MONDAY’S crowd may not have been the largest ever seen at Warwick Racecourse, but its significance for the racing industry could be far bigger than its size when the government finally allows the public back to watch live sport, writes David Hucker.
This was the second of three planned trial meetings aimed at facilitating the return of crowds to racecourses on 1st October, but the government announced the next day that there would be a delay in opening up sporting venues, possibly for six months, a move described by the British Horseracing Authority as “a serious blow to the horseracing industry”.
On a glorious autumn afternoon, it was the mare Especially So who got proceedings under way for the first meeting at the course since March when landing the opening Wigley Group Novices’ Hurdle at odds of 66-1.
Taking over from leader Balagan on the home turn, she fought off the challenges of Perfect Predator and The Triple Pillar on the run-in to score by a neck and land a first winner of the season for Devon trainer Kayley Woolacott.
Woolacott was to strike again with another big-priced winner in the closing long-distance Get Daily Tips At racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle, this time with 25-1 shot Tipalong Tyler who led at the penultimate flight and ran right away from her 16 rivals under amateur Josh Newman.
There was drama in the Join Racing Now Novices’ Handicap Chase as the saddle on Kitty’s Light started to slip approaching the final fence and, after surging past Rosserk Abbey and long-time leader Blue N Yellow on the run-in, it finally gave way just after the winning line giving jockey Jack Tudor a nasty fall.
Fortunately Kitty’s Light was quickly caught and, with Tudor back on his feet, they were reunited in time to weigh in to give trainer Christian Williams his third success of the season.
The Biffa Waste Services Novices’ Handicap Hurdle was divided into two and it was 11-1 shot Tayzar, having his first run since wind surgery, who came fast and late along the stand rail with Theo Gillard to win the first division for Yorkshire trainer Ruth Jefferson, who is now 2-2 with her runners at the course.
Former Coventry City striker Mick Quinn who, like fellow professional Mick Channon is now well into a second career as a racehorse trainer, took the second division with Pink Sheets, who had too much speed for Commander Miller on the run-in.
Fergal O’Brien has sent out a regular stream of winners since racing resumed in July, with Templepark contributing two of the 27 wins chalked up by the table-topping Gloucestershire trainer.
Ridden, as usual, by Max Kendrick, Templepark added to his and O’Brien’s record in the feature racingtv.com Handicap Chase, racing clear on the run-in to easily brush aside the Dan Skelton trained Monsieur d’Arque by seven lengths.
Adrian Heskin has a 31 per cent strike rate for the season, riding as retained jockey to the McNeill Family, and he was on the mark again with 10-1 shot Outonpatrol in the Agetur UK Handicap Hurdle.
Minella Mojo, who had been prominent throughout, led into the straight, but was facing challengers on all sides as the runners came to the final flight with Outonpatrol and Red Nika fighting out the finish with just half a length between them at the line.
Leading owner J P McManus was on the scoresheet when Go As You Please, trained at Mollington by Paul Webber, went past Getawaytonewbay between the last two fences and readily held off the challenge of Cybalko in the Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Chase.
Tuesday’s meeting behind closed doors was a much quieter affair, although that wouldn’t have worried former champion jockey Richard Johnson or the up and coming Jonjo O’Neill Jnr, who were both in double-winning form.
Johnson kicked off with an armchair ride aboard red-hot favourite Let The Heirs Walk on the first division of the Visit racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle and followed up in the second when making all the running on Stratford winner Grey Spirit for Wilmcote trainer Olly Murphy.
O’Neill Jnr was on the mark with Present Chief before scoring on Young Wolf in the day’s feature race, the Class3 Watch On Racing TV Handicap Chase.
There is racing at the course again next Thursday, 1st October, with a seven-race card starting at 1.10pm.