Tuesday, 16 August 2016

What Happens Now: What Happened Last Fixture

For the first time we welcomed members of the British Horse Society to the Racecourse last week.  The day was intended to help fundraise for the very important equine welfare work undertaken annually by the charity, and also to raise awareness of their safety campaign requesting drivers to pass horses ‘wide and slow’ and to kill their speed to 15 mph.   This campaign has been sparked by a number of fatal accidents on British roads in recent years.

Two of the supporters of the day included first time Worcester race sponsors, Henry Oliver Racing and Hillgrove Stud, both of whom depend on horses for their living. Hillgrove Stud is based near Droitwich, and Liz Williams with her partner Max Young, breed and produce top quality dressage horses. Henry Oliver, former national hunt jockey turned trainer, is based at Abberley and runs a number of his horses at Worcester during the season. The British Horse Society reported that they raised over £1,500 through the generous donations of racegoers for which they were extremely grateful.

The opening race of the day, the Henry Oliver Racing Novice Chase was a very competitive affair, and included representatives from the top yards of Paul Nicholls, David Pipe, Donald McCain, Jonjo O’Neill and Phillip Hobbs.

McCain’s Dr Massini gelding, What Happens Now (pictured above) was confidently steered to victory by Will Kennedy, seeing off the challenges of Tom Scudamore aboard David Pipe’s For ‘N’ Against by three quarters of a length. Kennedy, who began his association with McCain last season, has a 21% strike rate when riding for the Cheshire based trainer. What Happens Now, a former point to point winner, has won three of his four starts over fences and it would be no surprise to see him progress on from here, especially once the ground eases later in the year.

The race date last week clashed with a Stratford evening meeting.  Whilst the short hop from one course to another was ideal for the jockeys who were riding at both Worcester and Stratford, it is far from ideal to have two racecourses in such close proximity racing on the same day from a logistical point of view.  Not only does it split a local crowd of jump racing supporters, but there are also a good number of staff who make their living by working at several racecourses and they have to make difficult decisions when there is a clash.

The only clash at the vintage themed Ladies Evening race meeting tomorrow evening at Worcester, will be the sound of the instruments of the 28 strong members of the Royal Signals Band who will be welcoming racegoers from 3.30pm as they arrive at the course, as part of the Help for Heroes race night.  The first race is due off at 5pm.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Mr Shantu Wins On Chasing Debut

For those National Hunt sentimentalists amongst us, it was a pleasure to see the famous Red Rum colours carried by the Donald McCain trained Only a Tipple at the recent Pershore Plum Festival race evening. Red Rum is the only horse to have won the Grand National three times in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and the colours, which were also seen in the race in 1975 and 1976 when Red Rum came second, feature a yellow horizontal diamond which originated from the logo of the legendary horse’s owner, Noel Le Mare’s company, Northwest Construction. Only A Tipple is owned by Ginger McCain’s window, Beryl, and the 5-year old ran into 5th place in the Tiddesley Wood Yellow Egg Plum maiden hurdle.

The £12,000 feature Pershore Plum Festival Land O’Plums Chase was won by the progressive Casino Markets, following up his Worcester success earlier in the month. The Emma Lavelle trained gelding stayed on gamely to beat Richard Newland’s Tiger Trek, trained in Claines. The Land O’Plums chase appears to be a lucky one for Lavelle, whose horses are in excellent form.  The trainer has run 3 horses in the race in the last 6 years and all 3 have won.

National Hunt racing is returning this week from a 10-day break which allows jockeys in particular, to enjoy holidays with their families.  The jockey table at Worcester has never been more competitive, with the lead changing meeting to meeting.  Aidan Coleman is currently ahead of Sam Twiston-Davies by 4 points, largely due to his association with trainer Jonjo O’Neill.

O’Neill has won the Worcester trainer championship for the past two years but has not had quite the same success this season until recently.  With Coleman on board, O’Neill enjoyed 2 winners from 7 runners at the last meeting, including Mr Shantu who is owned by long-time supporters of Worcester, Richard and Donna Evans.  Mr Shantu (pictured above) took gamely to his chasing debut, having also won a hurdle race at the course last summer. The trainer’s title is all to play for with just 3 points separating Dan Skelton, Philip Hobbs, Nicky Henderson and O’Neill.

The top owner’s position has also changed hands and is now held by JP McManus, again thanks to the recent good form of Coleman and O’Neill. 

The 2017 racing fixture list was officially published last week.  There will be 14 more race meetings across the country in 2017 than in 2016, and the 1,496 meetings will be staged over 363 days of the year.  The only blank days for racing will be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The total number of jumps fixtures are up to 602 from 594 and Worcester will be staging 20 fixtures from May 11 to October 25, which will include the ever popular Ladies Day, coinciding with Derby Day, on Saturday 3 June.

The gates open for afternoon racing tomorrow at 12 noon and the first race is due off at 2pm.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Local Trainer Swoops To Victory

Despite the recent scorching temperatures, it was great to see all 94 stables occupied at Worcester last week.  Following measures introduced in similar heat during 2015, including significant additional water available in all areas for both the horses and racing staff plus additional veterinary cover, trainers and owners are showing their confidence in running their horses at the course even when the weather warms up.  Added to this, we have the benefit of being able to irrigate the track sufficiently to produce safe ‘good’ ground.

Alcester trainer, Dan Skelton has been a big supporter of Worcester again this year and indeed his four year-old Alcock and Brown has run at the course three times in four weeks, posting a second and two wins.  This has helped to propel his trainer into the leading position in the Worcester trainer’s table this week.

Richard Johnson, celebrating his 39th birthday on Thursday’s raceday made it one to remember by producing Noel Williams’ Authorized Too on the line to beat recent course winner, Destiny’s Gold and give Williams his first winner from his new yard in Blewbury. Johnson leads Sam Twiston-Davies by two points in the jockey’s table.

Claines trainer, Richard Newland is enjoying a successful spell currently, and brought a large syndicate of owners from the Value Racing Club to enjoy watching their horse Trafalgar Rock (pictured above) follow up his recent winning debut over hurdles at Uttoxeter with a victory in the 2m 4f novice hurdle.

The racecourse is pleased to engage with a large number of charities on a regular basis, helping to raise thousands of pounds every year through activities at Pitchcroft.  We were therefore delighted to welcome Antony Lewis-Crosby to the course last week who is visiting every racecourse in the UK and Ireland in alphabetical order to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis.  The challenge began in 2009 and will be completed at York on 4 September.  Thanks to the generosity of the Worcester racegoers, a further £800 was added to the fantastic total of £55,000 already raised.

Tomorrow evening’s meeting is always a highlight in our calendar.  The Pershore Plum Festival race night, first staged 6 years ago in 2010, features revived races steeped in Victorian and Edwardian history that date back to 1899.  The Land O Plums Chase was first run to celebrate Pershore’s plentiful supply of plums at the now long gone racecourse on Weir Meadows.  The Tiddesley Wood Yellow Egg Plum ‘National Hunt’ maiden hurdle and the Angel Hotel Pershore Pensham handicap hurdle also have historic significance from a bygone era in Pershore.

The race night marks the start of the August Plum Festival which highlights the strong commitment the town still has to this day, to its fruit growing heritage.

Racegoers are invited to join us in sporting the colour purple for the evening which starts with gates opening at 3.40pm for the first race at 5.40pm.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Emma Lavelle Flying the Flag for Female Trainers

With male trainers dominating the leader board of National Hunt racing, it is always good to see an in form female trainer. Emma Lavelle has trained near Andover in Hampshire for 17 years, but this year she moved her string to Bonita Stables in Ogbourne Maizey, near Marlborough. Lavelle purchased the property, which includes 154 acres of private gallops and 54 stables, from retired trainer, Peter Makin.  Former trainers based at Bonita stables have included Bill Marshall and Sir Gordon Richards. Now settled in her new home, Lavelle is concentrating on training winners which has proved to be the case at both July Worcester meetings to date.  The eye catching Casino Markets followed up his Stratford success and Uttoxeter second place with a win in our feature £12.000 handicap chase on Senior Citizen's raceday. Last week, Let's Hope So also got her nose in front in the mare's maiden hurdle, much to the delight of all the members of the Cottage Stables Racing Club who came to cheer her on. On both occasions, Aidan Coleman was the man in the saddle.  I am sure he is looking forward to continuing the association and riding more winners for Lavelle over the summer.

Another trainer enjoying current success is Robert Stephens who trains at Caldicot. Stephens chalked up three winners in 4 days last week, at Stratford, Worcester and Uttoxeter respectively.
The Worcester victory came courtesy of the mare, Tir Dubh who at 10/1 beat the Philip Hobbs trained favourite, Spillers Dream by three and three quarter lengths in the concluding maiden hurdle.  This was a much better run than her previous 4th placed attempt at the course back in July 2015.
At the half way point in the Worcester season, the scores on the jockey, trainer and owner's 'doors' have never been closer.

Richard Johnson leads Sam Twiston-Davies by 2 points, with Tom Scudamore only 6 points behind, and Sean Bowen, Harry Skelton and Aidan Coleman all tying for 4th place. Nicky Henderson and Philip Hobbs share the top trainer's spot this week, with last weekend's Summer Plate winning trainer, Dan Skelton and also Peter Bowen snapping at their heels.

Myroundorurs, trained at Alcester by Robin Dickin, ran at the course last week for the third time in as many months.  His first two runs were both winning ones, but unfortunately, he found one too good last week.  Bottes Des Mottes (pictured above), also trained at Alcester but by Dan Skelton, was in command at the last over long time leader Myroundorurs, who had been put up by 22lb for his previous wins at the course.  The second place was however enough to secure this week's top place in the leading owner contest for his owner, John Nicholls.

The gates open at 11.50 am tomorrow for afternoon racing starting at 1.50pm. There are EIGHT races on the card.

Monday, 4 July 2016

The resilience of National Hunt racegoers

Rain doesn’t stop play at the racecourse.  The meeting last Wednesday was one of the wettest for some time and yet we were very pleased to see the maximum possible number of horses declared to run (94) for the first time this season.  National Hunt racegoers are a resilient lot and a drop of rain simply means donning a waterproof coat and a flat cap for the show to go on.

Last week we worked with the charity Racing Welfare to celebrate National Stable Staff week.  It was a chance to highlight the very important job done by the sometimes unsung heroes of the racing industry and we were delighted to be involved.

Gathering together a luxury hamper, we organised a prize draw, inviting all the stable staff attending the meeting to take part.  The winner was Laura Wright (pictured below with Jenny Cheshire) from Kerry Lee’s Herefordshire yard, who led up Definite Future in the handicap chase.

The £10,000 feature handicap hurdle was won by Newton Geronimo (pictured below), trained at Bourton-on-the-Water by Ben Pauling, a former assistant to Nicky Henderson.  The Brian Boru 7 year-old has previously been a monkey at the start, refusing to race on a couple of occasions, however there was no such antics on Wednesday, and defying a 7lb rise for his recent Fontwell success, the horse won going away by 16 lengths. 

Those who listened to Radio 4 on the morning of racing will have heard an unlikely tipster recommend a horse on the Worcester card that day.  Absolutely Fabulous actress, Joanna Lumley was asked who punters should get behind and with her usual aplomb, she recommended Sporting Milan in the novice handicap hurdle.  The five year-old, who ran into fourth at the course earlier in the month on Ladies Day, rallied near the finish to win by a neck.

Noel Fehily has been out of action for a few weeks following a bad fall at Newton Abbot in early May.  His first ride back from injury was at Worcester last week for trainer, Harry Fry in the mares’ bumper.  Fehily was just touched off into second aboard Raveloe.  The well-bred Midnight Legend filly is out of Over Sixty, formerly trained by Alan King to success in a number of races including a fourth place in the Cheltenham mares’ bumper behind the legendary, Quevega.

Peter Bowen has long time been known for his success with summer jumpers and this year is no exception.  Winning the opening handicap chase last week with Kinari has propelled him into second place in the Worcester trainer’s table, just 3 points behind Nicky Henderson. 
A mere 8 points separate Sam Twiston Davies, Sean Bowen, Tom Scudamore and Richard Johnson in the jockey’s list this week, and the Troubled Pink Partnership, John Nicholls and JP McManus are still tied on 20 points for the owner’s honours.

The meetings are following in quick succession currently, and gates for the Senior Citizen’s raceday open today at 12 noon, with the first race due off at 2pm.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Byron Flys home for victory in the feature race

With two meetings in just 4 days, it has been a busy week at the Racecourse.  One of the feature races of the season, a class 2 handicap hurdle for horses rated 0-150 carrying £20,000 in prize money, was won by the Ian Williams trained Byron Flyer.  Williams trains at Alvechurch and has enjoyed 4 consecutive victories in two months with 5 year-old Byron Flyer.

Herefordshire based former assistant to Nicky Henderson, Tom Symonds has just two horses in training for the summer.  Delighted with the rain softened ground, Symonds faith in keeping Kaki De La Pree in training paid off with a first win over fences in the Novice Chase on the Sunday card.  The talented horse described by Symonds as ‘fragile’, was having his first run since November, as lameness prevented him taking up his entry in the Welsh National.

Joint owner of State of Play and Alvarado, Angela Rucker from Knightwick was on holiday for her 53rd birthday last Wednesday and missed watching her Mr Kit Kat win the novice hurdle.  The horse won last time out at Sedgefield in May and has benefitted from wearing a hood in his races.

Another winner at Worcester on Wednesday, also successful on the same Sedgefield card was San Benedeto (pictured above).  In a master class of riding, Sam Twiston-Davies was in third place by 6 lengths over the last fence in the opening novice chase, but managed to galvanise the Paul Nicholls trained five-year-old to get up on the line by a neck.  In a thrilling finish, just one and a half lengths separated the first 4 horses home, with the lead changing several times on the run in.  Presenting Arms ridden by Richard Johnson was unlucky to be caught and had to settle for the runner up spot for the second time at Worcester this summer.

Twiston-Davies and Johnson are currently vying for leading national hunt jockey status which is an interesting new phenomenon as Tony McCoy has so dominated this contest in recent years.  Johnson’s progress has been hampered by 4 separate two-day whip suspensions between May 25 and June 7.

The same tussle is reflected at Worcester with Twiston-Davies leading the way from Sean Bowen and Johnson, but only 8 points separate the trio.  Twiston-Davies’ victories so far this season have been mainly spread across horses trained by Paul Nicholls, his father, Nigel and Claines based Richard Newland. 

The other ‘scores on the doors’ at Worcester after the last week show Nicky Henderson retaining his lead over Phillip Hobbs thanks to wins by Only for Love and Turn Turk, and JP MacManus joining the Troubled Pink Partnership and John Nicholls at the top of the owner’s table.

Racing resumes at the course tomorrow when the first race is due off at 12.20pm. A division to the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

King of Worcester on Ladies Day

The hugely popular, annual Ladies Day meeting lived up to all expectations in terms of revelry, warmth and numbers through the gates.  It was also an opportunity for two May winners to return for further glory, one under new ownership.

Castlemorris King (pictured) was claimed out of a hurdle race on the 19th May by David Pipe for father and son owners, Stuart and Simon Mercer.  The 8 year old held on to win the £10,000 Handicap Hurdle, much to the delight of his new owners who had flown to the course in David Pipe’s helicopter. Worcester Ladies Day is traditionally staged on the same day as the Epsom Investec Derby. Ironically, in 2011 as just a 3 year old, Castlemorris King ran in the Derby at odds of 150-1.  On that occasion, he came in 12th of 13 runners.

Myroundorurs also recorded his second victory of the new season at Pitchcroft.  Up 16lb from his previous win at the course, the Robin Dickin trained gelding fought off the challenges of Paul Nicholls’Amento. Claines trainer, Dr Richard Newland treated his staff to hospitality dining in the St Richard’s Hospice marquee. Newland reportedly delighted many of the guests in the marquee by tipping up a number of the winners including his own One More Go, a former stayer on the flat having his second run over hurdles. 

Two things have come to light in the week, relating to May meetings at Worcester – one more light hearted than the other. It transpires that trainer Nigel Twiston-Davis, based 30 miles from the course at Naunton in Gloucestershire chose not to take the conventional route of travelling in his lorry to Pitchcroft, but instead donned his bicycle clips and headed out on a two and a quarter hour ride to witness his Better Days win the final race of the evening on 27th May.  History relates that Twiston-Davies and his bicycle returned to the yard in the comfort of the lorry. 

We also learned this week that Carrigkerry, winner of a handicap hurdle on 19th May was stripped of that win after an inquiry at BHA headquarters was held following an objection raised by Graeme McPherson QC, trainer of the second place Charlie Cook.  The objection centred around the fact that the rules state a horse must be in the care of a trainer for 14 days prior to a run.  Unfortunately, Carrigkerry had run in a hunter chase at Newton Abbott, trained by Charlotte Fuller on 5th May and only went into training with Jamie Snowdon on the 6th.

On a lighter note, this week’s ‘Scores on the Doors’ show that Sam Twiston-Davies is 12 points ahead of Richard Johnson, and the local Troubled Pink Partnership (Thoonavolla) are tying for first place with John Nicholls (Myroundorurs) in the owner’s table. Nicky Henderson and Philip Hobbs share the week’s top spot for trainer’s honours.

Free pony rides for young racegoers top the bill at the Father’s Day Family Fun raceday on Sunday when the gates open at 12.20pm and the first race is due off at 2.20pm.