The Boodles May Festival gets underway on Wednesday at Britain’s oldest racecourse, Chester. The Stan James Cup Day is the first of the three day meeting that is Chester’s most recognisable event, featuring some of the biggest names in the sport.
The Stan James.com Chester Cup will go off at 2.45 and Countrywide Flame provides a real threat. His Champion Hurdle third puts him in real contention of success. Justification is likely to be favoured and must be respected on the back of a superb victory at Leopardstown last month, whilst Olympiad, who is 12/1 with most bookmakers and Ingleby Spirit who is 25/1 with Stan James, represent good each-way value. The consistent Countrywide Flame looks the best of the field though and should give a very good account having won here before. Boyle Sports currently have him at 4/1.
Salhooda is the leading contender at 11/4 with Bet Victor for the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks Fillies’ race, as she is fully expected to go well over middle distances this year. This looks the perfect race so long as she performs on the ground. Reyaadah began her career in fine style, but has been slightly disappointing more recently; she can play a part if returning to form here though, as can Premium who won well in a maiden in March. Elik, Gertrude Versed and The Lark all symbolise good value.
The opening race of the festival should provide an extremely competitive battle, which will prove tricky for punters. Quatour battled to victory at Windsor last time out and a similar performance may well see him seal a double. Limegrove is likely to lead from the front and may have a part to play on the back of the decent second at Salisbury, however Smugglers Gold and Sleepy Joe are both improving and could cause an upset at decent value of 7/1 with Stan James.
The Stellar Group Handicap could supply us with the most competitive contest of the day, with a field of thirteen quality runners. Last Sovereign has won here over 6f before and enters this in good form with the inside draw, although Gatepost will be hoping to return with a more positive impact after disappointing last season and could prove to be a good bet. Silvanus and Forest Edge may be the best choices for value.
John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute have won the Boodles Maiden Diamond Stakes seven of the last ten years between them, which indicates that Russian Realm and Space Ship will be very much in contention this time round. The former ran well in his debut at Sandown and may have enough to get the better of John Gosden’s Space Ship. Number One London and Hasheem both add depth to this interesting and valuable contest.
Face The Problem was very progressive last season and always runs well under Keiren Fallon, so it will be no surprise to see him perform in the penultimate race of the day. Masamah is another in attendance, whilst Jwala has Buick booked and could be a super bet at 11/2 with William Hill.
The final race is the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Handicap and William Buick will be hoping for success aboard Majeed, who is currently 11/2 with Paddy Power. Mombasa will be suited by the distance and this could prove a real chance for him to add another success, whilst Excellent Puck scored last time out and his consistency gives him a good chance again.
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