Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A season record of 226 entries sets the scene for the Season Finale at Pitchcroft

Anyone closely connected to racing is pretty much obsessed with the weather.  The fact is that weather conditions can ruthlessly dictate outcomes, leaving us mere mortals at its mercy with little we can do to reverse or influence conditions.

Such was the story this month at Pitchcroft.  Not one of us who care so passionately about hosting our race meetings for the maximum enjoyment of the whole spectrum of our customers, could have dreamt we would stage 2 such diverse meetings in 5 days.  On the first day, the ground quickened to the point that 33 horses were withdrawn on account of it, and the second was a meeting transferred at just 4 days’ notice from neighbouring Hereford racecourse, whose ‘firm’ ground rendered their going too risky for jump racing.

For the first of these meetings, the forecast rain did not materialise. Had we watered the ‘good’ ground the day before and then rain had fallen on the watered ground, it is likely that numbers of horses would also have been withdrawn. I have seen that happen. Opinions have differed considerably and much criticism has been levied in our direction, but the one important factor on which everyone is agreed, is that horse welfare comes first and foremost, and if trainers are not happy with the ground for the horses entrusted into their care by owners, they must act accordingly, in the best interests of the horses.

The first race on this card was a very decent mares’ novice chase, sponsored by the European Breeders’ Fund. Of the 8 mares who lined up, 5 were proven black type mares over hurdles, all rated 135 plus over the smaller obstacles.

Chase debutante, Rene’s Girl, trained at Alcester by Dan Skelton made all and cruised to an 11 length victory over Alan King’s Dusky Legend, who was placed at the last 2 Cheltenham Festivals.  We may soon see Skelton’s Presenting mare in a listed race at Bangor, according to her trainer.

The atmosphere at our second meeting last Tuesday was far more positive.  Interestingly, the feature race of the day was another mares’ only race. This mares’ handicap chase was the opening heat in the 2017/2018 Challenger Series, aimed at mid-tier level horses, with a £300,000 finals day at Haydock on Easter Saturday next year. The £20,000 heat was won by one of the outsiders, Sheer Poetry trained by Richard Woollacott.

Barry Geraghty made his first visit to the course for a while a double winning one, riding as retained jockey for owner, JP McManus. Geraghty partnered Above Board for the Jonjo O’Neill yard in the opening beginner’s chase, and also Scoop the Pot, a Worcester winner in August, for Philip Hobbs in the handicap hurdle.

The final race meeting of the season tomorrow, quite simply, should not be missed.  We have attracted a record for the season of 226 horses entered.  There are all the ingredients of a meeting to savour – top trainers, top jockeys, competitive racing including the £25,000 final of the 7bets4free.com Fixed Brush Hurdle Series, and presentations to our 2017 leading jockey and trainer.  Gates will open from 12.10pm

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A remarkable £7,000 raised for Macmillan at the Big Macmillan Coffee Morning Raceday

Over the 16 years that I have worked at Worcester racecourse, I have tried to build specific annual racedays on a variety of different themes, to enhance our customers’ enjoyment of their day, promote local businesses and in a number of cases, help raise money for very worthy causes.

Recently, we staged the fourth, annual Macmillan Cancer Support race event on national Macmillan coffee morning day, an idea borne out of a small race sponsorship 5 years ago, where I met Heather Elliott who works for Boots in Birmingham.

From that little acorn has grown a sizeable oak tree.  Heather and Simone Chatwin, also from Boots, have worked tirelessly all year gathering prizes for the raffle & tombola, and assembling the 1,250 goody bags which they offered for donations on the day. 

Thanks to the fantastic support of so many of our racegoers, over £7,000 was raised for Macmillan and I would like to thank all those who came along to the raceday, despite the early morning rain, and supported us with their amazing generosity.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has recently stepped up a gear, with his winter jumpers already on great form.
At the last meeting, he sent 2 runners to the course and went home with 2 winners, giving him a tally of 5 winners in just 4 days.

The first was in the opening handicap chase when Little Pop, who runs in The New One and Blaklion colours of Simon and Sarah Such, led from the front to win his third chase, beating Neil Mulholland’s gelding, Full, by a length.

Mulholland was just denied again by Twiston-Davies in the second race when Ballymalin beat Night of Noir by half a length in the novice chase.

Ballymalin looks to be an interesting prospect for the future.  The Presenting gelding won 3 novice hurdles last winter and went on to run in the Pertemps final at the Cheltenham Festival in March, where he came 7th of 24 under Noel Fehily.

His final outing of last season was in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices Hurdle at the Grand National Aintree meeting in April, where he finished 5th of 11 under Sam Twiston-Davies.

The highlight of our recent raceday was the further success story of the remarkable Hallings Comet, trained by Sean Lycett.  The horse has now won 4 races at the course this summer and came second on the other occasion that he ran here.

Bred and owned by Lord Blyth at Moreton in Marsh, Hallings Comet had been stepped up in trip to 2 miles 4 furlongs, but this front running type bowled along effortlessly, ahead of the field all the way and won on the bridle. Jockey Marc Goldstein, who gets on so well with the horse, never picked up his stick.

With just 2 fixtures to go at Worcester this year, we are all particularly looking forward to Finals Day on 25 October, and especially the £25,000 final of the season long qualifying 7bets4free.com Fixed Brush Hurdle series.

The gates open for racing tomorrow at 12.20pm.