THERE would be no more poignant winner of this year's MBNA Europe Bank Chester Vase than Percussionist, owned by the late racehorse owner and breeder Robert Sangster.
The Chester May Festival was his favourite meeting of the year and the running plans for his three-year-old were mapped out as Best Mate was winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month.
On a visit to see his old friend in hospital in Barbados in the middle of March, the horse's trainer John Gosden was told that a maiden race over one-and-a-half miles at Newmarket, followed by a go at the MBNA Europe Bank Chester Vase, was the Derby contender's schedule.
Part one was duly and successfully carried out last week, with Percussionist a good winner under jockey Kevin Darley.
Now the campaign moves on to The Roodee where Robert Sangster, whose funeral was held this week, was often at his happiest.
The Chester Vase itself takes pride of place on Ladies' Day, Thursday, May 6.
With the shift of the May Festival from Tuesday through Thursday to Wednesday through Friday, the MBNA Europe Bank Chester Vase gets the central billing that it merits.
Percussionist has already proved at Newmarket that he stays the distance of The Derby. If he wins around The Roodee, he'll be a lot shorter for the colts' classic than the 50-1 currently on offer.
Another possible runner in the MBNA Europe Bank Chester Vase is Let The Lion Roar, who showed his Classic credentials to best effect when winning at Newbury last weekend. Like Percussionist, trainer John Dunlop's colt is currently a 50-1 chance for Epsom.
The Chester May Festival is the true start to the Flat season. The 2003/4 National Hunt season wraps up this weekend, after which the focus really switches to Flat racing.
Chester Racecourse ticket prices in 2004 range from £5/6 for the Open Course on all days to £35 for the County Stand concourse and up to £47 for the Long Room during the May Festival.
Badges can be bought on the racecourse's credit card hotline on 01244 304610, which is open between 9am and 4.45pm, Mondays to Fridays, or the website www.chester-races.co.uk. General e-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
The next fixture at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse is on Friday, April 30. The first race is due off at 5.40pm. A free bus service runs from Wrexham Railway Station at 4.10pm, returning after racing.
Admission to the Course Enclosure is £6 while the Paddock Enclosure is £13. Accompanied children enter free.
More information is available on the website www.BangorOnDeeRaces.co.uk or contact the racecourse on 01978 780323.