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 Fixed Brush Hurdle series.

The gates open for racing tomorrow at 12.20pm.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Dr Richard Newland continues his winning run at Worcester Racecourse

The Richard Newland success story with his horses at Worcester Racecourse continues. Going into last week’s meeting, the Grand National Winning Claines trainer had had 6 winners from just 13 runners this summer, and 21 winners at the course in the past 5 years.

Newland sent 2 horses to the meeting, both ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies who was having his first rides back after a short spell on the side lines with a collarbone injury.

Duke Street was having his first run over fences in the Worcester News beginners chase and managed a creditable third place, beaten only one and a half lengths by the 8/11 hot favourite, Wait for Me trained by Philip Hobbs.

Newland’s other runner was Vosne Romanee in the £20,000 feature race, the Sparkling Anja Potze Fine Jewellery handicap chase.  The versatile six-year old picked up well after the last and ran on to win his 9th race for his trainer, previously scoring twice on the flat, 4 times over hurdles and twice over fences.

Top Irish jockey Bryan Cooper, until recently retained by Gigginstown Stud and now riding freelance, made his first visit to Worcester Racecourse last week.

Cooper partnered Guiding Stars for trainer, Harry Whittington in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce sponsored bumper.  Cooper, who won last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Don Cossack, gave Guiding Stars, a 16,000 Euro purchase as a 3-year old, a positive ride but was just touched off into second place by the 8/13 favourite, Hatcher, trained at Alcester by Dan Skelton.

The interesting upcoming horse of the day for me, was the well-bred, 4-year old Galileo gelding, Counter Shy who won the concluding maiden hurdle under a confident Richie McLernon ride.

Sent off at odds of 14/1, Counter Shy was kept up with the pace by McLernon and was seemingly undeterred by the thoroughly distracting antics of two very novicey horses ahead of him.

Counter Shy gave us a second link to the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the day, as his trainer, Jonjo O’Neill also trained his dam, Cross the Flags, a half-sister to the 2012 Gold Cup winner, Synchronised.

Current Worcester leading trainer, O’Neill invited me to his syndicate owners’ day at Jackdaws Castle last weekend.

Around 100 owners were treated to a champagne breakfast before visiting their horses in the yard and watching them work on the picturesque gallops, with far reaching views over the Cotswolds.

One of the challenges we face in racing is encouraging young people into the sport.  It was refreshing to see a group of 20 something year olds, enjoying the whole owners’ day experience, enthusiasm that I am sure they will transfer to the racecourse once their horse runs.

Tomorrow sees the annual Macmillan Cancer Support raceday at the course.  The popular coffee morning packages are now sold out but general entry tickets are still available on the gate and there are opportunities to support the charity fundraising in the marquee area, organised by the Ladies from Boots.

The gates open tomorrow from 12 noon.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Rain didn't stop play for a day of family fun & great racing action at Pitchcroft

Pitchcroft has seen plenty of racing action recently with 3 meetings in just 10 days.

The weather did its best to spoil the party on last week’s family fun raceday, but the annual mascot race in aid of the Children’s Trust to raise funds for children with brain injuries brought a ray of sunshine to an otherwise wet day.

Nine mascots representing a selection of local companies, events and sporting venues lined up for the Mascot Dash which was won in record time by Horti the Gardener from Vicarage Nurseries in Evesham, closely followed by the two ‘Wolves’ from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

On the horseracing front, we enjoyed somewhat of a reoccurring theme with a number of horses following up on previous Worcester wins.

Among these were Sonneofpresenting trained by Kim Bailey, Nicky Henderson’s striking looking grey mare, Turn Turk, the Kerry Lee trained Desertmore Hill and Shanksforamillion who is trained in Carmarthen by Debra Hamer.

Shanksforamillion is an 8-year old lightly raced gelding with just 11 outings under rules to his career.  Five of these were at Ffos Las, one each at Uttoxeter, Ludlow and Taunton and the other 3 were at Worcester in the last 2 months.

There has been a remarkable transformation in the horse since he moved in June to Hamer’s yard.  His previous form from 2013 to 2015 reads 8/pu/8/pu/pu/3/6/8.  Since joining Hamer following a long break, and being partnered on each occasion by 7lb claimer Richard Patrick, he has won all three of his chases at Pitchcroft.

Hamer is well known for finding lots of improvement in Tobefair and saddling him to win 7 races on the bounce last season, the first two of which were also at Worcester in June and July of 2016.

A large syndicate of local owners from the Brewers Arms in St Johns were in fine voice despite the rain, following the victory in the £10,000 feature handicap hurdle of Destiny’s Gold trained in Claines by Richard Newland.  Newland has now sent out 4 winners from 7 runners in handicap hurdles at Worcester this season.

The win was particularly notable for the ride given him by 20-year old conditional jockey, Charlie Hammond from Abberley, whose confidence is going from strength to strength and who notched up 4 winners last week.

The meeting was rounded off by a win in the conditional jockeys’ maiden hurdle for Wiltshire trainer, Dai Williams with Mister Mister, partnered by another upcoming jockey who rode a double on the day, 16-year old James Bowen.

Williams has sent 100 runners to Worcester since 1989 without a winner until now, and was understandably delighted, if not a little surprised to see his September Storm gelding beat some more fancied opposition.

The racing action continues at Pitchcroft tomorrow afternoon with the first race due off at 2.05pm.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Local success for Dr Richard Newland, a possible contender for the £25k final?

It’s not everyone who would think of naming a horse Romeo is Bleeding, so when the horse with this name won the opening Handicap Chase at Pitchcroft last week I decided to find out a bit more about him.

The eleven year old first ran at Worcester in May last year when trained by David Rees. He went on to win a point to point back in March this year for trainer Carl Price and is now trained in Chepstow by Ron Harris, a predominantly flat trainer.  He has had 4 runs since June for Harris and all have been at Worcester. The form of his previous 3 runs was 22P – the victory last week was his first win under rules.  The gelding is by Carroll House out of an Irish mare, Ean Eile so there is no clue to the source of his unusual name there.

On further research, I discovered that the name actually comes from a song written in 1978 by the American singer/song writer, Tom Waits.

Often, racehorses will have a ‘stable’ name used by those who own and look after them on a daily basis, and a more formal ‘racing’ name which has to be approved by and registered with Weatherbys in Northampton before the horse can race.  The ‘formal’ names are often derived from those of the horse’s sire and/or dam.

The local success story of last week’s meeting was the victory of one of Richard Newland’s new recruits, McGroarty.  The horse has been with Newland for just over a month, during which he has posted a second and a win at Market Rasen. 

The six year old ex pointer won a bumper for former trainer, David Kiely in Ireland in June.  Carrying top weight, the Brian Boru gelding was sent off at 2-1 for the 2 mile novice hurdle and won comfortably under Sam Twiston-Davies by 5 lengths. There is obviously more to come and as the race was a qualifier for the £25,000 final at Worcester on 25th October, he must be considered as a possible contender for this race.

I always find it interesting to follow the fortunes of horses who have run at Worcester and one such horse caught my eye in the week.

Casino Markets trained by Emma Lavelle won 2 handicap chases at Worcester in July of last year, including the Pershore Plum Festival Land O’Plums chase, ridden by Aidan Coleman and Daryl Jacob respectively.  However it was Leighton Aspell in the saddle when Lavelle sent the horse to Saratoga in the USA last week, as her first ever runner in America.  The race was the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup handicap hurdle and the prize fund was $150,000.  The American owned horse ran well and the report of the race reads that from midfield, he made a brief effort approaching the last but weakened on the flat into 8th place.  Time will tell whether he will further his American racing career.

The first race is due off tonight at 4.35pm for our final evening meeting of the season.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The rest period is over and we look towards the end of the 2017 season, ahead to 20 fixtures in 2018

With 12 race meetings at Pitchcroft in 12 weeks, it was time for short break to rest and refresh the track ready for the remaining 8 meetings, the first of which is tomorrow evening.

During the rest period the track has been vertidrained to allow moisture to penetrate and ease compaction, and a seaweed dressing has been applied to strengthen the turf.

Before the break, we enjoyed 2 meetings in quick succession from which a number of things stood out.

The first was a day of double for trainers Donald McCain and Richard Newland, with horses ridden by Will Kennedy and Sam Twiston-Davies respectively, the latter riding his 800th winner of his career on the day.

McCain sent out Court Dismissed and Thyne for Gold to win the first 2 chases at odds of 12-1 and 8-1. By contrast, Newland’s runners, Mr Caffrey and Lovato were sent off at 6/4 and 7/4 favourites, both following up on last time out wins.

At the second meeting, horse number one in race one was the 2015 Cheltenham Festival Stayers Hurdle winner, Cole Harden. The horse first ran at Worcester in August 2013 when he won a National Hunt flat race.  In total, he has run in 24 races under rules and has won or been placed in 18 of those.  Unfortunately, chasing does not seem to be his game however, as he has now been beaten at odds on in all 3 runs over fences.

Ten-year old, former Worcester winner Ginger Fizz, trained by Ben Case was 4 years older than any of her rivals in the mare’s handicap hurdle. Defying the age difference, she beat regular runner at Worcester, Solstalla by 5 lengths under Daryl Jacob who had flown in from France to ride the mare en route to the Galway festival.

We have now had time to digest the recent publication of the 2018 fixture list.  This features a record of 1,508 meetings, 11 more than in 2017, and includes 19 fewer afternoons, but 30 additional evening meetings.

There will be a week-long break for jump racing after the 2017/2018 finale meeting at Sandown in April.  The first day of the new season will be at Uttoxeter on Saturday 5th May and Worcester’s season will begin on Thursday 10th May.

We will have 20 fixtures with very little change to the day/evening, weekday/weekend split.  The annual Ladies Day, always the best attended fixture, will be on Saturday 2nd June.

We will also feature a very special and unique raceday in 2018, when we look forward to celebrating 300 years of racing at Pitchcroft!

Throughout the year, we will be recalling many fascinating events, races, horses and personalities from our colourful 300-year history, all of which are currently being recorded in a must-read book to be published in the spring of next year – more details to follow as we approach 2018.

The gates open for racing tomorrow at 3pm with the first race due off at 5pm.  The card will feature a novelty hobby horse race in aid of Muscular Dystrophy at 5.40pm.