WEATHERBYS TAKES OVER SPONSORSHIP OF THE CHESHIRE OAKS
The Robert Sangster Cup is offered this year and Lucy Sangster's Faint Heart could run
Weatherbys is the new sponsor of the £50,000 Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks on the opening day of Chester's May Festival, Wednesday, May 4.
Wellingborough-based Weatherbys Group Limited has previously supported other races at the three-day meeting but this is the first time that it has backed the Cheshire Oaks, a Listed contest for three-year-old fillies over an extended mile and three furlongs.
The Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks is being run for the Robert Sangster Cup, which honours the late Robert Sangster who grew up locally, had his Swettenham Stud nearby and made no secret of the fact that Chester's May Festival was his favourite meeting. He was also a steward at Chester for many years.
Sangster won the Cheshire Oaks for the second time in 1993 thanks to the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Abury, who scored by a head from Bashayer on whom Willie Carson eased down and was caught close home.
This year Lucy Sangster, the wife of Ben Sangster, one of Robert's sons, could be represented in the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks by Faint Heart. There would be no more poignant moment than if the three-year-old Sadler's Wells filly, who was bred by Ben and Robert, could take this one-off Robert Sangster Cup.
Faint Heart captured a fillies' maiden at Tralee in August and has been subsequently placed in three Listed and Group events including the Salsabil Stakes at Navan on her last start on April 16, when runner-up to Allexina.
David Wachman, Faint Heart's Irish trainer, said today: "Faint Heart might run in the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks - we will have a look at the entries and then make a decision between that race and a couple of others.
"We thought that Chester might suit her and, hopefully, that she would handle it better than some of the others."
The last Irish-trained winner of the Cheshire Oaks was Tout A Coup in 1996. The race for three-year-old fillies was founded in 1951 and Barry Hills is the most successful trainer, with six successes to his name - Dibidale 1974, Chaudenay 1987, Aquamarine 1992, Bolas 1994, High And Low 1998 and Valentine Girl 1999.
Chaudenay provided the first of Robert Sangster's two victories in the Cheshire Oaks. She won the 1987 renewal under American rider Cash Asmussen, beating Debach Delight by a neck in another thrilling finish.
In addition, Sangster bred the 1984 scorer Dibidale at Swettenham Stud. The filly had a luckless run in the Oaks at Epsom where the weight-cloth beneath her saddle dropped to the turf in the closing stages and she was disqualified from third position but Dibidale made amends by landing the Irish Oaks.
Johnny Weatherby, Executive Chairman of Weatherbys, commented: "We are really pleased to be sponsoring this prestigious race and especially so with the connection with Robert Sangster who was such a great man."
Richard Thomas, Chester's Chief Executive, said: "Weatherbys is generously sponsoring the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks for the first time and we are delighted to be offering the Robert Sangster Cup with the race.
"Robert Sangster, who died last year shortly before the May Festival, was a tremendous supporter of Chester and this is the racecourse's tribute to him."
Entries for the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks close on Friday, April 29. The three-day May Festival takes place between Wednesday, May 4, and Friday, May 6.