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England striker set to miss out on big Chester May Ferstival opener
Wayne Rooney faces a welcome distraction from Manchester United’s Barclays Premier League title duel with Manchester City tomorrow when Chester’s May Festival opens its doors.
Rooney has gone into racehorse ownership for the first time with his wife, Coleen, and their colours are set to be carried by Pippy in the opening Manor House Stables Lily Agnes Stakes.
The juvenile is trained by Tom Dascombe, who is based at the Cheshire yard owned by another top footballer, Michael Owen, who has sponsored this contest.
Unsurprisingly in the circumstances, Dascombe is running no fewer than five horses in the 14-runner event.
It is impossible to know whether Pippy is any good, but he has a decent pedigree, possessing plenty of speed, and is a son of Exceed And Excel, who sires plenty of winners.
Furthermore, he is well drawn in stall five and has a top jockey booked in Jamie Spencer.
It is, though, a tough ask for a two-year-old without experience to win first time out at Chester and my vote goes for North Yorkshire runner Tharawal Lady, trained by John Quinn, and a winner on her debut at Beverley. Well drawn in stall one, she is the mount of Tom Eaves.
Whatever Spencer’s fate in the Rooney colours, he should have a good ride in the stanjames.com Chester Cup aboard Mount Athos, trained by Luca Cumani for Dr Marwan Koukash, who likes nothing better than winners at Chester.
Indeed, it is Koukash’s hope that he has a runner in every single race at the three-day meeting, with more than one runner in several of the events.
Mount Athos failed to get his head in front last season, but that tells only half the story. He ran some fine races in defeat in top handicaps, finishing fourth in this race and fourth in the Cesarewitch, with a close-up eighth in the Ebor at York in between. He does not have a great draw in stall 12, but he is expected to run a big race.
Irish challenger Absolute Crackers should not be underestimated in the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks.
Trained by Jessica Harrington, the three-year-old ran out a comfortable winner of a maiden at Cork on her re-appearance.
Moreover, she finished second in a Listed event at The Curragh last October won by Homecoming Queen, who won Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket by a wide margin.
The Stellar Group Handicap over five furlongs promises to be fast and furious. Preference is for Confessional, trained by Tim Easterby.
The gelding should now be cherry ripe after two outings this term and he was not beaten far into sixth at Newbury last time. He is well drawn, which is a crucial requirement in sprint races on this tight track and is sportingly awarded the nap vote.
The promising Shantaram (3.40) and the speedy Dinkum Diamond (4.15), who looked in need of the outing when running a below-par race at Nottingham on his re-appearance last month, are two others to note on the seven-race card.
The Southwell action is pretty much run-of-the-mill stuff, but it could prove to be a big day for Mark Johnston’s apprentice Daryl Byrne.
Irish-born Byrne, an accomplished rider, is fancied to chalk up a double for his boss aboard recent winner Wicked Spirit (4.35) and the consistent Quiet Appeal (5.05).
1.35 Tharawal Lady, 2.05 Absolute Crackers, 2.35 Mount Athos, 3.05 Confessional (NAP), 3.40 Shantaram, 4.15 Dinkum Diamond, 4.45 Rosslyn Castle.
1.55 Orders From Rome, 2.25 Gracie’s Gift, 2.55 Hits Only Jude, 3.30 Vivid Blue, 4.00 Bailadeira, 4.35 Wicked Spirit, 5.05 Quiet Appeal.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Ffos Las, Kempton and Stratford.
Today’s meetings: Catterick, Exeter and Fakenham.