When the gates open tomorrow at 11.50am for the 2018 summer jumping season at Worcester Racecourse, they will bring the curtain up on a very historic year. As one of Britain’s oldest racecourses, racing will have been taking place at Pitchcroft, on the banks of the river Severn for 300 years.
I feel humbled to be a small part of the immensely colourful history that has unfolded through the 300 years since 1718. I also feel it is important that as a city, we recognise and celebrate not only the past, but also the present, and in so doing, we toast the future of this prominent landmark in the heart of Worcester.
We are looking forward to the 300th Anniversary raceday on 4th July, and in particular to the feature race, which will see the resurrection of the famous Worcester Grand Annual Steeple Chase, formerly run at the course between 1836 and 1933.
Acclaimed racing author and journalist, Chris Pitt has recently written a fascinating book capturing many stories about the events and racing that have been staged at the course over the years. ‘Pitchcroft, 300 Years of Racing in Worcester’ will be officially launched at the meeting tomorrow, and Pitt will be on hand to speak to racegoers during the afternoon.
At Worcester, we keenly support the grass roots of National Hunt racing. I am delighted that 7bets4free.com have again sponsored the Fixed Brush Hurdle Summer Series this year, offering opportunities for maiden and novice hurdlers to compete for a £30,000 final in October. This will be Worcester Racecourse’s richest ever race.
The final of last year’s contest went to the Ian Williams trained, Psychedelic Rock, with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Arthur’s Gift behind in second place. Arthur’s Gift returned to the course in November, going one better and winning the Worcester News handicap hurdle.
Interestingly, both Psychedelic Rock and Arthur’s Gift appeared in the same Class 2 handicap hurdle at Market Rasen in December, when Arthur’s Gift turned the tables and beat Psychedelic Rock by one and three quarter lengths.
Arthur’s Gift went on to win another handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in December, bringing his earnings to an impressive £42,000.
Two other novices who ran in the Fixed Brush Hurdle Series final were Old Harry Rocks and Robin the Raven. Both horses went on to win their next races in November at Leicester and Ludlow respectively.
We wait with anticipation to see which horses’ careers will be boosted by the new series.
The leading trainer competition for 2018 has a new sponsor in Hazelton Mountford Equine Insurance.Last season’s title went to Jonjo O’Neill, with Dan Skelton and Philip Hobbs both close behind.
Richard Johnson ran away with the Cheltenham and Three Counties Race Club jockey’s title in 2017.Aiden Coleman finished runner up, and tying for third place were Sam Twiston-Davies and Harry Skelton.The Race Club have kindly sponsored the contest again in 2018.
With the track in great shape having enjoyed a 6 month break from racing, we are eager to welcome racegoers and the students of Worcester University for a great day’s racing tomorrow.