Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Tale Of Three Firsts

It was a tale of three ‘firsts’ in the final race at Pitchcroft last week. Neverownup was sent off the 3/1 favourite and was having his first run for Grand National winning Claines trainer, Richard Newland in the concluding handicap hurdle. The horse had been claimed out of a Fakenham selling race in April. The victory was the first for Newland at his local course this summer and it was also Neverownup’s first win under rules, having had decent place form in the past including at Worcester in 2013.

Newland plans to keep the 9 year old on the go, and indeed he followed up the Worcester win with an easy victory over fences at Fontwell on Sunday, and then a 12 length victory over fences again at Hexham yesterday evening.

It was the strongest running of the annual Hargreave Hale Stockbrokers Hunter Chase for some time. The winner, Lake Legend, was making his debut in this grade of race, having notched up 6 point to point wins over the past 2 seasons. Formerly trained by Alan King, the horse has also previously won 6 races under rules.

Lake Legend’s owner, Jerry Wright, who is recovering from a triple heart bypass operation recalled that his first ever winner was at Worcester with a horse called What’s the Crack, who was victorious on Wright’s birthday back in 1987 when trained by Henrietta Knight.

Recently crowned champion trainer, Paul Nicholls had a productive day. Fresh from selling 10 horses at Doncaster sales, he stopped in at Worcester on his way back to Ditcheat and was rewarded with a quick double. Nick Schofield rode both winners. The first was in the national hunt novice hurdle aboard Sergeant Thunder who redeemed himself after a fall at Wincanton 2 weeks previously. The second was in the Novice Hurdle on Merrion Square who had lost his way over fences and will benefit from a confidence boosting win over Worcester’s French style hurdles.

Nicholls was very complimentary about the Pitchcroft ground and confirmed he will be running more of his summer jumpers at the course in the weeks to come.

A feature of the night was the presentation by the Davis family of the Richard Davis award to the leading conditional jockey accumulating points at Worcester, Cheltenham, Stratford, Ludlow, Warwick, Chepstow and Towcester racecourses. The award commemorates the late Richard Davis, the young and talented jump jockey from Flyford Flavel who lost his life in a fall over fences at Southwell in 1996.

Previous well-known winners of the award include Sam Twiston-Davies, Aidan Coleman, Robert Thornton, Timmy Murphy and Joe Tizzard. This year the trophy went to Gavin Shehan who went on to win the Ladbrokes sponsored bumper immediately following the presentation.

The 2014 Worcester trainer’s championship has just been launched by Connolly’s Red Mills and will run through the season with the winning trainer receiving 2 tonnes of horse feed. The 2013 leading trainer was Jonjo O’Neill and the previous year, it was Paul Nicholls who took the honours.

The gates open for afternoon racing tomorrow at 12.10pm.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Rejuvenated Fade To Grey Puts In Bold Performance

There could not have been more relieved and indeed happy owners at Pitchcroft last week than the Worcester Racing Club syndicate. Their 10 year old Fade To Grey (pictured), who is blind in his left eye, was a former course winner in 2011 when his score sheet included two firsts and two second places. In 2012, the horse suffered a near career-ending injury at Newton Abbott and has been nursed back to the racecourse by Cheltenham based trainer, Sean Lycett.

The horse has had three runs on the flat this year before being tried back over hurdles at Worcester’s first May meeting.  The plan went wrong that day and he missed the start, pulling up shortly afterwards. Declared to run in the feature hurdle last week, not only did he redeem himself, but put in a brave performance to be beaten by just two and a half lengths.

The winner, First Avenue is owned and trained in Epsom by Laura Mongan and had previously sprung a surprise win in the listed Paddy Power Imperial Cup at Sandown last March.

The runner up was also an interesting contender. For Two, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by his newly appointed stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, is owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie. The five year old won a newcomers race at Auteuil in 2012 and has been placed in 5 of his 6 starts for Nicholls.

Life at Jackdaw’s Castle under trainer Jonjo O’Neill must suit the winner of the 2 mile 7 furlong handicap chase. Playing the Field, who won very readily with 13 lengths to spare, had been at the yard for just 3 weeks. Owner, Sarah Hall-Tinker said she had recently been introduced to O’Neill by close friend and former Grand National winning jockey, Bob Champion.

Bumpers can throw up some interesting results and last week was no exception. The race looked to be at the mercy of the O’Neill trained Magheral Express, to give Tony McCoy a swift double on the card. The horse who changed hands for £50,000 last year looked to be the winner up the home straight, but under a ride described as ‘unbelievable’ by trainer, David Pipe, he was caught on the line by All Force Majeure, himself a 48,000 euro purchase as a three year old.

Pipe, who has hit the ground running at the start of the new National Hunt season and currently leads the jumps trainer’s table with a strike rate of 41% winners to runners, went into the meeting with 9 wins in the first 13 days of May.

Twenty six horses appeared in the six day entry stage for the annual Hunter Chase which is the first race on the card at Worcester tomorrow evening. The race is specifically aimed at the 13 hunts which make up the West Midlands area. Included in list was Vincitore who has won twice at Worcester in the past, including the Fred Rimmel Memorial Novice Chase in 2011 when formerly trained by Charlie Longsdon.

The first race tomorrow is due off at 5.40pm.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Got Attitude shows his youngster rivals a clean pair of heels

Six months of planning and preparation came to fruition at Pitchcroft last Wednesday, when 9 horses came under starter’s orders for the opening 2014 handicap chase of the summer season.

Lemon’s Gent, owned and bred by Pink Floyd band member, Roger Waters relished the quick ground and stayed on strongly to beat Capisci, trained in Leominster by Sarah-Jayne Davies. Lemon’s Gent’s dam, Lemon’s Mill won 9 races under rules when trained by Martin Pipe and ran her last ever race at Worcester on 29th June 1996 before being retired to stud.  Her regular jockey, now a successful trainer, was David Bridgewater.

The 2 mile 4 furlong handicap chase went the way of Cropthorne trainer, Tony Carroll and stable jockey, Lee Edwards. Got Attitude (pictured) was the oldest horse in the race at 11 and was having only his second run at Worcester when taking advantage of a drop in the handicap rating from a former career high of 135 to just 89. Looking back over his form, it is interesting to find a race in October 2011 run at Thurles in Ireland when Got Attitude came 3rd behind last month’s local Grand National winner, Pineau De Re.

Hanbury breeder, Robert Chugg had two home bred mares running in the maiden hurdle. Supreme Present, in whom Chugg still has a third share, stamped her bumper form and won by three quarters of a length for trainer Kim Bailey.

The first ever Hobby Horse race to be run at Pitchcroft was in aid of Muscular Dystrophy.  The 10 runners sprinted over the final half furlong of the track to enthusiastic public applause and raised over £1,000 for the charity from their efforts.

The 2014 Horse Power list that appears in the June edition of Tatler magazine shows owner JP McManus, who regularly runs horses at Worcester, at the top of the jumps list. Tony McCoy, who last week celebrated his 40th birthday and who also rode a double at Worcester appears at number two.

McManus was recently crowned leading jumps owner in Britain as well as in his native Ireland, although the latter contest went right to the wire at the Punchestown Festival with Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud operation. Victories in the British and Irish Champion Hurdles (with Jezki) as well as the Irish Grand National (with Shutthefrontdoor) were highlights that contributed to the title for McManus.

With the point to point season drawing to a close at the end of the month, the Wheatland held their annual meeting at Chaddesley Corbett on Sunday, and we still have the Clifton on Teme hunt at Upper Sapey, the North Hereford hunt fixture which this year takes place at Hereford Racecourse, and the Albrighton & Woodland meeting at Chaddesley Corbett to look forward to over the next two weekends.

The Worcester meeting next week will include the annual Hargreave Hale Stockbroker’s Hunter’s Chase for horses who have competed in the West Midlands area point to points over the past few months. In the meantime, all is set for afternoon racing at Worcester today when gates open at 12.05pm.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

We're Back!

Two significant memories stand out from the winter of 2014 at Worcester Racecourse.  The first is the angry floods which drowned the course for days on end, and the second has to be the spectacular display by local horse, Pineau De Re to win the Crabbies Grand National.

The January and February floods, accompanied by savage storms were responsible for ripping up the running rail, washing away tarmac and decking, the loss of 2 very rare Indian Bean trees, and water levels which left a 5 foot tide line inside the Owners and Trainers bar.  It was nature at its worst.

More encouragingly, when the waters finally receded, the grass picked up rapidly and the kinder warmth of the March sunshine helped to restore the track to somewhere near normality in a relatively short space of time.

The Grand National was a phenomenal success for Claines trainer, Richard Newland.  Speaking to his assistant trainer, Rod Trow at the yard the day before the big race, he said that Pineau De Re had come out of his Cheltenham race well, but that he was a little apprehensive of how the horse would take to the pomp and ceremony of the Aintree occasion.

We were delighted for the Newland team who regularly have runners at Pitchcroft and indeed plan to parade their stable star at a Worcester meeting in the near future.

There were three former Worcester runners in the Grand National this year.  Balthazar King, who won his chasing debut with us and finished a very creditable runner up, Lost Glory who finished the race but was unplaced, and the somewhat disgraced Battle Group who refused to start, denying Brendan Powell junior his first ride in the race.

The recent annual Worcestershire Hunt point to point at Chaddesley Corbett was a huge success which only goes to underline the level of support for horse racing in this county.Over 5,000 people packed the track on the sunny Easter Saturday afternoon at which Worcester Racecourse sponsored the opening hunt members’ race.  This was won by amateur jockey turned point to point trainer, Tom Weston from Hindlip, aboard Cold Knight.  Coincidentally, Weston also won the first race of the new season at Pitchcroft last year on Mount Welcome, trained by his father, Martin.

In the month when Paul Nicholls regained the champion trainer title from Nicky Henderson, Nicholls was present to watch his daughter, Megan win the Ladies Open race on Gwanako at Chaddesley.  The trainer had nothing but praise for the track and said it had been several years since he had last been there.

With 22 fixtures stretching ahead until the end of October, it will be interesting to see if Jonjo O’Neill can regain his 2013 Worcester trainer’s title, and if Ladies day on the Saturday 7 June can bring in another record crowd this year. There is so much to look forward to as we put the wet and windy winter months firmly behind us and return with gusto to the business of racing.

Racing resumes at Pitchcroft this evening, when the first race is due off at 5.30pm. For more information, visit our website,