The May Festival, of which British luxury jeweller Boodles has been the title sponsor in recent years, is the opening three-day fixture of the season at Chester Racecourse, on the banks of the River Dee, in Cheshire in North West England. The May Festival, which first took place in 1766, is staged on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The Wednesday, a.k.a. City Day, features the principal Derby trial of the week, the Chester Vase, and the principal Oaks trial, the Cheshire Oaks. The last Derby winner to run in the Chester Vase was Wings Of Eagles, who finished second to stable companion Our Venice Beach in 2017, while the last Oaks winner to run in the Cheshire Oaks was Forever Together, who similarly finished second to stable companion Magic Wand in 2018. Both horses were trained by Aidan O’Brien.
The Thursday, a.k.a. Ladies Day, features the Ormonde Stakes, run over 1 mile 5 furlongs and 84 yards and open to horses aged four years and upwards, and the Dee Stakes, run over 1 mile 2 furlongs and 70 yards and open to three-year-old colts and geldings only. The former is considered a trial for the Coronation Cup, while the latter is considered another, albeit slightly inferior, trial for the Derby.
The Friday, a.k.a. Chester Cup Day, is mainly about the highest profile, and most valuable, race of the week, the Chester Cup, a heritage handicap run over 2 miles 2 furlongs and 147 yards, open to horses aged four years and upwards and worth £154,000 in prize money. However, on the supporting card, the Huxley Stakes, run over the same course and distance as the Dee Stakes, but open to horses aged four years and upwards, was elevated to Group 2 status by the European Pattern Committee in 2018 and received a 66% increase in prize money, to £125,000.