Friday, 31 May 2013

A look back at recent racing at Worcester Racecourse and a look forward to the CrownGate Ladies Day

The phrase ‘you get what you pay for' regularly rings true in life, but not necessarily when it comes to buying racehorses, it would seem.

A good example is the Paul Nicholls trained Italian Master, owned by John Hales, who faded into third in his debut chase at Worcester last week. The son of Milan cost £240,000 at the Cheltenham Brightwell sales in 2011 following his solo victory in an Irish point to point.

Now a 7 year old, the form to date includes second in a jumper's bumper at Wolverhampton in January and third and fourth over novice hurdles at Newbury and Cheltenham in March and April respectively. The total prize money return under rules races to date reads £3,282.

Contrast this with another 7 year old, trained locally at Claines by Richard Newland. Smalib Monterg was bought by Newland out of a Ludlow claiming race just over a year ago for 6,000 gns. Diminutive for a thoroughbred, last week he notched up another victory in a handicap hurdle at Newton Abbott under Sam Twiston-Davies, having finished second at Aintree just three days earlier. The prize money amassed to date by this horse is £40,142.

It just goes to show it's not how much you spend but how you spend it, and with racing, a little luck also goes a long way.

An in-form trainer with a winner at Worcester last week was former assistant to Nigel Twiston-Davies, Fergal O'Brien. Double Silver, who beat Italian Master in the beginner's chase, was bred at home by Mary Mayall, wife of the owner and gave O'Brien his 12th winner from 25 previous runners. This is an impressive strike rate of almost 50%.

Two Worcester winners from the 12th May meeting have come out and claimed victory again this week.

Richard Newland's Royale Knight enjoyed bottom weight in Kelso's feature chase over the weekend, recording an 11 length victory and earning connections a further £9,747.

My Lad Percy, trained by Rebecca Curtis won a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter over a shorter than ideal trip of 2 miles 4 furlongs and will now be stepped up in distance.

Bank Holiday Monday saw the last of 5 Point to Points staged at Chaddesley Corbett this season. This is one of Britain's busiest point to point courses where annual meetings are staged for the Harkaway Club, the Albrighton, the Wheatland, the Worcestershire and the Albrighton Woodland hunts.

Preparations are well underway at Pitchcroft for the feature meeting of the season tomorrow. CrownGate Ladies Day, which is traditionally in aid of St Richard's Hospice, will feature two special memorial races on the card.

The Chemical Corporation 30th Anniversary Valerie Lewis Memorial Chase always provides us with the chance to welcome Best Mate's owner, Jim Lewis to the course.

The John Burke Memorial Novices Handicap chase is run to celebrate the life of the jockey who in 1976 became just the fifth in history to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year, on Royal Frolic and Rag Trade respectively.

Gates open at 11.30am tomorrow, and the first race is due off at 1.55pm.

(Italian Master, ridden by Daryl Jacob)

Join our Young Hooves Kids Club!

Are your young ones big fans of horse racing? Do they enjoy cheering on their horses at the races? Then why not sign them up to our brand new, Young Hooves Kids Club.

Singing up to the Young Hooves Kids Club is completely FREE and there is no cost or membership attached. Members of the Kids Club will initially receive a goody bag including:

• A welcome booklet with puzzles and information about horses
• A certificate for becoming a member of the 
• A members badge
• Binoculars 
• Crayons

Members will also have access to games and information on our great Kids Club website!

Archie, the ARC mascot will also send a special birthday treat to members.

It is a fantastic way to engage young children into this great sport of ours and we hope you will join up and enjoy your time as a Young Hooves Kids Club member.

Sign up now...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Owners and Trainers take centre stage with complimentary food in new policy

A standardised policy for Owners and Trainers benefits has been created across 14 of the racecourses in the Arena Racing Company (“ARC”) group. Adding to the recent announcement of an increase in prize money and the additional free entry to all of ARC’s courses for annual members, the Group has now announced a major overhaul of its Owners and Trainers policy.

ARC has spent the time to review the policies across the group, listening to Owners and Trainers and discussing plans with the Racehorse Owners Association. Complimentary food, tea and coffee has now been introduced for all owners and trainers with runners on the day, and a complimentary owners annual car park label will be issued to those with runners to ensure a smooth start to the day – and for those lucky enough to have a winner - a bottle of champagne, a trophy, a DVD and a framed photograph will be awarded by the racecourse to celebrate a good end to the day.

Complimentary Badges will be allocated with six being issued to sole owners and eight to partnerships, and all fixtures will be included in the ROA Owners Badge Scheme, which offers qualifying members free entrance to participating racecourses.

Furthermore at some courses, additional facilities have been made available. At Fontwell Park the Grade II Listed Fontwell House in the picturesque gardens has been converted to an Owners and Trainers Facility.

Jim Allen, Racing Director at ARC said: “We recognise the importance of the race day experience to owners and we were keen to ensure a consistent standard across all of our racecourses, many of whom were already offering a great deal of benefits to owners. We have listened to owners and trainers and we know that this enhanced package will be welcomed by them. Wherever possible we are keen to react to feedback from our customer groups and organisations, such as the ROA to help us achieve high levels of customer satisfaction” 

Full details of all the new benefits on offer will be sent to all owners and trainers in a newsletter which outlines the policies in detail.

These improved benefits follow on the announcement last month of prize money increases. In 2013 total prize money at ARC operated tracks will reach £24.3m, an increase of 18.5% on 2012’s total of £20.5m

The ARC Group's executive contribution now totals £9.6m, which amounts to a 166% increase over the last three years, £6.0m more than that which was paid in 2010.

Richard Wayman, Chief Executive of the Racehorse Owners Association said:
“The ROA welcomes ARC’s enhanced offering for owners and their commitment to improving the owners’ raceday experience. It is essential that whenever an owner has a runner, they feel valued by the racecourse and its staff, and ARC deserves credit for increasing its investment in the levels of customer service that it will provide across all of its courses.”

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Review of racing from 12th May & a look forward to racing on 22nd May

It’s no wonder we have a quaintly British fascination with the weather at the Racecourse, when months of careful planning for a big family raceday are scuppered by a dismal forecast and rain which starts, right on 12 noon, just as gates open.

Not to be deterred by the unseasonable conditions, local horse Royale Knight stayed on well to the line to win the second chase on the card. Trained at Claines by Dr Richard Newland, Royale Knight, who is out of Gardana by Kings Theatre was bred in Hanbury by Robert Chugg.

Sold by Chugg for 30,000 gns, the horse had a spell in Ireland before returning to his home county and notching up a four timer last autumn for Newland. The gelding is a full brother to the useful Charlie Longsdon trained / Robert Waley-Cohen owned Frisco Depot, who ran in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Newland was busy at the DBS sales in Doncaster in the week, selling and re-stocking his string.

Another horse to grace the sales was Anquetta, trained by Nicky Henderson. Having won the £20,000 feature handicap chase at Worcester on Sunday by a length from Paul Nicholls’ Woolcombe Folly, the horse was sold to Highflyer Bloodstock for 24,000 gns.

I feel it important to draw attention to further episodes of wanton vandalism at the Racecourse, by mindless individuals with nothing better to do.  New owners, ARC have invested in the course this year for the good of racegoers and local people who enjoy a stroll by the river and within a matter of days new turnstiles were trashed, the marquee was broken into, copious amounts of running rail was ripped down and irrigation pipes were torn apart and scattered. It is extremely frustrating.

On a more positive note, Cropthorne trainer Tony Carroll had a winner with Le Bacardy at Kempton’s final spring jumps fixture and Alexandra Dunn from Himbleton, who has recently set up a training yard in Somerset, rode Double Mead to victory in a hunter chase at Fontwell.

The indomitable Tony McCoy returned to action at Ludlow, following a month on the sidelines with fractured ribs following a fall from Quantitativeeasing at Cheltenham. In true grit style, McCoy’s first ride was a winning one aboard the Jonjo O’Neill trained Church Field in a novice handicap hurdle.

Encouraging entries for Worcester’s meeting tomorrow evening include a record number in the annual Hargreave Hale hunter chase, which is the first race on the card. Horses entered for this race must have qualified with one of 13 hunts in the West Midlands area and so a local winner is assured.

Another annual feature of this race meeting is the presentation of the Richard Davis award by Richard’s family and supported by the Cheltenham and Three Counties Race Club, to the top conditional jockey riding at Cheltenham, Chepstow, Ludlow, Stratford, Towcester, Warwick and Worcester racecourses over the past 12 months. This year’s trophy will be awarded to Michael Nolan.

The first race is due off at 5.50pm and the St Richard’s Hospice Panto Horse Race is at 6.30pm.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Get glammed up….for CrownGate Ladies Day: It’s nearly here!

CrownGate Ladies Day, on Saturday June 1st at Worcester Racecourse, is on its way – offering the perfect excuse to get yourself a new outfit and ramp up the glamour.

So what are the hottest trends to be seen in if you are heading along to the day itself?

House of Fraser, CrownGate’s Ladies Day event partner, will be hosting a live fashion show on the main stage on the day, showcasing the latest trends to hit its shelves, featuring brands including Linea, Untold, French Connection, Coast and Biba.

If you are currently planning your outfit, bold colours are a must this season – think hot pink, coral, orange and electric blue – ladies, if you aren’t quite ready to embrace a standout colour-block dress, use accessories like a clutch bag, blazer or pair of statement shoes to add that flash of colour to a neutral outfit.

Dune is a winner for fabulous footwear, with studded, jewelled and gold-trimmed styles that are sure to attract compliments, while Oasis, Warehouse and Mango are rocking an array of blazers in all cuts and colours.

Graphic prints are high in this season’s fashion stakes – from linear, digital designs to abstract, watercolour styles in fresh, attention-grabbing colours.  Pied a Terre is perfect for beautiful, floral designs that shout summer.

Just like the colours, accessories themselves are vying for attention.  Biba’s beautiful range of clutch bags and belts include iridescent finishes, gold buckles and feathers, while Linea’s shoulder-strap, colour-block handbags are ideal for carrying event essentials in style.

Whatever your taste, House of Fraser will ensure you are first past the winning post when it comes to Ladies Day style.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Review Of Our Season Opener & A Look Forward To The Worcester News Family Fun Day

How wonderfully fitting that a local family from Hindlip, all of whom are involved in the training of their small string of racehorses, should have their first ever Worcester winner in the opening handicap chase of the new season, a race sponsored by

Ex amateur jockey turned trainer, Martin Weston, who formerly trained the popular point to pointer, Caught at Dawn to win the United Hunt’s Challenge Cup twice at Cheltenham, was delighted with Mount Welcome’s somewhat unexpected performance with son, Tom in the saddle and daughter Charlotte, leading up.

Tom was also on similar form at the North Ledbury point to point on Bank Holiday Monday, steering the Rachel Hobbs trained Ice Cool Benny to victory in the men’s open race.
After the race, Hanley Swan based Hobbs cited Worcester’s annual Hargreave Hale Hunter Chase at the 22nd May evening meeting as the next outing for the horse.

Another trainer having a memorable time in the winner’s enclosure last week was Sarah-Jayne Davies from Leominster. Davies’ gelding Dresden, formerly with Luca Cumani on the flat and also briefly with Donald McCain, was eased down to take the concluding Worcester handicap hurdle under Will Kennedy.  It was an impressive performance under top weight to give Davies, who had recently purchased the horse cheaply at the sales, only her second success under rules.

Davies followed this up at Taunton three days later when Accessallareas, also ridden by Kennedy went on to win the handicap chase.

It has been a busy week for the Yes No Wait Sorries syndicate horse, Well Mett, who made all to take the Worcester Selling hurdle by 14 lengths and was subsequently bought back in by the owners in the auction that followed the race.  A wise move, as three days later the six year old came out and won a handicap hurdle at Bangor-on-Dee on Friday. 
Trained in Gloucestershire by Fergal O’Brien and apparently totally transformed by blinkers, Well Mett’s third outing in seven days saw him just touched off into second place in a handicap hurdle at Exeter on Tuesday evening.

It has been a week in which one door has closed and another has opened.  On a picturesque sunny evening, Cheltenham welcomed racegoers to their final meeting of the season, traditionally a night for the hunter chasers.

At Hereford, they hosted the first of 5 Arab race meetings to be held at the course this summer.  The seven race card was the first to be staged there since the racecourse closed last December.

Looking ahead to this Sunday’s eagerly anticipated Worcester News Family Fun raceday at Worcester, there promises to be plenty of track action to enjoy with good sized fields and the first Class 2, £20K race to be run at the course for several years. 

It is very encouraging to see the levels of prize money increasing at Worcester this year, following the disappointment of the trainer’s boycott in July 2012.  With increased rewards will inevitably come better quality horses adding even more interest to what promises to be an excellent day’s racing.

The gates open on Sunday at 12.15pm.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Season Opener at Worcester Racecourse!

‘Hitting the ground running’ is a great way to describe the terrific buzz at Worcester Racecourse this week as there is much to look forward to for the new season starting tomorrow evening.

This is the first year for Worcester under new owners, Arena Racing Company and there are some great changes at the course for everyone.  Countless pots of paint have been poured into a ‘facelift’ redecoration, increased prize money has been invested and exciting benefit packages for owners, trainers and annual members have been introduced.

On the track, Gavin Armstrong, previously at Folkestone Racecourse, has taken over the reins as Estates Manager and has overseen the preparations for racing.

The winter has been anything but kind in terms of flooding. Anyone who lives locally will have seen the army of photographers taking pictures day after day of the race track under several feet of water.  It is remarkable to see the track now and how well grass can recover from that kind of continual deluge.

There are 21 fixtures scheduled at the course this year, considerably more than have been staged for over 12 years.

The leading jockey and trainer tables after the final meeting in October could not have read more differently.  Champion Tony McCoy ran away with the jockey title but conversely, top trainer honours went down to the final race of the season.  Paul Nicholls picked up his first Worcester trainer’s prize, just pipping Jonjo O’Neill to the post in an extremely closely fought contest spanning the season.  I am quite certain that the rivalry will continue through this year.

On local racing news, the Worcestershire Hunt held their annual Lady Dudley Cup point to point meeting at Chaddesley Corbett last week. Worcester Racecourse was delighted to sponsor the opening Worcestershire Hunt Members, Subscribers and Farmer’s race.  The contest this year attracted 8 entries, some of whom had impressive form under rules.  In a fiercely competitive race where the only male jockey was unseated at the start, sisters Abigail and Josephine Banks from Himbleton finished in first and third places respectively.

Abigail, who steered Hall Kelly to victory for only her second winner as a jockey, came up to receive a magnificent set of silverware which any winning connections would be proud to display on their mantelpiece.

It was very sad to hear this week of the death from colic of well-loved local mare, Lady Rebecca at the age of 21.  Trained at Ross-on-Wye by Venetia Williams during her racing career, she cost only 400 gns but after 13 wins from 19 starts, which included three Cleeve Hurdles, she amassed prize money of £160,000 before retiring to Tweenhills Stud in Gloucestershire.

To end on a very different note, I must mention the might that is Sprinter Sacre and applaud his amazing season culminating in the treble of victories at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. We can’t promise Sprinter Sacre at Worcester tomorrow night, but can promise a card of competitive racing and a great night to start the season.

The first race tomorrow is due off at 5.15pm and the gates open from 3.15pm.