“Have you ever been to Chester?”
The racecourse is one of those follies that sprang from England’s most creative period, shaped from the bowl of an ancient Roman harbour with an intimacy from its one mile round course that is matched only by the Champs de Mars in Port Louis. And as only the British would, on race days the contestants march ceremoniously through the heart of the city to what the early Britons christened the “Roodeye”. My grandfather always said: “If you’ve never raced at Chester, you’ve never raced at all,” and that’s probably true of what all English fans would say. At this time of the year, Chester holds two of England’s time-honoured Derby trials, the Chester Vase and the Dee Stakes, the former arguably the more successful in the deliverance of Derby aces, though South Africans will remember that it was his victory in the Dee Stakes that secured former Champion sire, Royal Prerogative’s passage to Cape Town.
Among the Vase’s celebrities of the modern era are Henbit, who went on to a six length end-to-end triumph in the “big one”, and Shergar, the Aga Khan’s ill-fated champion who remains to this day Epsom’s favourite son. In 1989, Old Vic waltzed off with the Vase, and followed up with stunning victories in the French and Irish equivalents. Summerhill has its own recent connection with the event in the race’s imperious winner of its 103rd renewal, Golden Sword, who subsequently chased the world champion Sea The Stars to just over two lengths in the Investec version of the Derby.
While he’s not quite what his name suggests yet, Ruler Of The World was this week’s hero of the Vase. It is so, that he has taken longer than his illustrious half-brother, Duke Of Marmalade, to create an impact on the track, but on this occasion he looked as if he was ready to make up for lost time, with a power-packed display. Remember, the race is staged within the narrow circumference of an old sailing boat harbour, so the straight is less than 300m, which meant our hero had to conserve his jet fuel ‘til they’d straightened. In a matter of strides he hit top gear, and drew clear for an emphatic fourth win for Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard in the past six years. In the saddle, Ryan Moore mentioned he was still a bit green, but once he got a hold of the horse, he lengthened really well. Part-owner, Paul Smith, added: “Aidan thinks quite a lot of him. He’s been working well at home, but we thought he might still be a little babyish. I think with the tight-turning track and the crowd, it was a good choice, and it paid dividends.”