Tuesday, 13 October 2015

It's not every meeting that Worcester Racecourse can boast a 'first' for racing but something was witnessed at last week's meeting that has never been seen before at Worcester or anywhere else.

Barry Geraghty rode in a selling race. The top Irish jockey is now first jockey to JP McManus and included in his book of 3 Jonjo O'Neill trained mounts, the ride aboard Church Field, a 7 year old who on his only previous start at Worcester back in May of this year, came 10th in a field of 16.

Down a grade, the horse who has now amassed £35,089 in prize money during his career to date, won the race by 2¼ lengths.

In the subsequent auction, there was a three way bidding war between trainers Phil Middleton, Neville Ender (trainer of Grey Monk who was bought back in by Ender for 14,500 guineas at Worcester's previous meeting), and Jonjo O'Neill. The horse was sold to Middleton for 7,000 guineas.

To count Wishful Thinking, Menorah and Captain Chris amongst your owned horses must be a great feeling. Local owner Diana Whateley, has a new Alflora 4 year old gelding in training with Philip Hobbs called Wishful Dreaming. The horse is a full brother to Wishful Thinking, a very successful horse who has earned his owners £466,638 to date.

Wishful Dreaming had his third ever start at Worcester last week, following up his listed Cheltenham bumper victory on New Year's Day by winning the 2 mile novice hurdle.  He is certainly an exciting recruit to hurdles and one to keep an eye on.

An ex locally trained horse who has very recently moved to a new trainer is enjoying his change of scenery.  Jayo Time, formerly trained in Claines by Richard Newland to win at Worcester in July, moved to Kerry Lee's yard on the Shropshire and Welsh borders, following a Worcester claiming hurdle in August.

The 6 year old achieved his second win in a month for his new trainer at Ludlow's first meeting of the new season last week.  Jayo Time is now partly owned by senior Channel Four commentator, Simon Holt, who had much pleasure in calling his own horse to victory at Ludlow.

With just 2 meetings still to go at Worcester to the end of the 2015 season, it is looking ever likely that Jonjo O'Neill will scoop the winning trainer prize again this year, and Richard Johnson will claim the top Worcester jockey honours, something he very much hopes he will emulate nationally at the end of the National Hunt season next April.

Next week's column will include a review of the 2015 Worcester season, building up to the final meeting on the 21st October.  The gates open for afternoon racing tomorrow at 12.20 pm.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Purple N Gold Comes Out On Top

Racegoers dug deep into their pockets at the recent Worcester meeting, donating generously to Macmillan Cancer Support, and raising a fantastic £5,335 for the charity.

Throughout the year, racecourses and racegoers together, raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for a wide range of charities.

The feature handicap chase on the day was a very competitive affair. Seven of the 11 horses declared for the race had previously run over the course and distance, and of those seven, five were former Worcester winners including last year’s race victor, the Irish raider, Nearest the Pin.

The David Pipe trained, Purple N Gold (pictured below) came out on top, following up his August Worcester win and seeing off the Sam Twiston-Davies ridden Benefit Cut by 3¼ lengths.

With the unofficial start of the winter jumps season being staged as a two day meeting at Chepstow this weekend, we are all looking forward to seeing how Barry Geraghty’s new position as first jockey to JP McManus progresses. Geraghty, who has only ever had 5 rides at Worcester, the most recent being 2½ years ago, came to Pitchcroft to ride four Jonjo O Neill trained horses at the last meeting.

Unfortunately, he was out of luck with all 4 mounts on that occasion but I am sure he won’t be out of the winner’s enclosure for long.

As a permit trainer, when you travel 347 miles to Worcester from Malton in North Yorkshire, to run one of the few horses you own and train in a selling hurdle, it is extremely unfortunate to have to go up to 14,500 guineas to buy your horse back in the subsequent auction. This is exactly what happened to Neville Ender, trainer of Grey Monk.  The horse beat previous Worcester selling hurdle winner, Marju’s Quest into third place.  The runner up, Wind of Hope, is trained by Lucinda Russell in Scotland.  Russell was the under bidder by telephone, which must underline how she rates her own horse.  The quality of horses running was above the usual selling hurdle standard.

The Worcester staff enjoyed a team building day at Southwell’s jumps meeting last week, but it was a long way to go to watch Worcestershire trainers win 3 of the 6 races on the card!

Youm Jamil, trained by Tony Carroll at Cropthorne ran at Worcester in 2012 and 2013 and won the opening Handicap Chase.

Claines based Richard Newland sent Cut the Corner to the Nottinghamshire course to go one better than the three second places he has achieved at Pitchcroft this summer.

Finally, the Big Dipper, trained at Hanley Swan by David Dennis, also bettered his third place at Worcester by winning the 3 mile handicap hurdle.

We look forward to another afternoon of competitive racing at Worcester on Thursday, when gates open at 12 noon.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

American Grand National Prep Run at Pitchcroft

National Hunt racing returned last weekend following the short September break.  The Worcester meeting prior to the break saw the ever-popular Hunt Ball return to the track after his hurdle win here in May (pictured coming into the Winners Enclosure further down the blog).  This was to be his prep run prior to the American Grand National on the 18th October.  Having enjoyed a short holiday over the summer, the 2012 Cheltenham Festival winner was a picture of calm and confidence with ears pricked as he jumped to perfection and enjoyed his tussle to the line with two time Worcester winner, Mont Choisy, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.  Jockey Andrew Tinkler, who will ride Hunt Ball in the big race in next month, commented that he loved the quick ground.  Giving weight away all round, Hunt Ball seems to relish small fields, as all three of his hurdling wins have come in four runner races.

Sarah Henderson, daughter of trainer Nicky Henderson, accompanied the ten year old to Worcester and commented with a tinge of sadness, that Hunt Ball will travel to New York early in October and following the race in which he came 9th in 2013, he will remain in the US and run over timber under a new trainer.

Hanley Swan trainer, David Dennis enjoyed further success at his local track on the same card when he sent out King’s Song to win the second division of the Hands and Heels handicap hurdle under amateur rider, Zak Baker.  However, there was a sting in the tail for Baker who broke the rules of the race by tapping his mount with the whip on the landing side of the last hurdle, which duly cost him a 7 day riding ban.

There is a new 95 minute documentary film on the horizon which will certainly be a must-see for all National Hunt racing fans.   The film has also been targeted at a much wider audience appeal with its tale of thrills, spills and brutal honesty.

Underlining its star quality, ‘Being AP’ was nominated from 6,000 films to one of only 400 screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last week.  The story follows AP McCoy’s final season in the saddle, although when the filming began, the crew had no idea it was to be the 20 times champion’s farewell season.

The early part of the story focuses on the extensive injuries McCoy sustained throughout his remarkable career and it includes a clip of his serious fall at Worcester last autumn, resulting in the shoulder injury which put paid to his dream of riding 300 winners in a season. The film has its UK premier on the 23rd November and will be in cinemas from the 27th.

Worcester Racecourse is pleased to support the national Macmillan coffee morning fundraising at its race meeting tomorrow, when gates will open from 12.20pm

Monday, 7 September 2015

Kennedy Comes Up Trumps

With three quarters of the season’s meetings now under our belt for the season, we are seeing an interesting pattern of Worcester course specialists emerging, and it is particularly pleasing to see a number of horses who have run well in defeat over the summer, finally getting their noses in front.

Kinnersley based John Spearing, who trains Over the Air for owner/breeder Mrs Peter Badger, was delighted that the horse’s Worcester form over the past 13 months which reads 22433 improved last week to record a win in the concluding handicap hurdle under regular rider and Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey, Nico De Boinville.

In-form jockey, Will Kennedy commented that this is the first year he has been in the enviable position of being given the choice of decent horses to ride in races.  Kennedy was faced with a difficult decision for the opening handicap chase between Jonjo O’Neill’s Clubs Are Trumps and Cut the Corner who is trained in Claines by Richard Newland.

Kennedy is the only jockey to have ridden Clubs Are Trumps (pictured below) to his 5 wins to date, including a victory at Worcester in July.  The jockey has also enjoyed success on the Newland trained horses this year.

Swayed towards the proven Clubs Are Trumps, the race turned into a great tussle between the Flemensfirth gelding and the Sam Twiston-Davies ridden Cut the Corner, who has now posted three seconds at Pitchcroft this season.  Clubs Are Trumps held on to his narrow lead over the last fence to win by one and three quarter lengths.

Miss Tenacious proved to be third time lucky at the course on the same day, having run to second place at Pitchcroft twice this year, and most recently behind Worcester specialist, Fairyinthewind. This time the eight year old mare was ridden up with the pace in the feature chase, and managed to reverse the form with Fairyinthewind to win on the line for her owner/breeders, brothers John and Paul Frampton.

Recruits from Irish point to pointing make popular jumpers in this country, as the Evan Williams trained Roadie Joe showed when following up his August Worcester bumper win with success in last week’s maiden hurdle.  He could be a horse to look out for.

With the winter jumping season fast approaching and the ground turning a bit softer, a good number of National Hunt trainers and bloodstock agents flocked to Doncaster last week to the DBS September sales to stock up on new recruits.

Alcester trainer Dan Skelton paid £46,000 for Savello who won the 2014 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and was sold by Gigginstown House Stud. Richard Newland was also in a buying mood, picking up 5 horses to bring his tally for winter jumping up to 16.

Afternoon racing starts at 2.10pm tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Rain doesn't dampen the spirits at the racecourse

Having enjoyed a particularly dry spell over the summer months at Pitchcroft, recently it has been more a case of it never rains but it pours.  We had two feature race meetings in 5 days in August and both were run in the rain.

Despite the inclement weather doing its best to spoil the party, interesting stories emerged from both meetings.

Going from strength to strength, Hanley Swan trainer, David Dennis celebrated another winner at the track.  Marju's Quest won a selling hurdle for owners, Favourites Racing.  The horse last won at Worcester under AP McCoy in September 2014.

Dennis defied the interest of a telephone bidder in the subsequent auction but had to go up to 10,500 guineas to take the horse home.

Bromsgrove trainer, Claire Dyson enjoyed another winner at Worcester when Dr Dreamy came from off the pace to record his first win in 22 starts, and beat the course winning favourite, Patricktom Buru by half a length.

Horses for courses is a saying that is often proved to be accurate. Some horses just do perform better on specific tracks.

Two Worcester specialist mares were seen to great effect at the two meetings.  Fairyinthewind, formerly trained by Alan King and now with Brendan Powell, has run at the course 7 times and won on 5 of those occasions, the first was in April 2013.  I therefore find it amazing that even though she carried bottom weight, she was sent off at 25/1 in the recent £20k feature handicap chase, in which she was also the youngest horse in the race.

Fairyinthewind stayed on well and galloped her rivals into the ground to land the spoils.  There are plans to bring her back to the course in September when I very much doubt she will start at such a big price.

At First Light, one of only two horses that David Weston currently trains, boasts a 100% strike rate at Worcester this summer – three wins from three runs.

Up in trip, her latest victory came thanks in part to the final hurdle departure of John Ferguson's Great Fighter.  Following a break, we may well see her next in the new mare's race at Cheltenham.

We have seen a selection of Irish raiders at Worcester in August.  Gordon Elliott, Paul Flynn and John Joseph Hanlon have all sent runners over.

Hanlon's Nearest The Pin, a 2014 course winner, could only manage fourth place in the feature chase, but Baby Jake returned home the winner of the £8,500 handicap hurdle and may well return to the course again in September.

Evening racing starts at 5.10pm tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

What's Happening At Worcester

Despite the short break in the National Hunt calendar to allow the jockeys time away with their families, it has been anything but quiet at Pitchcroft over the last 3 weeks.

In addition to hosting the annual CAMRA beer festival, the days have been well spent working the racing surface and checking over the chase fences following a quick succession of 12 race meetings in just 3 months.  This brief rest for the track will see it in good stead for the next 8 meetings, two of which fall in this week.

This is an excellent stage in the season to review the Connellys Red Mills trainer’s championship, looking back over the success stories that have led to the current table positions.  Three trainers stand out from the rest.  Last year’s winner, Jonjo O’Neill is again leading the way by some 46 points, followed by Tim Vaughan and John Ferguson who, with just 2 points between them, are running neck and neck as contenders for the runner up position. Flying the flag for Worcestershire trainers is Claines based Richard Newland who is lying in 6th position.

O’Neill started more slowly this year, as the yard adjusted to the retirement of champion jockey Tony McCoy in April, but with both Richard Johnson and Will Kennedy taking many of the Jackdaws Castle rides now, the winning momentum is gathering pace and the trainer achieved an amazing 1,125 – 1 four-timer on one Worcester card in July, with his only four runners that day.

Unable to be present due to a wedding commitment in Ireland, O’Neill missed watching his son, Jonjo Jnr ride his first winner under rules when he successfully drove yard favourite, Temple Lord, a previous Worcester winner, to victory in the concluding Amateur rider’s handicap hurdle.

As we progress through the second half of the season, it will be fascinating to monitor the tussle for the top honours and to see who is awarded the Connolly’s Red Mills feed prizes.

Royal visitors are rare are the Racecourse, but the recent Pershore Plum Festival racegoers were treated to a glimpse in the paddock of the Duchess of Cornwall who arrived at the course on a private visit to watch her mare, Mollyanna run in the Pickled Plum Pub Pershore national hunt novices hurdle.  This is the Duchess’s first National Hunt runner with trainer, Jamie Snowden and it was the mare’s first outing since coming over from Colin Bowe’s yard in Ireland.   She ran well for a good way but faded into fifth place up the home straight and will undoubtedly come on for the run.

Racing in earnest begins again at Pitchcroft tomorrow evening with vintage style Ladies Evening, featuring James in concert, and for the younger racegoers, Family Fun raceday on Sunday offers plenty of entertainment to enjoy, both on and off the track. Gates open at 3pm for tomorrow’s meeting.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Johnson storms ahead in the jockey table

Richard Johnson is currently leading the jockey table for the season at Worcester, and deservedly so, after riding a treble at the course last week. Two of the wins were for trainers he regularly rides for.  Risk a Fine is trained by Philip Hobbs for local Worcestershire owner, Diana Whateley, who counts Captain Chris and Menorah amongst her good horses. The jockey’s second winner, Colley Row was the first leg of a double on the night for trainer, Tim Vaughan. Johnson rides less frequently for Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus, however his strength and experience were put to good use aboard American Legend in the handicap chase, and the horse won comfortably by 7 lengths.

A horse who clearly likes running at Worcester is At First Light.  Bred and trained by David Weston, he is the owner’s only horse in training.  The gelding has won both of his starts at Worcester this summer under Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey, Nico De Boinville and on both occasions he has beaten the David Dennis trained, Hawdyerwheesht into second place.   Hawdyerwheesht is another horse who seemingly suits the track at Pitchcroft, having been placed a number of times and a winner himself at the track last week.

Claines trainer, Richard Newland has been in the news again this week.  Renowned for his skilful placing of horses to win big races, he sent recent Worcester two-time winner, Gioia Di Vita and 2014 Worcester runner, Gran Maestro to run in the £35k Betfred TV Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen.
Both horses ran superbly well.  Gioia Di Vita stayed on into 5th place under Sam Twiston-Davies and Gran Maestro held off the Barry Geraghty ridden Hammersley Lake, who ran in both the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals this year, to win by a neck under jockey of the moment, Will Kennedy at a big price of 16-1. Gran Maestro has been knocking on the door of the big time.  He ran a cracking race to come second behind Phillip Hobb’s Brother Ted in the Bet 365 handicap hurdle at Sandown in April at odds of 25-1.

The racing industry is firmly getting behind a very special charitable initiative and tomorrow that initiative comes to Worcester. Richard Farquhar, a lifelong racing enthusiast and father of four, is walking 3,000 miles between all 60 racecourses in mainland Britain between March 2015 and April 2016 and aims to raise £1.4 million to be split between Racing Welfare and Pancreatic Cancer UK. Farquhar lost his father, Peter to Pancreatic Cancer in 2012 and feels his father would wholeheartedly approve of this venture.  The track walk at Worcester will start around 1.15pm with the aim of crossing the winning line at 1.50pm, shortly before the first race at 2.10pm. We will all be on hand to cheer him over the line.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A record June!

Nineteen thousand people came racing at Pitchcroft in the month of June! That is a record for one month and emphasises the popularity of the sport in the area. There was something for everyone.  We have been lucky enough to see Cheltenham and Aintree festival stars, we have welcomed the ever-popular Peppa Pig, and in another first, we have witnessed the ultimate in horse power stationed at the winning post, a full sized steam tank engine.

A feature of the month has definitely been the upgrade in quality of some of the horses running at Worcester. This is probably due in part, to the accomplishments of the Estates team who work long hours into the night to produce the good quality ground that trainers are looking for and indeed are praising at every meeting.

The £20,000 Class 2 Handicap Hurdle on last week’s card was a very competitive affair. Champion Court (pictured) was running over hurdles for the first time since finishing 4th to Bobsworth in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011. The ten year old Court Cave gelding stayed on to pass Claines trained, Aficianado on the run in and won the race by a head. He will now head for the £50,000 Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July.

River Maigue was formerly trained by Nicky Henderson and up until recently, his regular rider was the newly appointed stable jockey to JP McManus, Barry Geraghty. The 140 rated hurdler was sold for 9,000 guineas and is now trained by Sophie Leech in Westbury-on-Severn. Past form includes second place to current Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham as a novice. On his first start for Leech in May, River Maigue won a novice chase at Cartmel, which he followed up in good style at Worcester with further novice chase success last week.

Aintree Festival winner, Surf and Turf ran at Worcester under new ownership last Wednesday. The Kevin Frost trained gelding won the grade 3 Betfred Red Rum Chase at odds of 33/1 in April and went on to land the feature handicap chase under top weight on the Worcester card, a race he came second in last year.

With seven meetings under our belt so far this season, the leading jockey table is hotting up. In recent seasons, AP McCoy has run away with title, however this year just 12 points (less than 2 wins) separate the top three jockeys – Sam Twiston-Davies, Richard Johnson and Tom Scudamore. As the season progresses, I am sure these three will continue to battle it out, not only at Worcester but also in the national jump jockey table.

Wednesday sees the first of five meetings scheduled during July at the course when there is sure to be more interest and intrigue to look forward to. Gates open at 12.20pm for afternoon racing.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Excitement builds around second season trainers

The card at Worcester last week featured another well-supported 8 races, with 76 horses declared to run, and in fact we have another eight race card today with 82 horses declared!

Dan Skelton who trains at Alcester, and stable jockey brother Harry, made certain their trip to the course was 100% successful last week, bagging two winners in the first three races. Stephen Hero went one better in the beginner’s chase than his second place at Market Rasen the previous week, while Shady Lane beat the Daryl Jacob ridden Wak A Turtle by an impressive 15 lengths in the 2 mile handicap chase.

Skelton, in just his second season of training is already making a great name for himself, lying in second place in the jumps trainer’s table with a 37% strike race.Very complimentary about the ground at Pitchcroft, Skelton commented he would be sending his horses to run regularly at the track this summer. 

Currently ahead of Skelton and leading the table is David Pipe, whose former Punchestown Festival winner, Street Entertainer won the feature handicap hurdle on the same card. Street Entertainer also won at Worcester in August 2014 under AP McCoy. On this occasion, he was ridden confidently out front, by Tom Scudamore and went on to score by 5 lengths. 

The progress of Worcester winners is always interesting to follow, especially those as renowned as the Nicky Henderson trained Hunt Ball. The horse, who won a 2 mile 7 furlong novice hurdle at the course last month, is owned by American syndicate, Atlantic Equine and we learnt this week that he is to return to the Sates for a tilt at the American Grand National in October. Unlike the famous UK race, the American Grand National is a hurdle race run over 2 miles and 4 furlongs. 

Hanley Swan trainer, David Dennis has been training for the same amount of time as Dan Skelton, and is being talked about with equal excitement in local racing circles. Last week Dennis had a 33/1 winner on the flat at Nottingham, with newcomer 2 year old, Show Me Again in the hands of recent convert to flat racing, Timmy Murphy. Interestingly, Murphy rode the winner of the last jumps race ever staged at the course back in 1996.

Encouraging young would-be jockeys and families to support local racing is very much the theme at the racecourse this week. Over last weekend, enthusiastic youngsters flocked to the Worcester Racecourse stand at the Malvern Three Counties Show to test their skills on the equiciser mechanical horse that jockeys use to build up their muscles and to train on.

Today, the course will open its gates at 12.20pm for the annual June Family Fun raceday which this year also falls on Father’s Day.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Enjoy the racing and help raise vital funds

The going is very good for a special charity event which is on track to raise vital funds for one of the Midland's most well-loved visitor attractions.

A special Raceday in aid of the Severn Valley Railway will be held at Worcester Racecourse next Wednesday (24th June), and organisers are encouraging people to come and enjoy the afternoon's racing while raising essential funds to help protect the Railway's long-term future.

Visitors will be able to bring a picnic and relax in the centre course enclosure whilst enjoying an afternoon of jump racing, with the first race setting off at 2.20pm.

While horsepower is the focus of the day, steampower has not been forgotten - visitors will be able to admire the SVR's very own, full-size tank locomotive No. 5764, which will be stationed at the finish line.

People will be able to purchase a range of SVR merchandise and chat to the SVR team, including Railway staff and volunteers, as well as some of the young apprentices on the Railway's Heritage Skills Training Academy.

More than 200 guests have already booked to enjoy the VIP hospitality in the Racing Suite, including lunch and an auction to raise further valuable funds.

Now, event organiser, the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust is encouraging people to come along and help them raise much-needed income.

Phil Dutton, organising committee Chair, said: "Though the Railway is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, much of its infrastructure dates back to well before this - and running such a popular attraction with such a huge range of historic buildings, rolling stock and infrastructure demands a vast and continuous financial input.

"Many people do not realise that the day-to-day income that the SVR generates is not enough to cover restoration or development - it is reliant upon its dedicated body of 1,500 volunteers as well as money raised by the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust to not only keep it running on a daily basis, but also to ensure it is maintained and protected into the future.

"Events like this Raceday are invaluable ways in which to raise this much-needed income and we would love as many people as possible to come along and help us to protect this amazing attraction for future generations."

Gates for the event open at 12.20pm. The first of seven jumps races is off at 2.20pm, with the last race at 5:35pm. £3 from every Centre Course ticket sold is donated directly to the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust. 

For further information or to buy tickets contact Worcester Racecourse. Call 01905 25364, email info@worcester-racecourse.co.uk or visit www.worcester-racecourse.co.uk
For more information about the SVR Charitable Trust, visit www.svrtrust.org.uk 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Local connections scoop victory

The 8 races at Pitchcroft last Saturday were cheered on under a blanket of sunshine by a record turnout, on a day when the crowning glory moment was the indomitable Frankie Dettori winning the Derby from Epsom aboard Golden Horn.

During a day of treble and double victories, one particular Worcester success stands out. Flying Light (pictured) who won the Handicap Hurdle is trained in Stow-on-the-Wold by Graeme McPherson. McPherson has been a great supporter of the course for a number of years but has never had a winner with us until Saturday. Even more appropriate is the fact that the owning syndicate, the McPherson Racing Partnership is managed by Worcester’s tipster, Roger Hart and is made up of a number of very loyal Worcester annual members who were all delighted to be celebrating a winner at their local course. Syndicate ownership offers the opportunity of being involved with a racing club at a more affordable price and days like Saturday are the reason many people enjoy the thrill of it. The race very nearly went to another local connection as Aficianado, trained in Claines by Richard Newland was in the lead over the last hurdle. In a very exciting finish, he was only just touched off by a nose on the line by Flying Light.

The 8 races on the card were won by just 4 jockeys. Richard Johnson, determinedly chasing this season’s champion jockey title in the absence of his friend and rival, AP McCoy, arrived at the course fresh from a treble at Market Rasen the day before.  Johnson rode the first two winners, both for trainer, Tim Vaughan.

Sam Twiston-Davies is also in fine form currently. As stable jockey to champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, he rode the boss’s only runner, Sergeant Thunder to win the John Burke Memorial Chase.  Burke was a local jockey who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year in 1976. Twiston-Davies went on to extend his good association with John Ferguson’s horses at Worcester, steering to success firstly exciting newcomer, London Prize in the bumper, a half -brother to six winners on the flat, and then Father Edward to take the first division of the maiden hurdle.

Wayne Hutchinson was also in the money riding both Flying Light, and then two-time Irish point to point winner, Always on the Run to win the second division of the maiden hurdle for Donald McCain.

The number of runners at Pitchcroft so far this season has been very encouraging, especially in the bumpers and maiden hurdles, indicating an increase in youngsters furthering their racing careers at the course.

The gates open for afternoon racing tomorrow at 12.10pm.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Last Summer an early summer winner for Alex Ferguson

Flying the flag for Worcestershire trainers, Claines based Richard Newland secured his first winner of the new season at his local track last week. Winner on the flat, Gioia di Vita seemed to relish the quicker ground and stayed on well to score in the maiden hurdle under Will Kennedy.

I make no excuse for further discussing the Worcester bumper races. The results of these are often the most interesting stories on the card and the races themselves can certainly be the most eventful. With capacity numbers declared to run at the course the day before the meeting, the bumper divided into two races. 

The 4 year old winner of the first division, Last Summer is trained by Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock advisor, John Ferguson and was ridden by the trainer’s 18 year old son, Alex. Ferguson has an impressive lifetime record of 8 trained winners from 21 runners at Worcester, (3 wins from 5 bumper runners), whilst Alex, who has ridden 6 winners on the flat to date, enjoyed his first success at a jumps course, albeit in a bumper. Last Summer, who was previously in the Godolphin yard of Saeed Bin Suroor, has a good flat pedigree and is definitely a horse to watch when he appears next. 

The second division was won by statuesque Presenting mare, Blackdown Hills. The horse comes from the yard of Mark and Sarah Bradstock, who enjoyed great success over the winter with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Coneygree. Blackdown Hills was somewhat fortunate to win at Worcester as favourite Deshan, trained in Wales by Tim Vaughan cruised alongside her up the home straight until cocking his jaw a furlong from home and trying to run off the racing line. In doing so, he all but unshipped jockey Bradley Gibbs who performed amazing acrobatics to stay in the saddle and nearly got the horse up again at the finish, despite losing both his irons. The two horses are worth keeping an eye on. Blackdown Hills will now have a summer break before going novice chasing in the autumn, while newcomer Deshan, who cost £32,000 as a 3 year old, is another flat-bred recruit who should go on to bigger and better things once he learns the job, as he obviously has ability. 

For Worcester racing fans, the meeting tomorrow is the flagship of the season. CrownGate Ladies Day will include the Derby live from Epsom shown on the big screen during the afternoon. The gates open at 11.30am. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A tale of two legends at Pitchcroft

There are two stories that have stood out at the racecourse this week for a number of reasons. 

The first was the victory in the annual hunter chase of Stratford Stroller. The horse, who was runner up in a similar race at Bangor earlier this month, has tasted Worcester success in the past when in 2009, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, he was ridden to victory in a handicap hurdle by AP McCoy. 

Enjoying her first win under rules, Josephine Banks from Himbleton had Stratford Stroller comfortably in the lead from the back straight, with the only looming danger being her sister, Abigail aboard Hall Kelly. Josephine and Abigail are two of the granddaughters of the owner of the 11 year old Beneficial gelding, the legendary Worcestershire lady point to point rider, Pat Tollit. The famous royal blue and cerise colours have been a major feature of West Midlands racing for over 90 years. 

Tollit’s father, Major Harold Rushton rode 86 winners. Often referred to as the greatest point to point rider of all time, Tollit rode for 25 years winning 171 races with a strike rate of nearly 50%. To put this amazing achievement into perspective, these wins came in an era when lady jockeys were confined to ladies races, of which the opportunities were less than 15 rides per season. Tollit was the first lady jockey to ride over 100 winners.  Having won her first championship title in 1951, she finally retired at the Wheatland fixture in May 1973. It was an honour and a privilege to welcome Mrs Tollit into the winner’s enclosure at Worcester last Friday. 

It was also a privilege to welcome a well-known, popular equine star on the same evening. 

Magnificent in stature, to have a horse of the calibre of Hunt Ball running at Worcester was wonderful to watch for those of us who enjoy National Hunt racing. Bred in Ireland, Hunt Ball’s rags to riches story is well documented. 

In the 2011 – 2012 season, he won a series of 7 races when trained by Keiran Burke for eccentric and at times, controversial owner, Anthony Knott. Hunt Ball went from a handicap mark of 69 to 154 before winning the Pulteney Land Investments handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2013. The fairytale ended for Knott and Burke and the horse was sold to American syndicate, Atlantic Equine, who sent him to race in the USA. He had 5 runs including the Breeders Cup Grand National Steeplechase, before being brought back to the UK and sent to Nicky Henderson’s yard in Lambourn. The well-loved chaser completed the Crabbies Grand National in 2014. 

It was a pleasure to see him fly over the Worcester hurdles, ears pricked, always in the lead, never in any danger of being passed, enjoying his evening on the banks of the river Severn. 

Whilst we can’t promise legendary owners or Cheltenham Festival winners tomorrow afternoon, we can be sure of exciting, competitive racing across our eight races. The gates open at 12.10pm.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Thinger Licht Scores For In-Form Skelton

Racing is back in full swing at Pitchcroft.  The first meeting attracted 79 runners and a divided race, close to double the number of runners at either Wincanton or Newton Abbott on the same day. The popularity of the Worcester track amongst the trainers is further highlighted by the 151 entries for tomorrow evening’s card, including horses representing all the top National Hunt yards.

The weighing room is a different place without AP McCoy, however following in his mentor’s footsteps, a double at the first meeting has put Richie McClernon at the head of the Worcester jockey table at this early stage of the season.  Andrew Thornton, presently chasing his 1,000th winner, is in second place. The second leg of McClernon’s double was aboard Sir Note for Nick Littmoden, beating Worcester specialist, Anton Dolin who won twice at the course for Claines trainer, Richard Newland in 2013.

The winners of our selling races proved popular purchases last season and the first meeting continued that trend when French-bred, Vif Argent went under the hammer for 11,500 guineas. The six year old, trained by David Pipe has already run 31 times, winning 9 races under rules, including a Newbury handicap hurdle off a mark of 115 in February.

The in-form Dan Skelton, who trains at Alcester was on the score sheet in the opening race with a horse who has recently moved from Tony Carroll’s Cropthorne yard.  Thinger Licht (pictured above) was given a very confident ride by Bridget Andrews, fiancĂ© of  Skelton’s brother and stable jockey, Harry. Andrews was riding her second winner from 3 mounts in 7 days, and managed to get a great tune out of Thinger Licht who has since gone on to be second under Andrews at Warwick, and to win at Kempton by 12 lengths under Harry Skelton, the horse’s third race in 6 days.

Flying the flag for Worcestershire National Hunt trainers currently is David Dennis, whose 140 acre training facility is located at Hanley Swan. Former jump jockey, Dennis rode over 240 winners during his 10 years in the saddle.  He started training in September 2013 and has horses running on the flat as well as over jumps.  Dennis’s winners in the last week alone have come at Southwell, Kempton, Bath and Market Rasen.

Chaddesley Corbett is the place to be on Bank Holiday Monday when the top English point to point jockeys will take on their Irish counterparts in the Anglo-Irish challenge 2015.

Tomorrow evening’s racing at Pitchcroft includes the annual Hargreave Hale Investment Manager’s Hunters’ Steeple Chase.  Always popular with the point to point crowd, the meeting promises to provide a great atmosphere, with the first race due off at 5.50pm.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Thanks for the Worcester memories, AP!

The eagerly awaited, new summer jumping season at Worcester is under starter's orders and will begin on Thursday 7 May. However, an integral part of the recent history of the course, and indeed the sport of National Hunt racing, will be missing.

Quite simply, it will be a different place without 20 times champion jockey, Tony McCoy who retired at Sandown last Saturday. So much has already been said and written about the unique sportsman since he announced his retirement at Newbury in February. We would like to add our own tribute and reiterate how proud we are at Worcester that Pitchcroft will go down in history as AP's winning-most track. He rode an unbelievable 1,069 races at the course, winning 298 of those and creating a strike rate of 27.36%.

AP's obsession with winning has driven him through easy, as well as seemingly impossible victories, all of which we have witnessed with awe. But how many people know that in his quest to be the best, during his 25 year amateur and professional career, he has dieted and sweated away the equivalent weight of two African elephants, he has chipped 14 teeth, broken 13 bones and has taken more than 1,000 falls?

Our General Manager Jenny Cheshire recites a personal memory she has of his dedication to perfection... 'I shared breakfast at Cheltenham on Paddy Power Gold Cup Day with AP and John Francome following a 'behind the scenes' visit to the Morning Line. Whilst others tucked into a full English, AP's breakfast consisted merely of a strong cup of tea with 5 sugars.'

It is extraordinary to think that over a 35 year period since 1980, we have celebrated just 4 champion National Hunt jockeys: John Francome, Peter Scudamore, Richard Dunwoody and AP. 

Life will go on at Pitchcroft however, with a season of 20 fixtures from 7th May to 21st October to look forward to. There is bound to be considerable interest in the jockey title this year, and new equine stars will emerge from our bumpers as they always do. 

Notable 2015 Cheltenham Festival winners who found success in Worcester bumpers in 2013 were Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner, Cole Harden and listed novice handicap chase winner, Irish Cavalier. 

Whatever the season holds for us at Worcester, we thank AP for all the memories and wish him the very best for his retirement.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Grand National 2015 - The Worcester Form

Last year we put up a short blog featuring the runners in the National that have had a previous spin around the Pitchcroft track. Once whittled down from the long list of entries, just 4 previous Worcester runners made it to post for the race at Aintree, here's how they got on...
  • Battle Group - like twice before in the then 9 year old's career, he refused to run with 39 setting off eventually without him.
  • Twirling Magnet - maybe not cut out off the jumps of Aintree, Twirling Magnet fell at the first.
  • Swing Bill - The mount of Conor O'Farrell outran his 66/1 odds, successfully negotiating the 4 and a half mile gruelling course, finishing in 9th place, but still 38 lengths behind winner Pineau De Re.
  • Balthazar King - As one of only two Worcester winners, it was fantastic to see the Philip Hobbs trained runner put in a spectacular effort to finish runner-up, going down by 5 lengths.

So, a look at the Worcester runners who have been declared to take on the almighty challenge at 4.15pm tomorrow...
  • Balthazar King (pictured below) - runner up last year, the now 11 year old has a perfect record around Worcester with victory in his only start on the 24th September 2010. He's very strongly fancied having bypassed the Cheltenham Festival this year, a general 10/1 shot at present. 
  • Dolatulo - Second at Worcester back in June 2013 over hurdles. A Group 3 winner on Boxing Day at Weatherby last year, the eight year old is stepping up considerably in trip though, having never tackled further than 3m 1f. 
  • Duke Of Lucca - (currently a reserve) This Philip Hobbs trained horse made his racecourse debut at Worcester, finishing runner up by 3/4 of a length back in October 2009.
  • Ely Brown - A frequent runner here back in 2011, picking up an early season victory, followed by a third and fourth place finish later in the same season. At 100/1 he can be considered the outsider of the 40 strong field.
  • Royale Knight - Like Balthazar King, holds a perfect record around Worcester, with victory on his only start, that came back in May 2013. The 9 year old is one of two horses in the race trained by last year's winning trainer, and locally based, Dr Richard Newland. At 33/1 currently there's a bit of money for this horse.

All at the racecourse wish Claines trainer Dr Newland all the best in going for the retention of the race with Pineau De Re. A Newland 1-2 with Balthazar King nabbing a place again would be an almost perfect result for what's set to be another fantastic race!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

James Set To Perform Live At Worcester Racecourse

British rock band James will be performing at Worcester Racecourse, live after racing on Ladies Evening, on Wednesday 19 August.

Worcester Racecourse's Managing Director, David Roberts, said "I am delighted we will be welcoming James to the racecourse later this year. This is the first feature music evening at Worcester Racecourse, and it promises to be a fantastic event in the heart of Worcester, building on the success of the inaugural Ladies Evening last summer."

Click on the image to visit the website for further event details

Best known for hits such as "Sit Down", "She's a Star" and "Laid", James have achieved great success in the UK and US. The band has seven top ten UK albums to their credit, selling over 25 million albums worldwide.

James rose to prominence in the late 80's and early 90's as part of the popular Manchester music scene. Lead by Tim Booth, the band have an amazing reputation for their live shows and have toured successfully for over 25 years, headlining festivals and selling out venues all around the world. 

Most recently James released the critically acclaimed ‘La Petite Mort' album, their first new album in six years. The band who are currently working on their next album are performing at numerous festivals across the UK in 2015 including Worcester Racecourse. 

The live music performance at Worcester Racecourse will take place after racing on Wednesday 19 August in the Centre Course. Anyone purchasing a ticket will be able to enjoy a full race meeting followed by the concert.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.worcester-racecourse.co.uk or by calling 01905 25364. Keep up to date with the racecourse news and information via Twitter (@WorcesterRaces) and on Facebook (‘Worcester Racecourse').