Ralph Beckett is targeting a winning return with Albaflora, who makes her seasonal bow in the tote.co.uk Proud To Support Chester Racecourse Ormonde Stakes on day two of Chester’s May Festival.
The consistent five-year-old has a fine record fresh, winning first time out in both seasons she has been in training, and looks to uphold that tradition in this one-mile-five-and-a-half-furlong Group Three event.
Albaflora was an impressive winner at Listed level on her reappearance last season and went on to run some fine races at Group level throughout the season, most notably when second to Snowfall in the Yorkshire Oaks then when beaten a short head in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes in her final start.
A repeat of the form shown in those two performances would make her tough to beat here, and her handler believes this is the right race to kickstart her season.
Beckett said: “She’s been training well this spring, this race should fit her well first time. She’s got a good draw and ground that she will handle and we are looking forward to running her.”
Roger Varian saddles Believe In Love and the Carlburg Stables handler is hopeful his mare can show the same form as when scooping Group Three honours at Leopardstown last season and going down by the barest of margins in the Group One Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp.
“I think she’s versatile ground wise and she’ll like the trip. I think she’ll quite enjoy the track, but she has not been drawn kindly which is the only negative. I think she goes into this in good form and on her day she’s very good,” said Varian regarding the five-year-old’s chances.
Hamish was a beaten favourite on his final start of 2021, but the pick of his best efforts, which include a September Stakes victory, entitles him to respect here, while Alounak represents the Andrew Balding and King Power Racing team that won this race in 2019.
The seven-year-old won the Old Newton Cup last season, as well as placing in both the Ebor and a Listed contest on the Roodee and his trainer has faith he can perform to a similar level this year.
“He had a good, aggressive profile through the first half of last season and he’s working like he’s retained his ability, but no doubt he’ll come on for the run. He ran well at the track last year and the distance should be fair for him,” said Balding, who also saddles Team Valor’s Invite, who got the better of Alounak at this venue in September.
Thunderous picked up the 2020 Dante Stakes, but has not tasted success since and now tries this trip for the first time, while last year’s Derby ninth John Leeper is another stepping up in distance for the in-form Ed Dunlop.
Ryan Moore partners the Frankel colt, with the four-year-old also tried in a hood, which his handler hopes will help him relax in this first try at further than a mile and a half.
“The first part of last season went very well, the second half didn’t. This is very much getting him back going because it is a long time since he has run and we’ve very pleased Ryan Moore is on him. But it is a very strong Ormonde and I think he’ll improve significantly for the run,” said Dunlop.
“We’re hoping he stays further than a mile and a half in time and this is sort of a happy medium, it’s slightly further than a mile and four furlongs and we’ll hopefully learn something from it. He wears a hood just to get him to relax because it is his first time at this trip.”
Two-time winner Mandoob, Ian Williams’ East Asia and the rank-outsider Adrian complete the field.