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Soccer

Zoffee delivers Chester Cup after last year's heartbreak

After finishing second last year, Zoffee landed the 200th running of Duke Of Westminster Supporting The Chester Cup for trainer Hugo Palmer and Michael Owen's stables.

Drawn in stall one, the 9/1 winner – beaten a neck 12 months ago – was able to sit on the rail in the perfect position and former crack apprentice Harry Davies could time his challenge to perfection.

For much of the way the well-fancied Andrew Balding pair of Aztec Empire and Grand Providence controlled the pace, with Oisin Murphy looking to steal it on Aztec Empire with two furlongs to run.

But Davies pulled Zoffee out around Emiyn with a furlong to travel and his mount quickened away in good style.

It was a huge result for Palmer who moved from Newmarket to take over at Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables in Cheshire.

Emiyn, who completely missed the break before being rushed up to sit handy, ran a remarkable race in second, beaten three-quarters of a length with Zanndabad third and Aztec Empire fourth.

Having finished third and second in the last two renewals of the week’s showpiece event, Palmer was thrilled to finally land the big one.

He said: “It’s the big race in this part of the world and very exciting. We were second last year and third with Rajinsky the year before so we’ve gone three, two, one in our three years up here.

“He’s given him a wonderful ride. I’ve known Harry a very long time and his mother Angie is my assistant. He’s been with me since he was seven so to win this big race for us is fantastic.

“We kept racing ponies for him when we were in Newmarket and he had to stand on a bucket to tack his horses up. He’s been riding out for us for a very long time, he’s a talented young man and he’s going places.

“I’m just delighted and so pleased the Petersons sent him back after the hurdling didn’t go well. I’m grateful to Olly Murphy and his team, they’ve done all the work over the winter and we’ve only had him back a couple of months.

“We all love this horse and he might not be the highest rated horse in the yard, but he’s just the loveliest face, he loves his job and we just love him.

“It’s been a tough week, character building!”

Owen said: “It is pretty much a lifelong dream to win that race and he came second last year.

“I said earlier in the week I think we’d win the big one. He always looks the part and he’s a lovely, lovely horse.

“I’m so pleased for the owners and I said to them before the race, ‘I know he’s your horse, but they are all my horses at Manor House’, that is how it feels. Alan (Peterson) has been a great supporter and this horse has always been a yard favourite – he’s just the nicest person in the world.

“He was second last year and now he’s gone and done it.”

Davies said he was confident in the chance of his mount, as he celebrated a welcome big-race winner.

“He’s a really good horse on the Flat and he was 3lb lower than last year which I thought was absolute theft. It’s just great to win this race for the Palmer team and this is the race they come to Chester every year wanting to win,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“Hugo is a massive supporter of mine and it’s just great to keep everyone happy.

“It’s hard when you lose your claim, but I’ve been very lucky to keep people who have supported me along the way. I probably have quite a small team and wouldn’t have the most outside rides, but the trainers I do ride for stick by me and I’m really grateful for that.”

He added: “Everyone has come down, they are all local, they all live in Cheshire and it’s the one meeting of the year they all go to. A few of them go to Royal Ascot, but this is definitely the big week of the year for them and for them to see me ride a winner as well, there will probably be a few pictures from today.”

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