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.