Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Skelton starts the summer jumps season with a double at the Season Opener

The future of our sport depends, like most sports, on securing the engagement of the younger generation. There are a number of initiatives in racing to entice the young to get involved, from accompanied under 18’s being admitted free, to student discounts.  

The support from the Worcester University students at Pitchcroft last week was extremely encouraging to see and we hope that some will venture down again, hopefully sparking an interest in racing that could well span many years.

The Worcester leading trainer contest of 2016 was a very close run thing, concluding on the final day of the season when Neil Mulholland just pipped Phillip Hobbs and Dan Skelton by a mere couple of points to take the title.

The 2017 trainer competition has started competitively, with both Jonjo O’Neill and Dan Skelton hitting the ground running with 3 winners and 2 seconds between them.

Skelton, who trains locally at Alcester, sent out his well-bred, 5-year old mare, Whatzdjazz to win the 7bets4free.com Fixed Brush Hurdle Series mares maiden hurdle.

The race was the first qualifyer in the new series which culminates in a £25,000 final at Worcester in October, at which Skelton confirmed there was every possibility his mare would be aimed.  Whatzdjazz, who won her first outing in a Fakenham bumper in February found plenty on the run in to see off the challenges of Jonjo O’Neill’s 6/4 favourite, Big Penny, a £70,000 purchase last year as a 4-year old.

Skelton’s other winner on the card was Cobra De Mai, coming to Worcester off the back of his chasing debut win at Warwick 11 days previously.

Cobra De Mai is by Great Pretender, an increasingly popular sire and only one of two stallions by the legendary Kings Theatre available to national hunt breeders.

Alan Phillips, a local trainer based at Callow End, was delighted that his first runner of the new season was a winner at his nearby track. Lined With Silver was partnered to victory by popular weighing room joker and champion jockey in Jersey for the past 4 years, Mattie Batchelor.

Phillips rode 87 winners between 1993 and 2003 in point to points, hunter chases and novice chases, and took up training pointers in 2004.  In 2013, he took out a dual-purpose licence and now runs a small string of national hunt as well as flat horses.

We stage less ‘selling’ races than we used to these days.  Having said that, the race on last week’s card saw winning mare, Lakeshore Lady, in the Giant Bolster colours of Simon Hunt, auctioned after the race and bought by trainer Sheila Lewis from Brecon, for 4,400 guineas.

There was no success at the opening meeting for last season’s Worcester leading jockey, Richard Johnson, who was presented with a framed picture of one of his 2016 victories.  I am however certain that he will be on the score sheet in defence of his title very soon.

The gates open for racing at Pitchcroft tomorrow at 12 noon.