an Irish bay stallion that was bred by Mrs Max Morris. His dam was Sheer Audacity and his sire was Fairy King. Fairy King was the leading French sire of 1996 and his progeny include Shinko King, Turtle Island, Encosta De Lago, Helissio, Second Empire, Victory Note, Falbrav and Beckett. Fairy King won no major races at all, after suffering from bone damage in his very first outing. Oath went on to win the Epsom Derby in 1999 and was eventually sold to Japanese breeders for around $8,000,000.

Trainer, Geoff Wragg scooped 3 Dee Stakes wins between 1993 and 1996. One was with a horse named Pentire, which carried Michael Hills to the winners enclosure in 1995. An outstanding career saw this thoroughbred win the Sandown Classic Trial (1995), the Predominate Stakes (1995), the King Edward VII Stakes (1995), the Great Voltigeur Stakes (1995), the Irish Champion Stakes (1995) and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1996). Timeform rated him at 132.

Ormonde Stakes

Inaugurated in the mid-1930s, this event is over 1m 5f (slightly over) and is for horses aged at least 4 years. The standard 9 stones weight, which all horses must carry is subject to penalties for all Group race winners. The penalties are three pounds for G3 winners, 5 pounds for G2 winners and 7 pounds for G1 champions. The purse is £75,000.

Ormonde was an outstanding unbeaten thoroughbred and a winner of the prestigious Triple Crown. The Irish bay stallion is regarded as being amongst the very best racehorses of all time.

He was owned and bred by the the first Duke of Westminster and foaled in March of 1883. Trained by John Porter Ormande earned almost thirty thousand pounds in prize-money for the Duke and won the Dewhurst Plate (1885), the 2000 Guineas (1886), the Epsom Derby (1886), the St. James’s Palace Stakes (1886), the Hardwicke Stakes (1886, 1887), the St. Leger Stakes (1886), the Great Foal Stakes (1886), the Champion Stakes (1886), the Rous Memorial Stakes (1887) and the Imperial Gold Cup (1887). Ormande became only the fourth U.K. Triple Crown Winner in his Classic campaign.

His career as a sire was beset by health problems, but he did produce a few decent runners, most notably Orme, who won the Middle Park Plate, the Dewhurst Plate, the Eclipse Stakes (on two occasions), the Sussex Stakes, the Champion Stakes, the Limekiln Stakes, the Rous Memorial Stakes and the Gordon Stakes.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Harbinger took the spoils in 2010, with Ryan Moore as jockey. Owned by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, this bay stallion (white blaze) was sired by Dansili and out of a dam named Penang Pearl. His major victories included the Gordon Stakes (2009), the John Porter Stakes (2010), the Hardwicke Stakes (2010), as well as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2010). He came first in World Thoroughbred Rankings in 2010 and was given the exceptional Timeform rating of 140.

Teenoso was the winner back in 1984, carrying Pat Eddery to the winners enclosure as a 4-year-old. The Geoff Wragg-trained horse was an American dark-bay stallion that was sired by Youth. Teenoso won the Lingfield Derby Trial (1983), the Epsom Derby (1983), the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (1984), plus the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1984) and was named Timeform best middle distance horse of 1984.

Watch All Of These Great Races Live!

All of these race can be watched live on ITV, so make sure you don’t miss any of the great encounters taking place at Chester this week!

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