Chester May Festival Betting Tips – 8th, 9th & 10th May 2019

With the first Classics of the season in the record books, the flat season is just about in full stride by the time May rolls around. The action continues apace with a succession of racing festivals which take us all the way through spring and on into the summer months. The first of which comes here at Chester and the ever-popular May Festival.

Held over three days at one of the most unique tracks in the country – Chester isn’t too far off being a perfect circle – there’s something for all tastes here, from the sprinters to the stayers, and the handicappers to potential Derby and Oaks winners.

We have 21 races on offer in all, with each of the three days featuring at least one race at Listed level or above. With Aidan O’Brien, amongst others, often favouring the meeting for his Classic contenders, we are regularly treated to a superstar or two strutting their stuff on the Roodee. Here we take a closer look at exactly what we have in store across a cracking three days of action.

About Chester's May Meeting

Horses in Race at Chester Approaching Winning Line

Despite being relatively close to Aintree, the home of the Grand National, and lacking a signature race in the same style of the nation’s favourite steeplechase, Chester Racecourse remains a favourite of racegoers from up and down the country. Part of that is down to the fact that the course sits close to the centre of Chester, meaning that it is just a short walk into the city when the races have finished. It also has a claim to fame in the form of the then-Mayor of Chester, Henry Gee, giving permission for racing to take place there in 1539, which is what led to horses being referred to as ‘Gee-Gees’.

The course hosts numerous meetings throughout the year, many of which give nods to the city’s history. One such example is Roman Day at the end of May, with the city of Chester showing its Roman origins almost everywhere you turn. Indeed, there are around fifteen fixtures during the flat racing season between May and September, whilst the racecourse often hosts specialist evenings out of season such as the chance to preview the Cheltenham Festival with a panel of experts in the week building up to the famous meeting. It’s the May Meeting that takes centre stage for Chester, however, kick-starting the flat racing season to come.

Based across three days and offering plenty of top-class racing, the May Meeting starts with a day that celebrates the history of the city of Chester and is followed up with Ladies Day and then seeing a day based around the Chester Cup finishing things off.

To give you a real sense of the meeting the best thing to do is to look at the race card and explore the big races in more detail.

May Festival Race List

The opening day is designed to celebrate racing at the Chester racecourse and the city itself, City Day features some top-class racing including two trials for the Derby and Oaks Classic races later in the season.

A favourite with racecourses up and down the country, Ladies Day on day two gives those off the course the chance to show of their fashion skills at the same time that those on it show off their racing skills.

The third and final day is named in honour of the feature race of the day, the Chester Cup. Little wonder, too, when you consider that it’s the racecourse’s most valuable contest of the entire calendar.

RacePrize MoneyAges
Day One – City Day
Lily Agnes Stakes £25,219 2 Years Old
Cheshire Oaks £76,000 3 Years Old (Fillies)
Boodles Diamond Handicap £35,102 3 Years Old
Chester Vase Stakes £101,000 3 Years Old (Colts & Geldings)
Maiden Stakes £20,334 3 Years Old
Homeserve Handicap £20,335 3 Years Old
HR Owen Maserati Handicap £13,900 4 Years Old +
Day Two – Ladies Day
Gately PLC Handicap £35,102 4 Years Old +
Dee Stakes £76,000 3 Years Old (Colts & Geldings)
Deepbridge Capital Handicap £35,102 3 Years Old
Ormonde Stakes £101,000 4 Years Old +
EBF Maiden Stakes £20,335 2 Years Old
TMT Group Handicap £20,335 3 Years Old
Partner Tech Handicap £20,335 4 Years Old +
Day Three – Chester Cup Day
Earl Grosvenor Handicap £35,102 4 Years Old +
Huxley Stakes £126,000 4 Years Old +
Boodles Diamond Handicap £35,102 4 Years Old +
Chester Cup Handicap £150,080 4 Years Old +
Conditions Stakes £20,334 3 Years Old +
Apprentice Handicap £13,900 4 Years Old +
Chester Plate Handicap £51,000 4 Years Old +

The May Festival Races in Detail

It goes without saying that the races that are run during the May Meeting can change, but generally speaking they are kept fairly consistent from one year to the next. That is definitely true with the more noteworthy races, with trials for the Derby and the Oaks on the first day of the meeting and the Chester Cup on the final day being the jewels in Chester Racecourse’s crown.

Some races will always be of more interest than others, such is the nature of meetings of this kind. Here’s a quick look at information you might like to know about the most pertinent races on the card.

The Chester Cup

Let’s start by looking at the most prestigious of all of the races, even though it’s the last to be run in terms of the races we’re looking at in more detail here. It was inaugurated in 1824 as the Tradesmen's Cup and was a limited handicap that had a minimum weight of eight stone and two pounds. It was then known as the Tradesmen's Plate and open to horses aged three and over, becoming the Chester Trades’ Cup in 1874.

Many people left out the ‘Trades’’ when referring to it, calling it simply the Chester Cup so that became its official title in 1884. It was abandoned in 1969 and then it came back the following year it had seen its distance extended by twenty yards. Still the racecourse’s organisers weren’t happy, with another length change in 1992 before settling on its current length two years later.

Open to horses aged four and over and run left-handed over two miles, two furlongs and one hundred and forty yards, the Chester Cup is a handicap race. No horse has ever won the race more than twice, though nine have won it exactly twice. Sam Darling and Lester Piggott won the race four times apiece between 1831 and 1839 and 1958 and 1976 respectively. Barry Hills is the most successful trainer of winners in this race, picking up four wins of his own between 1980 and 2009.

The Cheshire Oaks

There is an outlet shopping centre not far from Chester called Cheshire Oaks, which isn’t to be confused with this race but may well have taken its inspiration from it. It was inaugurated in 1950 asa race run over one mile, four furlongs and fifty-three yards, being extended by a few yards in 1970. In 1971 it was promoted to become a Group 3 offering, slipping back down to being Listed in 1986.

The 1988 running of the race, which should have been over one mile four furlongs and sixty-five yards, had to be abandoned because of water logging to the course, which may have led to the decision the following year to cut it by a furlong. Winners of the race take home the Robert Sangster Memorial Cup, which is named in honour of the former owner and breeder of racehorses who died in 2004. It was presented for the first time in 2005.

The race is run over one mile, three furlongs and seventy-five yards and is open to fillies aged three. The weight information is nine stone, with a five pound penalty for winners of Group races and a three pound penalty for horses that have won Listed races. It is run left-handed on the turf and is a race worth watching if you’re hoping for some clues about the Oaks later in the year, with horses that do well in it often going on to be competitive in the Classic at Epsom.

The Chester Vase

Established in 1907 as a race for horses aged three or four, the Chester Vase saw a dead heat in its first ever running. It was contested over one mile, five furlongs and seventy-five yards for a time, being cut to one mile, four furlongs and fifty-three yards in 1959. Ten years later it was abandoned, returning the following year having been extended to its current length.

Raced over one mile, four furlongs and sixty-three yards, the Chester Vase is run left-handed on turf and is open to three-year-old colts and geldings. The weight information is nine stone, with a four pound penalty for winners of Group 1 and Group 2 races. Ryan Moore is the race’s most successful jockey, with Aidan O’Brien being the trainer to have more wins than any other with seven and eight wins respectively at the time of writing.

This is the race to watch if you’re hoping for some information about the Derby at Epsom, with Wings of Eagles in 2017 being an example of why. Having finished as runner-up in the Chester Vase, he went on to win the Derby later in the season.

The Dee Stakes

Named after the nearby River Dee that runs along the side of the course, this race was inaugurated in 1813 and both colts and filies could take part in it. It was about a mile and a half in length by the end of the nineteenth century and by 1937 that had settled to one mile, four furlongs and fifty-three years. The length moved backwards and forwards in the years that followed, being lengthened and shortened depending on how the race organisers saw fit.

The race was a Group 3 offering when the grading of races was introduced in 1971, downgraded to Listed in 1988 and then promoted back to Group 3 in 2003 before dropping back to Listed again in 2014. In short, it is a race that has never really had a settled feel to it, despite it being one of the oldest to be run at Chester Racecourse. One thing that we do know is that it is one to watch ahead of the Derby, with Kris Kin being an example of a horse that won this before going on to win the Classic later in the season in 2003.

Again, run left-handed over one mile, two furlongs and seventy yards, it open to three-year-old colts and geldings. There’s a weight of nine stone attached, with Group race winners receiving a five pound penalty and winners of Listed races getting one of three pounds.

The Ormonde Stakes

Named in honour of the horse of the same name that was foaled at Eaton Hall in Cheshire, the Ormonde Stakes was first run in 1936 when it was a race for horses aged three and over and was run over one mile, five furlongs and seventy-five yards. It replaced a race of the same name that was for two-year-olds and took place over five furlongs.

In 1955 the race’s length was reduced to one mile, two furlongs and ten yards, also being limited to three-year-olds. It had its original length restored three years later, at which point three-year-olds were excluded and it was changed to being a race for horses aged four and up. The final length change came in 1970, when it took on its present distance.

The Ormonde Stakes is run over one mile, five furlongs and eighty-four yards, being open to horses aged four and over with a weight of nine stone. Fillies and mares get a three pound allowance, whilst Group 1 winners receive a seven pound penalty, Group 2 winners a five pound penalty and there’s a three pound penalty for Group 3 winners. Horses that do well here are often competitive in the Coronation Cup at Epsom later in the season.

The Huxley Stakes

This is one of the youngest races at the meeting, having been established in 1999. It is named after a village close to Chester and was a Listed offering when it was first run. It moved to Group 3 in 2005 and then shifted again to Group 2 in 2018.

A race for horses aged four and over, the following weight information applies:

  • Weight: 9 stone 1 pound
  • Fillies and mares get a 3 pound allowance
  • Group 1 winners receive a 5 pound penalty
  • Group 2 winners receive a 3 pound penalty

Run left-handed over one mile, two furlongs and seventy yards, the Huxley Stakes is sometimes referred to as the Tradesman’s Cup, which is different from the Tradesmen's Cup that the Chester Cup was known as for a time.

About Chester Racecourse

Chester Racecourse Trackside

A quick word about Chester Racecourse for those of you that don’t know much about it. It is the oldest racecourse still in use in England according the official records, with racing at the venue dating back to the early part of the sixteenth century. Known as the Roodee because of the small cross called the ‘rood’ that sits on top of the mound in the middle of the in-field, the racecourse is close to the wall of Chester from where spectators can watch events for free.

The course runs anti-clockwise, which is similar to most of the other major courses in England. The key information for bettors comes in the length of the course, which is just one mile and one furlong. That makes it one of England’s smallest courses of note, but it also means that horses with a long stride don’t tend to do well on it because they perform best on long straights.