ALWAYS the most popular meeting on the Chester fixture list, the two-day July meeting again proved a big draw with 23,232 race-goers turning up last Friday and a huge 32,100 on Saturday, writes Beverly Dee.
A confident market backed Red Top down to 4-9 favourite in the seven-furlong opener on Friday. Jockey Franny Norton swept effortlessly into the lead and had the field strung out to win, easing down by three-and-a-half lengths from her nearest rival Heart's Desire.
'Everything's gone right tonight, both horses were working well at home so I've broken a rule and run two in the same race. I'm speechless!' said trainer Mark Polglase after his runners, 8-1 shot Hello Roberto, ridden by Jamie Mackay, and Sir Ernest, the long-time leader, had finished first and second respectively, separated by a distance of three quarters of a length in the Kathleen B Corbett Memorial Handicap Stakes.
Beckermet made light work of stepping up in class with an emphatic win in the Nexus GSA Conditions Stakes. Oh Dara set the pace but jockey Royston Ffrench brought the 5-4 favourite on the outside and quickly galloped clear to record a two-and-a-half-length victory.
Trainer Roger Fisher said: 'He's some horse and won as he liked, and he will probably improve again in better company. The plan is to go for the Gimcrack Stakes. There's nothing else for him really, he hasn't done much wrong this season!'
Favourite backers collected again following the New Vaxhall Tigra Nursery Handicap, resulting in a one-andthree-quarter-length success for Nova Tor who started at 7-2. Always up with the pace, Ian Mongan kept the filly up to her work and I'm Aimee finished second.
The Ethel Austin Property Group Classified Stakes was fought out between long-time leader Barking Mad, a 100-30 chance ridden by Ian Mongan, and the favourite Grey Clouds who mounted a prolonged challenge up the home straight but had to be content with a short-head second place to Barking Mad.
Friday concluded with the Aspects Beauty Company Cheshire Yeomanry Handicap Stakes and a win for Gavroche, who had struggled with the early pace set by Zuma but stayed on and defied a late challenge from Hatch A Plan to win by one length.
Saturday's card got under way with a Maiden Auction Stakes over five furlongs and Chilali used her draw to hit the front with 15-8 favourite Bold Minstrel, partnered by Franny Norton, always tracking the leader. Sound That Alarm came with a run on the outside but was the runner-up by a short head to Bold Minstrel.
There was a jostle for the early lead in the Conditions Stakes with Jalouhar coming out top before Millennium Force went on in the straight. The turning nature of the Chester track kept 100-30 shot Vanderlin interested and the gelding appreciated coming from behind to score by one-and-three-quarter lengths from Makhlab.
Lee Vickers, aboard 9-1 chance Opening Ceremony, adopted waiting tactics in the Handicap Stakes to win by half a length. Luxor set a strong gallop before the field closed up and there was a line of horses in contention approaching the line. Vickers explained: 'She has to be covered up and a gap opened up at a crucial stage. She's won on the bridle.'
Sent off at 7-2, Fire Up The Band made all the running to win the Chester City Wall Stakes by a short head from Talbot Avenue. Adrian Nicholls hugged the inside rail aboard his mount and maintained his place to the finishing post. 'He appreciated getting his toe in today and we made the best of the draw,' said trainer David Nicholls.
Another favourite obliged in the two-mile Handicap Stakes when Fran Ferris kept Sudden Flight, backed down to 5-4, up with the leaders. The field bunched up half a mile out before the favourite galloped clear to win easily by four lengths.
Merdiff and Pat Mathers won the Apprentice Handicap Stakes in the closing strides by one-and-three-quarter lengths.