Chester Vase Betting

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As one of nine recognised trial races for the Epsom Derby, the Chester Vase takes place each spring. It is run at the Chester Racecourse in Cheshire, acknowledged as the oldest racecourse in Britain.

This Class 1, Group 3 flat race for three-year-old Thoroughbred colts and geldings is a highlighted feature of Chester’s three-day May Festival. It shares the card on the second day with six other races: the Class 2 Boodles Diamond Eternity Handicap Stakes, the Group 3 betfair Huxley Stakes, the Times Handicap Stakes, the Class 2 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Stakes, the Class 3 B&M Retail Handicap Stakes, and the Class 3 Investec Structured Products Handicap Stakes.

When the Chester Vase was launched in 1907, four-year-olds were also allowed to run. The inaugural race ended in a dead heat, with Sancy and Earlston declared the joint winners. In 1959, entries were restricted to three-year-olds only and the race distance was fixed at the current length of one mile, four furlongs and 66 yards, which is a bit more than one full circuit of Chester’s left-handed turf track.

Prior to 1996, the Chester Vase was sponsored by Dalham. It went without sponsorship for three years until bookmaker Victor Chandler picked up the title in 1998. Since 2004, the race’s primary backer has been MBNA Europe Bank, who, as part of Bank of America, are the largest credit card lender in Europe.

From 2007 onward, the meeting has gone by the name MBNA Chester Vase, Bank of America Chester Vase, and virgin Money Chester Vase. For 2011, it reverted back to the “MBNA Chester Vase” with a total prize fund of £50,000, which is down from a high of £70,000 in 2009.

Runners in the Chester Vase currently carry eight stone twelve pounds, which is an increase of two pounds over previous years. Penalties are applied to horses finishing first in prior meetings of seven furlongs or over, amounting to four pounds for either Group 1 winners or Group 2 winners. Of interest to handicappers, the weights of recent winners have trended within a range from the minimum up to nine-stone-two.

Although no horse of late has competed in the Chester Vase and gone on to win the Epsom Derby, there have been several strong contenders. Quest for Fame was the most recent Derby winner to have previously contested the Chester Vase; he came in runner-up to the American-bed favourite Belmez in 1990 before winning at Epsom Downs two months later.

The most noteworthy jockey to ride for the Chester Vase was Tommy Weston, who chalked up five victories in the mid-20th century. His winning rides were Vermilion Pencil in 1925, Hyperion in 1933, Valerius in 1935, Heliopolis in 1939, Sky High in 1946.

Among the top trainers bringing horses to compete here, two stand out with six wins apiece. Alec Taylor, Jr. had triumphs with Sancy (the 1907 dead-heat), Bayardo in 1910, Air Raid in 1919, Buchan in 1920, Inkerman in 1924, and Swift and Sure in 1926. Following in his footsteps, Jack Jarvis claimed victory with Sandwich in 1931, Castle Rock in 1950, Summer Rain in 1952, Empire Honey in 1953, Silver Cloud in 1962, and General Gordon in 1966.

More recently, C.E. Brittain, Sir Michael Stoute and A.P. O’Brien have all entered two winners in this race during the last eight years. During that period, the favourites prevailed three times: Papal Bull at 6/4 in 2006, Irish-trained Soldier of Fortune at 4/9 in 2007, and Doctor Fremantle at 11/8 in 2008.

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