The Chester May Festival fixture will be held across three days in 2016 including Wednesday 4th May, Thursday 5th May and Friday 6th May 2016. The annual meeting plays host to a range of competitive racing including multiple handicaps as well as maiden and nursery races.
Chester racecourse is relatively small, but it packs a mighty punch for its size. The bookmakers, winners enclosure, parade ring and food outlets are all packed tightly which emits a lively, buzzing atmosphere for racegoers. You can get really close to the action at Chester with the tight track offering racegoers the chance to see their horses thundering past right in front of them.
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Early Season Form
The Chester May Festival is comparatively early in the UK flat season. Two year-olds are generally just gaining their first experiences of a racetrack and older horses are only just beginning to make their debut. This leads to some interesting, often surprising results. Horses which are known to be the best in the field can be known to underperform against their lesser rivals, horses who are rated lower but have had a recent run. Many horses’ chances depend on the ability of their trainer to get them fit and primed for an early season run. Generally, the bigger more powerful yards target their best horses for later in the season and as a result the Chester May meeting can become somewhat of a secondary option. This should be factored into your betting. Trainers with a good record with horses returning from a break are worth their weight in gold.
Fitness Is Key
If you can, get yourself to the racecourse and examine the horses. Do they look fit and well? Some horses show visible signs of condition and/or small niggles. These horses may not be 100% ready for their race and this can give weaker opposition a big advantage. Horses who have a shiny coat, look alert and strong are great horses to be with early in the season, at least you know they’ve been prepped and they will be able to give their all.
Aidan O’Brien likes to target the Chester meeting to kick off his flat campaign. He had two winners in 2015 (Diamondsandrubies and Hans Holbein) from just four runners – an impressive 50% strike rate. All four of his horses were favourites so his runners don’t offer particularly great value, but given they have a high strike rate, they always to be noted when placing your bets.
Chester rests on the banks of the river Dee and it is very well-positioned for a racecourse, close to local amenities including hotels, bars and retail outlets. The racecourse offers a good range of ticket options from the open course which can be accessed for just £10 to the County Concourse, priced at £48 per ticket. The brand new restaurant 1539 (Year of Chester’s first racing) offers racegoers an extremely British cuisine with local products to boot.
Chester Racecourse is one of the most unique tracks in the country. Measuring at just one mile and one furlong, Chester is one of the smallest racecourses in the UK. Given its size, the racecourse is extremely tight with sharp bends which sees horses constantly on the turn. Chester has a characteristically short run in – less than a furlong – which makes positioning of vital importance with very little ground to make up on.
Day One, Wednesday 4th May 2016
Day One at the Chester May meeting comprises the best from all the different racing categories, laying on some diverse and thrilling racing. The day kicks off with the Lily Agnes, a conditions stakes race for two year-olds only. This race is brilliant for very forward horses and the betting market is usually extremely informative with last year’s winner Rah Rah being sent out the 2/1 favourite.
The Cheshire Oaks is always a popular race each year at the Chester May meeting and last year’s winner Diamondsandrubies turned out to be an extremely classy performer, going on to finish the season rated a rather lofty 114. She won the Pretty Polly Group One at the Curragh in Ireland and makes it a race to watch out for in 2016. The Chester Cup is usually an extremely competitive handicap and the 2015 winner Trip To Paris became a shining light through the 2015 season winning the Ascot Gold Cup before finishing fourth in the Melbourne Cup. What Chester lacks in group racing, it makes up for with extremely competitive handicaps and day one promises plenty in and around the feature races – usually betting 4/1 the field!
Day Two, Thursday 5th May 2016
The Huxley Stakes (Group Three) kicks off day two and is held over one mile two furlongs and last year saw a rather small but competitive field of five runners (6/4, 2/1, 4/1, 8/1 Bar). It was fought out between the top three market leaders with Maverick Wave for John Gosden just coming out on top. The second went on to win a Group One at Woodbine for Sir Michael Stoute with the third taking a Group Three at the Curragh before finishing a game fifth in the Qipco Champions Stakes at Ascot.
The following race is another Group Three – The Chester Vase. The second that day was Storm The Stars, one of the best middle distance horses in the UK in 2015, a subsequent second in the Irish Derby, winner of the Great Voltigeur at York and a fourth in the St leger. He was beaten by another good middle distance horse in Hans Holbein who set the face for the O’Brien cohort in the 2015 English Derby. Following on from the two Group races, day two at the Chester May Meeting features three strong handicaps with good fields and plentiful betting opportunities, very typical for this meeting.
Day Three, Friday 6th May 2016
Day three at the Chester May Festival features the Dee Stakes, a listed contest over a mile and two furlongs. It was a rather disappointing turn out in 2015 with only four runners, but that didn’t stop a big surprise in the form of Not So Sleepy landing the race at bumper odds of 11/1. Back in fourth was Aidan O’Briens Smuggler’s Cove who was most disappointing having never travelled particularly well.
Next up is the Ormonde Stakes, a competitive one mile and five furlong handicap worth £56,000 to the winner. It was won in 2015 by Clever Cookie, a horse who would attract a huge fan fare as an ex-hurdler. He landed somewhat of a shock at the Chester Festival, beating the highly regarded Tac De Boistron (11/10) at a very attractive 8/1. Interestingly, the fourth that day Big Orange proved to an extremely good stayer landing two group twos further in the season including the Goodwood Cup from Quest for More and Trip To Paris. He went on to finish fifth in the Melbourne Cup at a massive 33/1.
As with the previous two days at the Chester Festival, the final races are comprised of three competitive handicaps and a maiden/nursery race. That will change in 2016 with the introduction of novice races on the flat, but that’s only likely to add intrigue to competitive racing with great prize money.
Chester May Festival Races
Wednesday 4th May 2016
- Chester Cup (Handicap) for 4yo+ over 2m 2f
- Cheshire Oaks (Listed) for 3yo fillies over 1m 3f
Thursday 5th May 2016
- Huxley Stakes (Group Three) for 4yo+ over 1m 2f
- Chester Vase (Group Three) for 3yo over 1m 4f
Friday 6th May 2016
- Ormonde Stakes (Group Three) for 4yo+ over 1m 5f
- Dee Stakes (Listed) for 3yo over 1m 2f
Big Strides Big Disadvantage
A horse’s physical composition is absolutely vital at Chester racecourse. Big, galloping horses with a long stride are generally at a big disadvantage against smaller, more nimble opponents. The Chester racecourse is on a constant bend and with the fields generally tight together, this gives big gallopers very little chance to extend their stride. Smaller, more athletic and agile horses can have a small advantage through their ability to position and manoeuvre far quicker and easier than their bigger counterparts. A horse with a good turn of foot is essential swinging on off that final bend and horses that like to gallop its opponents into submission can be found a little short for speed. Our bettingexpert Chester May Meeting betting tips will help you find these horses on the day of the race so you can bet with the experts.
Chester Racecourse Draw Bias
Chester racecourse has one of the biggest draw biases in the country. The tight nature of the track means horses drawn high are at a notable disadvantage compared to horses drawn low. Backing horses in stall one and two would have returned a profit in the last eight years, highlighting just how much impact a low draw can have. Punters often compare Chester to the greyhounds. You want your horse to bang out of the stalls, grab the rail and lead all the way home – especially in five/six furlong contests. If you’re drawn middle-high, it’s very hard to get a prominent position which can have disastrous consequences for front runners and/or prominent runners. Our Chester May Meeting betting tips will have all the track peculiarities factored into our selections.
Doctor Marwan Koukash, an avid horse racing fan and multi-millionaire loves to target his horses at his local Chester racecourse. Most of his horses are instantly recognisable through the ‘Gabrial’ prefix for which the BHA have now blocked as a result of too many Gabrial’s – poor commentator. Plenty of his horses are trained by Richard Fahey who for the aforementioned reason, does extremely well at Chester. His handicappers are usually thereabouts and one should never discount a Koukash/Fahey combination at Chester. Fahey had three winners at the Chester May Meeting in 2015 at prices of 10/1, 8/1 and 2/1 – a profitable
The most local trainer to Chester is Tom Dascombe who family trains horses for footballer Michael Owen. He had two winners at the Chester May meeting in 2015 at prices of 6/1 and 8/1 and given he’s recently switched to a long-term strategy, there could be much more to come in 2016. Other trainers who do well at the Chester May Meeting include John Gosden and Andrew Balding who had several winners between them last year including some useful sorts who progressed throughout the season.
As the Chester May Festival gets closer, we'll bring you the very best risk free bets for all the horse racing action at Chester Rascourse in May. Until then make sure to check out all the best horse racing free bets throughout the year here.
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