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Thursday, October 11, 2007



Racegoers visiting Wetherby on Wednesday, October 17, when the new 2007/08 season gets underway with a quality card in aid of Spinal Research, will benefit from new facilities and see a different configuration of the course.

Yorkshire’s sole jumps-only racecourse has undergone major redevelopment works, both on and off the track. Due to the widening of the A1, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course James Sanderson has been forced to make major changes to the course.

He explained: "A compulsory purchase order took out our entire home bend, meaning the configuration of the course had to be addressed. We have been working with the Highways Agency over the last three years to make sure we could continue racing uninterrupted."

The dual phase track realignment project has been carried out over the past two summers, and racing has continued as normal. The water-jump is the only casualty of the new course layout, and this has been converted into a plain fence.

The open ditch in the home straight has also moved closer to the stands, as has the final fence. A circuit of the new track is now about a mile and a half, which is roughly half-a-furlong shorter than the old course.

Despite the recent developments, Sanderson is confident that the new three-lane carriageway next to the course will provide good access.

He continued: "Every cloud has a silver lining, and one of the up-sides of the A1 widening is that the link roads to Wetherby Racecourse & Conference Centre have been improved dramatically. We’ve got a fantastic location now."

The new course was put through its paces on October 10, with local trainer Sue Smith sending five horses to exercise on the track. She was happy with the state of the ground and the new layout.

The Bingley handler commented: "The ground was riding good to firm, and I’m looking forward to having runners here in the near future. I’ve always enjoyed success at Wetherby, and it seems to be a lucky course for me."

Wetherby’s new racing, conferencing and banqueting facility, the Bramham Hall, will be available for racegoers on the season’s opening fixture. The £1.4 million construction replaces the previous Bramham Stand public facilities, and will provide racegoers with superb facilities all year round.

"Primarily, it will be a big public hall for the Paddock and Grandstand customers. But also one of the main thrusts of this development is to give us a large space in a non-racing business capacity," explained James Sanderson

"We have lots of space in the Wetherby Millennium Stand, but the Bramham Hall will add to this with a very large rectangular-shaped banqueting and conference facility, which can be divided in two if required. We can now seat up to 500 delegates together in a theatre-style arrangement for a conference or meeting," he added.

The fixture on October 17 is in aid of Spinal Research and is Wetherby’s 17th raceday for the charity. The fundraising day was set up and ran by Rachel Wright, who injured her spine in a riding accident, until her death in early 2006. The "Friends Of Rachel" now continue to support the event, and more than £250,000 has been raised for Spinal Research over the last 16 years.

The fund-raisers hope to beat last year’s total of £20,000, and will conduct raffles, auctions and collections throughout the day. JP McNamara, the jump jockey who broke his neck riding at Bangor in April, 2006, will be the charity’s guest of honour.

Joining him will be former champion jump jockey Richard Dunwoody, racehorse owner and actress Claire King, and local Wetherby businesswoman Woody Whittick, who herself sustained a spinal injury in 1998.

A few lunch tickets for the Spinal Research marquee are still available (costing £35 and including admittance badges), and can be purchased by contacting "Friends Of Rachel" via Jil Hartley on 01759 373700 or on jilly@ollies.orangehome.co.uk.

The highlight of Wednesday’s card is the skybet.com Supporting Spinal Research Bobby Renton Handicap Chase, due off at 3.45pm. The £10,000 feature race is this year run over two miles and about four furlongs.

The contest remembers the late Bobby Renton (1888-1975), a Ripon-based trainer who won the Grand National with Freebooter in 1950. He rode in his last race at Hexham aged 75, and also trained the triple Grand National winner Red Rum for the early part of the horse’s career before his retirement in 1971.

The Paul Webber-trained Full House won the race in 2005, and this year the eight-year-old gelding enjoyed success on the Flat, winning the Ascot Stakes Handicap at the Royal meeting.

The first race on the card, scheduled for 2.10pm, is the two-mile £3,000 Rachel Wright Memorial Hurdle, which is dedicated to the woman who organised this charity raceday for many years. JP McNamara and Richard Dunwoody will present a perpetual trophy to the winning jockey.

The 2.40pm contest is the New Bramham Hall for Conferences & Banqueting Handicap Chase, run over two miles and about six and a half furlongs. The £5,000 contest celebrates the completion of the new £1.4 million racing, conferencing and banqueting facility at Wetherby.

The totesport.com Handicap Hurdle is the third race of the card, due off at 3.15pm. The £8,000 two-mile contest is sponsored by the bookmaker in aid of Spinal Research.

Following the day’s feature race is the Jimmy & Jane Fitzgerald Memorial Novices Hurdle, a £4,000 event run over just under two and a half miles. Scheduled for 4.20pm, the contest is sponsored by Malton trainer Tim Fitzgerald in memory of his late parents.

Also on the card is the £5,000 Spinal Research Charity Day Beginner’s Chase, run over three miles and about two furlongs, with a start time of 4.50pm.

The day’s last race is due off at 5.20pm, and is the £3,000 bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting 2nd/3rd November Maiden Hurdle. The two-mile contest is a reminder that the highlight of Wetherby’s season is just around the corner. Tickets for the two-day meeting are already available by calling the course on 01937 582035 or online at www.wetherbyracing.co.uk


The Ucello II And Ubu III Trophy Stakes (2.20pm) is the highlight at Goodwood on Sunday, October 14, when the West Sussex track hosts its final fixture of 2007.

The two-mile race is for jump jockeys only, and is supported by the Marquesa de Moratalla, who owned both Ucello II and Ubu III. Trained by leading French handler Francois Doumen, the two chasers enjoyed great success in France, winning the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris three times between them (1993-95). Doumen was also responsible for training the Marquesa’s other star chasers, The Fellow, Algan and First Gold.

The race was first run in 1995, and was switched to October from September in 2003. Previous winning riders include Richard Hughes, who in 2000 renewed his jumps licence specifically for this unique contest.

Last year’s renewal saw the John O’Shea-trained Kanpai triumph under the guidance of Paul O’Neill. The talented five-year-old went on to win the Grade Two Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow.

Paul O’Neill is looking forward to a repeat victory this year with another John O’Shea-trained horse, Beaver, an eight-year-old gelding who was last seen running fifth to Elopement in an 11-furlong apprentice handicap at Hamilton on September 24.

O’Neill revealed today: “Beaver is a dual Listed winner in his native Australia and unfortunately he sustained a leg injury last season.

“He has run respectably over a mile, and I think the step up to two miles will suit him. He’ll have a very good chance.

“Last year’s win was my only ride on the Flat, so I’m looking forward to defending my unbeaten record! Working in Lambourn, I know a few of the Flat jockeys, and I ride out for Flat yards during the summer.”

A total of 27 horses are entered for the two-mile contest, many of who have experience over fences. Estate was a handicap hurdle winner for trainer Eoghan O’Neill at Bangor last season, while To Arms was successful in a novice hurdle at Market Rasen in June.

Noddies Way has been placed three times at Goodwood this season while the John Jenkins-trained Go Amwell is looking for a hat-trick following victories at Goodwood in the Country Park Handicap on September 16 and at Kempton. The Royston-based handler also has Domenico entered.

At The Money has enjoyed success under both codes. James Eustace’s versatile gelding triumphed in a novice hurdle at Warwick in February, having previously won a handicap over just short of two miles at the same course.

The Ucello II And Ubu III Trophy kicks-off a six-race card at Goodwood on October 14, which runs through to the Racing UK On Sky 432 Handicap (5.15pm).


Goodwood’s Clerk of the Course Seamus Buckley is hopeful that the ground will be on the soft side of good for Sunday’s meeting, despite the recent wet weather.

He said today: “We have had just over 20 millimetres of rain since Tuesday, and at the moment the ground is certainly soft. But with three to four dry days forecast, I think by Sunday the ground will be good, good to soft in places.”

Buckley is delighted at how the course had stood up to 22 days action this season, with a record number of horses having run at Goodwood. This is despite one of the wettest summers on record.

He continued: “My highlights of this season have been Frankie Dettori’s victories on Rio De La Plata in the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes and Ramonti in the BGC Sussex Stakes. I also enjoyed the wonderful Irish filly Peeping Fawn winning the Blue Square Nassau Stakes.

“But the ride of the season must go to Jamie Spencer when he won on Zidane in the Bluesqure.com Stewards’ Cup.”


The race for of the Rolls-Royce Dick Hern Award for the trainer with most winners in a season at Goodwood is still wide open ahead of Sunday’s fixture.

Sir Michael Stoute is the current leader this year with eight victories, but with no horses entered for Sunday’s card, the door is open for several other trainers.

Mick Channon has enjoyed seven victories at Goodwood this season, and the West Ilsley-based trainer has 12 entries for Goodwood’s finale. Last year’s winner, Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor also has seven triumphs to his name this year, and he has Pearl Dealer entered in the European Breeders’ Fund “Finale” Nursery (2.55pm).

Pulborough trainer Amanda Perrett has also enjoyed significant success at her local track in 2007, with six victories. She has two horses entered for Sunday’s meeting.

Other handlers who could win the prestigious award include Goodwood’s most successful current trainer, Richard Hannon, and Mark Johnston, both of who have six victories this season. With 23 entries between them on Sunday, either could walk away with the Philip Blacker-sculpted bronze trophy of Dick Hern.

The successful trainer will also be chauffeur driven to the racecourse next year in a Rolls-Royce, while the stable staff of the winning yard will receive a cheque for £1,000.

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