Chester Boodles Festival: Day 1 Predictions

With the culmination of the 2000 and 1000 Guineas this past weekend, the first festival of the Flat season is quickly upon us.

The Chester Boodles Festival will take place on the 8th, 9th and 10th May and there are several fantastic races due to take place across the card.

The opening day of racing contains seven fantastic races. The headline race of the day is the Chester Vase. A Group 3 contest, the race was first run back in 1907 and master trainer Aiden O’Brien has trained the winner of the race a record ten times. 

This year’s renewal will see O’Brien saddle two horses in the contest, with his best chance looking to be the exciting Grosvenor Square.

The other prestigious race that is up for grabs is the Chester Oaks. A Listed race, some of the best fillies ever seen in the UK have all tasted victory in this famous race. A small field of seven have been declared and it is Forest Fairy who is expected to lead the betting.

Ahead of what is bound to be a superb day of racing, here is our preview of Chester’s opening day card.

Race 1: Caa Stellar Handicap (6 furlongs)

Fourteen three year old horses will head down to post for the first race of the Chester Boodles Festival.

A competitive looking handicap, there are several horses that look to stand a great chance. If you have never witnessed the Chester Festival before it's important to note that the track at Chester is one of the most biassed in the UK and greatly favours horses drawn in the inside gates.

Tom Dascombe is somewhat of a Chester specialist and his horse, Old Chums has been given the plum draw of gate number 2. Having never finished outside of the top three in any of his five previous starts, he is bound to be a hugely popular figure in the betting.

In the opening race it could be worth siding with the horse drawn on the inside and on this occasion that is Beyond Borders. Trained by Karl Burke, he won his first three races and was unlucky not to win on his last start, at a decent price, everything is pointed towards another big showing.

Race 2: Caa Stellar Lily Agnes Ebf Conditions Stakes (5 furlongs)

A hugely competitive sprint contest awaits in our second race of the day where ten horses will head down to post.

Hoping to kick off the festival in style, Tom Dascombe once again looks to hold an exceptionally strong chance of victory with both Sir Geoff Morgan and Seraphim Angel. 

Of the two it is Sir Geoff Morgan who has been drawn in the better gate and after finishing up as a runner up on debut, plenty more can be expected here.

Lady Lightning got her racing career off to the perfect start when winning well on the all-weather a few weeks ago. This will be her first start on turf, but her connections will be hopeful of a bold showing.

Kodi Best and Daisy In The Breeze are two other last time out winners and both could represent some real value.

Race 2

Race 3: Saddle-Up For More Than Racing (5 furlongs)

The sprint races continue to come thick and fast and the third race of the day see’s another race take place over the minimum distance. 

For many, Kings Merchant is due to start as one of the best bets of the day. Victorious last time out on the all-weather, he has been handed the dream draw of gate 1. WIth the hugely talented Oisin Murphy on board, he could take some stopping.

If you want to chance your arm with a horse that is drawn further out then Vince L’amour could be the horse for you. Victorious in both of his last two starts, conditions should suit and if Kings Merchant fails to fire he will expect to pick up the pieces.

Blue Storm hasn’t raced for almost five months but was a cosy winner when last seen. Although a leap of faith is required, if he is fit and ready to race he could play a major part in proceedings.

Race 4: Weatherbys Passport Cheshire Oaks (1 mile and 3 furlongs)

Despite only being a Listed race, for years the Cheshire Oaks has served as the perfect appetisers for the Oaks that will be held later this year.

Over the past few years some truly special horses have been able to etch their names onto the race’s honour board and there will be seven horses hoping to join them this year.

Aiden O’Brien has won the last two renewals of the race and will be hoping to make it a trio of wins with Port Fairy. 

Able to shed her maiden tag when last seen, she was a good winner on the all-weather over at Dundalk and will be hoping for another big step forward here.

Joseph O’Brien never won this race as a jockey but is hoping to land the honours as a trainer. He saddles Galileo Dame and looks to hold a major chance. A strong traveller, the nature of her Leopardstown win a month ago was hugely impressive and with the ground looking to be ideal, she is likely to start the race as the one to beat.

Karl Burke will certainly hope that Forest Fairy can get the upper hand. So impressive on debut when she cantered to victory on the all-weather at Wolverhampton, she looked like a horse to keep an eye on. This will be her first turf start but there will be plenty who will be attracted to her inside draw and will believe she holds a major chance.

Race 5: Boodles Chester Vase Stakes (1 mile and 4 furlongs)

The signature race of the opening day is the Chester Vase Stakes. A Group 3 contest, just six horses have been declared and once again Aiden O’Brien heads into the race looking to hold a major chance.

He saddles two horses, Grosvenor Square and Agenda and of the two it’s Grosvenor Square who will jump off as one of the favourites.

Having won two of his first three starts, he already has a Group 3 in the bag and was a runner up in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes. Entered for the 2024 Derby, no other horse in the lineup can come close to matching that form and he could be one of the best bets of the day.

Charlie Appleby has his stable in flying form and he will be hoping to build on his 2000 Guineas victory with another success here. Hidden Law was massively impressive when destroying the field at Newbury a few weeks ago and looked like a horse clearly going places. 

Whilst this represents a huge step up in class, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him play a huge role in proceedings.

The same can be said of Cadogan Place. A winner on debut, he managed to beat Hidden Law when the two first locked horns. Hidden Law has gone on to win since but if Cadogan Place can overcome his break he could be the best value angle of the entire contest. 

Race 5

Race 6: Esl Export Maiden Stakes (1 mile and 2 furlongs)

Wednesday’s card concludes with two competitive handicaps and in the penultimate race of the day Aiden O’Brien once again saddles a short priced favourite.

Gallantly is yet to taste success but has finished second on two different occasions. He goes well when the ground is soft and should have perfect racing conditions today. He could have way too much class for most of this field.

If looking to take him on then Castle in the Sand could be the play. The most experienced runner in the field, he has finished second in each of his last four starts. 

He usually finds one too strong but should give you a good run for your money.

Race 7: Cng Switch Handicap (7 furlongs)

Thirteen horses will head down to post for the final race of the day. An incredibly tough betting heat, The Charlie Hills trained Divine Libra is expected to jump as the favourite.

A winner on debut, he has now gone four starts without a win and will need to greatly improve on his ninth place finish on his seasonal reappearance a few weeks ago. 

On a Session has never won a race but looks to have found a good race to finally get a winner on the board. Drawn in gate 1 he has the opportunity to slip the rest of the field and could be a danger to all.

Legal Reform and Sandy Paradise are the only horses to enter the race after coming off a win. Sandy Paradise looks to be the more attractively priced of the two and has only finished outside of the top two in two of his six career starts.

Gate 8 isn’t the ideal draw, but if looking to back a winner at a price, he could well be the answer.