THE first day of the 2009 May Festival at Chester Racecourse saw crowds of almost 17,000 return to the Roodee for the first race of the season.

The sun shone down on the course for Chester Cup Day the start of the three day festival, spectators enjoyed a great days racing at the historic course and saw veteran trainer celebrate his 150th winner at Chester.

“Every winner means a lot, but a 150th winner at Chester, it’s a landmark, I’m very thrilled,” said trainer Barry Hills following a famous victory with Daraahem in the Chester Cup on the historic Roodee this afternoon.

“That’s been the plan for a long time; it’s a race that’s dear to my heart. He was gelded over the winter and that has helped him. I couldn’t find a race to run him in. They do improve at that age; Sea Pigeon was older when he won. He was keen; Richard said his arms are hanging out. He might go to the Northumberland Plate, a race like that,” explained Hills.

Racegoers had been greeted by a new addition, a Super-Lamb-Banana on the immaculate lawn adjacent to the weighing room as Chester Racecourse threw open the gates and welcomed the race fans to the perennially popular three-day May meeting.

“I’ve always wanted to win that race, to win four on the trot is some achievement with the penalties he’s been given,” said trainer Dave Evans, responsible for the winner of the Manor House Stables Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes. The 13-2 winner Star Rover grabbed the rail from stall five and made all, defying the late challenge from Archers Road.

“If he’s alright in the morning he’ll run at Goodwood tomorrow, there’s only four in the race.” added Evans.

“He’s very, very tough. I don’t know what he does to his two-year-olds,” said winning jockey John Egan.

The front running tactics adopted in the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks proved successful for connections. Johnny Murtagh quickly established a lead aboard the 9-1 shot Perfect Truth and held the prolonged challenge from Philipina to win by a short head.

“Aidan said jump out and keep going all the way. Let her use that stride and extend. It was a long last furlong but it worked out.

“I hit the line good, her head was down and shee deserved to win, se worked hard, she’s all heart,” explained Murtagh.

Perfect Truth shortened from 66-1 into 14-1 for the Epsom Oaks. The second horse, Phillipina is unchanged at 14-1 but trainer Sir Michael Stoute commented that the filly is unlikely to run.

Sohraab, sent off at 11-4, won the Boodles Diamond Roulette Handicap Stakes by one and a quarter lengths. By Epsom Derby winner Erhaab, connections commented that he was very small as a two-year-old and gets his speed from the dam. His preference is for a flat track and five furlongs is the gelding’s preferred trip, all positive factors for the winner.

Braveheart Move justified his name with a half-length win in the Stellar Group Handicap. Quai D’Orsay was making his way home in the straight bet Stephen Donohoe galvanised a final effort from his mount to get up in the final strides.

Racing concluded on day one with the Hull City AFC Premier Dream Maiden Stakes and a smooth win for 6-4 favourite Harbinger ridden by Ryan Moore. The winner earned a quote of 40-1 for the Epsom Derby, with bluesquare.

Richard Thomas, CEO of Chester Race Company commented; ‘It has been a fantastic day, the team have worked really hard to get everything ready and the whole course looks great - we‘re all looking forward to Ladies Day and City Day’.

County Stand and Tattersalls tickets have sold out for Boodles Ladies Day on Thursday 7th May and the Bet Chronicle City Day on Friday but tickets are still available for Chester Cup Day on Wednesday - please call 01244 304 610.’