Thursday, 26 May 2016

Carrigkerry carries Fuller to victory

There are plenty of plans you can put in place to achieve a successful raceday.  The one aspect over which you will never have control and which can alter the dimensions of the day, is the weather. A good example of this resulted in a number of non-runners at last week’s Worcester meeting, when the forecast heavy rain completely bypassed the course. The drying conditions suited some horses but not all.  One trainer who was delighted with the Good to Firm Going was Robin Dickin.

The inform Alcester trainer sent Myroundoryours, who had never previously been placed in his races, to win his first attempt over fences under Charlie Poste. According to Dickin, the horse is not easy to train and came to Worcester on the back of a training regime including three ten minute canters a day, rather than any fast gallop work.  Different tactics on the day, with the horse leading from the front rather than being held up as previously, also contributed to his success.

At this early point of the new National Hunt season, champion Richard Johnson already leads the jockey table ahead of Sam Twiston-Davies and Aidan Coleman. Johnson began the defence of his Worcester title with a win last week on Castlemorris King. The Brian Barr trained gelding saw off the challenges of the previous week’s winner, Fountains Blossom, to get his nose in front by 5 lengths. The horse was subsequently claimed after the race by David Pipe for £10,000.

We are closely monitoring our winning owners this year and look forward to crowning Worcester’s leading owner/s at the end of the season. Thoonavolla, trained at Hindlip by Tom Weston is now 2 wins from 2 meetings at the course, elevating his owning syndicate, the Troubled Pink Partnership to the top of the table at this early stage.

Lady jockey, Paige Fuller showed her strength in the saddle against her male counterparts at Pitchcroft, when steering her mother’s Carrigkerry (pictured) to victory in the handicap hurdle.  It was the horse’s first run for trainer, Jamie Snowden. The 9 year old, who was bought as an unraced 5 year old by the Fuller Family, had solid form in his previous runs in point to points and hunter chases, the most recent of which was a second place at Newton Abbott to subsequent winner, Maxi Chop. Fuller’s success aboard Carrigkerry was all the more impressive as the jockey fractured her back in a fall in February and the horse broke his hip two years ago.

Hunter chasing will be at the forefront of our minds tomorrow evening, when the opening race will be the annual Hargreave Hale Hunter Chase for horses who have current season Hunters Certificates with one of the West Midlands Area hunts. Twenty eight entries for the race should determine a competitive field for the curtain raiser of what promises to be an exciting evening of racing at Pitchcroft. Gates open at 3.50pm.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

2016 Season Opener

It is almost 7 months since the Paul Nicholls trained Alcala won the Worcester News Maiden Hurdle Div II , the last race of 2015 at Pitchcroft.

The winter sent its usual mixed bag of weather, including floods in January and February, endless grey rainy days, and latterly, hailstones the size of golf balls, combined with unwanted overnight frosts.

Considering all the elements, the track is in great condition for the start of the new season tomorrow, due in the most part to the expertise of Estates Manager, Duncan Penny and his team.

This year, we warmly welcome a new Clerk of the Course to Worcester.  A keen horsewoman, Elizabeth O'Flaherty brings over 10 years of experience of working in the racing industry.

Several facilities at the racecourse have benefitted from investment over the winter.  Visitors to the Owners and Trainer's bar, the stable staff canteen, the medical room and the centre course toilets will all notice upgrades.

We would like to congratulate 2015 Worcester leading rider, Richard Johnson on being crowned Champion Jockey at Sandown in April.  Johnson is one of the most supportive jockeys any racecourse could wish to work with.  Nothing is too much trouble, be it a media interview, a racecard signing or a photo with a sponsor in the parade ring.  We look forward to seeing him defend his Pitchcroft title.

Jonjo O'Neill won the leading trainer title at Worcester in 2015.  O'Neill has always been a good friend to Worcester Racecourse, and last year teamed up with Richard Johnson on a number of successful occasions.

Casting an eye to the season ahead, the racecourse owner, Arena Racing Company has increased the prize money on offer for many of the races.  The combination of good safe jumping ground and better prize money will help to attract larger field sizes and result in some really competitive racing for all to enjoy through the summer.

I make no excuse for discussing Worcester success stories in my columns, and for celebrating horses who have tasted victory at Pitchcroft and gone on to achieve greater things.  It's part of the thrill of why we all enjoy National Hunt racing.

Mention must go at this point to the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Ballyandy (pictured above) who made his racecourse debut under Ryan Hatch in the Worcester Bumper on the 21st October last year.  The Kayf Tara gelding has now eared £72k in bumpers over the winter, including the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Similarly, The Young Master, trained by Neil Mulholland won his beginners chase at Worcester in September 2014, the only occasion he was ridden by AP McCoy.  The horse has now amassed earnings of £188,831, including the 20 runner Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown last month.

You never know, when you see the hooves thunder up the Pitchcroft home straight, whether you are witnessing a superstar in the making.

The gates open for the new season tomorrow at 12 noon.