The old city of Chester likes to lean on its racing heritage, on the days when the Romans used to charge round on their chariots for sport. There was plenty of history in the winners' enclosure too on the Roodeye yesterday and they must have been dancing in the pensioners' club in Newmarket last night.
First Geoff Wragg, at the age of 74, collected his fourth Cheshire Oaks, shortly to be followed by the relative youth, 65-year-old Michael Jarvis, who took home a colossal cheese and the honour of having sent out the winner of the 169th Chester Cup, Anak Pekan.
The popular race of the meeting used to be called the Tradesmen's Cup and it was therefore appropriate that the quiet artisan that is Jarvis should add the valuable handicap to his list of significant victories.
Anak Pekan was not a surprise victor, going off at 2-1 favourite, and his success was long in the planning. Jarvis has had the tight contours of Chester in mind since last November, but the four-year-old's life-changing moment came earlier that season, after a dreadful effort over Easter. "Looking back, it was the trip to the vet after he ran that stinker at Kempton last year that has made the difference with the horse," Jarvis said. "He finished tailed-off and went round shouting his head off. He was just being horny. He has definitely run sweeter since he was gelded."
Anak Pekan ran in and collected the traditional stepping stone to this race, the Queen's Prize at Kempton, by five lengths last month, and the authoritative manner and winning distance were to be replicated yesterday.
Rahwaan was rushed into the lead by Paul Hanagan in what was to be a brief flourish. The partnership was ultimately to finish 17th and last.
Anak Pekan was right in behind, in fact, probably too close behind for Philip Robinson's comfort. He was keen. Yet on the land that was formerly used as a military ground, there is much to commend the tactic of keeping out of the battlefield that the Chester Cup can become in midfield. Robinson stayed out of that territory but still encountered turbulence just under four furlongs out.
"It was always going to get a bit rough as everybody was jostling for position, but, luckily, I had the horse to get me through. He is a great horse for around here," the jockey said.
"Another horse came across me and I was nearly brought down. Mick Channon's horse [Misternando] came round the outside and cut right across and tightened us all up. He tucked in and brushed under my neck. It could have been nasty. I was lucky to stand up."
After the storm, though, Robinson could allow himself moments of calm. Anak Pekan gathered himself and surged away up the straight.
Now, however, the options are becoming increasingly limited. "We might have to look at a conditions race over two miles," Jarvis said, "and I would like to think he might have a tilt at the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle."
In the race for Chester's divas, the Cheshire Oaks, Wragg's Hidden Hope was nothing like as well fancied. The 14-1 chance was ignored by punters and hardly extolled by her trainer, who had not bothered to put her in the real thing at Epsom next month.
For much of the race it appeared that Darryll Holland and Clive Brittain's Menhoubah, with her distinguishing cheekpieces, had stolen the Listed contest from the front, but then Ted Durcan got to work on his lavishly white-faced partner. Hidden Hope came under considerable pressure, yet not as much as the toiling fillies in her wake.
"I was hoping she would get a place today because I knew she would stay and she did run well at Windsor last time," Wragg said. "The Oaks entry time probably came a bit too soon for her and she will be aimed at the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot now."Reuse content