We are delighted to be welcoming owners, trainers and jockeys, our annual members and racegoers back to Pitchcroft tomorrow for the start of what promises to be another action packed, National Hunt racing season.
We are also looking forward to welcoming students from Worcester University for our inaugural Student’s Day.
The course has wintered well, having been blessed with a flood free spell. The turf has flourished and the staff have been able to concentrate on what we do best – preparing for the season ahead.
In March, the Worcester annual Members were invited to David Dennis’s yard at Hanley Swan. We were warmly welcomed by David, his wife Kate and the yard’s Racing Club manager, Martin Higgs. The members turned out in force and enjoyed watching horses working firstly on the round gallop, followed by exercise in the equine pool. A tour of the highly impressive, new 50 stable block was next on the agenda, and refreshments rounded off a fascinating and enjoyable morning. Worcester is Dennis’s closest course and we look forward to seeing some of the horses we met run at Pitchcroft over the coming months.
We are excited to be announcing a new hurdle series that will be run over the summer at Worcester, in conjunction with our racecourse at Southwell. Generously sponsored by Malvern based 7bets4free.com, the Fixed Brush Hurdle Series comprises 42 races, 28 qualifyers at Worcester and 13 at Southwell, culminating in a £25,000 final at Worcester on 25th October.
The races will be a combination of juvenile, maiden and novice hurdles and the intention is to support horses at the grass roots of the sport. Horses finishing in the first 8 of the qualifying races will be eligible for the final.
At the start of the season the thought always crosses my mind as to which horse or horses will find Worcester a springboard to the bigger National Hunt stage later in the year. Recently, Ballyandy was a case in point, and the horse I shall remember from last season is Paul Nicholls’ San Benedeto.
The horse won a 2m 4f, class 4 novice chase at Pitchcroft last June as a 5 year old. Finding his preferred 2 mile trip, he has progressed ever since culminating in a grade 1 novice chase victory at the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April.
Most recently, he came a very respectable third behind this year’s Cheltenham Festival Arkle winner, Altior and the Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, Special Tiara at the concluding 2016/2017 jumps season meeting at Sandown. He was beaten by just 12 and a half lengths. San Benedeto’s prize money earnings now total an impressive £213,000 and his rating has gone up from 144 when he ran at Worcester last summer, to 163.
At six day stage, there were 145 entries for tomorrow’s meeting. As the gates open at 12.15pm and we welcome racegoers for what will be my 17th season at the racecourse, I wonder which horse will go on to be the ‘San Benedeto’ of this year?