Racing Hub Round-up: the week’s top stories
The Racing Hub Round-up: your catch-up on the week’s top stories
Racing and Racecourses
British horseracing’s leaders have welcomed the government’s decision to allow spectators to return to sporting events in Tiers 1 and 2 in England. Horseracing has been taking place behind closed doors since 1 June with participants attending under tight restrictions including medical screening and social distancing.
Since then, racing’s stakeholders have been working with government, including public health officials, to secure the return of spectators. Pilot events with limited numbers were successfully held in September at Doncaster and Warwick, based on detailed plans developed by the Racecourse Association in consultation with public health officials.
The change to restrictions announced by the Prime Minister will now be considered by racecourses and the BHA’s medical team. Further engagement will also be required with local public health officials.
The details of the government’s new approach to tiering are not due to be announced until later in the week. Until this has been published and individual racecourses are made aware of the restrictions in their area, it will not be possible to confirm which venues will be admitting spectators.
The BHA and RCA will now be engaging with government to clarify the basis on which spectators will be allowed to attend. With the Racehorse Owners Association, they will also be considering how this will affect the current rules governing owners’ attendance. Further announcements are expected later this week. Discussion with the Scottish and Welsh governments on their plans for spectators continue.
Kempton Park’s third last fence has been burned down by arsonists.
Barney Clifford, Kempton’s clerk of the course, said: “It was a Sunday night, around midnight. We have 24-hour security but somehow, they managed to get in.
“It’s a real inconvenience, but that’s life. We’ve already put part of the frame in and the birch has now arrived. My staff are kept busy because we have so many racedays here but we’ll get to it and hopefully it’ll be built for Boxing Day.”
David Jones, the former racecourse Stewards’ Panel Chair and experienced racing industry figure, has been appointed to the Board of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in the role of Regulatory Independent Non-Executive Director.
Jones (pictured) has an in-depth knowledge of the racing industry and its racing regulation from his 10 years as a Steward and three years as a member of the Racecourse Committee at Kempton Park, as well as through previous racehorse ownerships.
He has also carried out important project work on behalf of the sport in recent years, covering topics such as the sport’s resumption and recovery from coronavirus, and the development of a new stewarding model.
David’s tenure on the BHA Board begins from 1 January. He takes over from Andrew Merriam who has served three terms on the BHA Board since 2012 and who has been involved in a number of major regulatory projects during this time.
Eoin Walsh is set to be out of action for up to three months after breaking two bones in his back after a fall at Chelmsford on Monday.
In his first ride for Godolphin, the 26-year-old was aboard the Saeed bin Suroor-trained filly Nation’s Beauty who suffered a fatal injury when breaking a leg on the home turn.
Walsh hit the surface head first and was taken to Chelmsford’s Broomfields Hospital and kept in overnight.
Lucy Alexander is back on her feet after fracturing vertebrae when kicked by a horse following a fall at Newcastle, but us facing a lengthy spell out of action.
Alexander was on Chanting Hill who fell in in a mares’ chase and had to have an operation at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.
“Lucy is in good spirits, considering,” said her father, trainer Nick Alexander. “To think she should be back here keeping me on my toes in that short a time frame is an excellent result.
“She was very unlucky to get kicked by the horse from behind. There was no spinal damage at all, thank goodness, but she’s fractured some vertebrae in her back and had rods put in to stabilise them.”
Horses and Races
Epatante is set for her seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday, with trainer Nicky Henderson saying: “I think she’s pretty versatile ground-wise, but by and large we all want good ground for these races – it just makes for better racing. She’s a speedy filly and good ground will be ideal.
“She went to the Gerry Feilden at Newbury on the same weekend last year and won that off a mark of 137. It was a big jump up for the Christmas Hurdle, but it proved to be a very good call.
“We didn’t run her again until the Champion Hurdle and she obviously didn’t run afterwards as that was the end of the season.
“She had a gallop at Newbury last week and did her last piece of work this morning, which went very well. All her serious work is done.”
It’s the first race for the JP McManus-owned mare since she won the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, beating Sharjah by three-lengths.
Aidan Coleman will take the ride and Epatante is 4/7 with Paddy Power to give Henderson his sixth Flying Fifth victory.
Envoi Allen (pictured), owned by Chevely Park Stud, stands out among the seven horses remaining in the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Drinmore Novice Chase, at Fairyhouse on Sunday, a race his trainer Gordon Elliott has already won on five occasions.
Owners Gigginstown House Stud might well provide the stiffest opposition for the unbeaten six-year-old with four contenders, Embittered, Easywork, Assemble and Coko Beach with the JP McManus-owned Andy Dufresne and Sean O’Driscoll’s hat-trick seeker Home By The Lee also standing their ground.
Honeysuckle makes her eagerly awaited return to action in the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, a race she won a year ago on the way to Irish Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Festival success for owner Kenny Alexander, trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore.
A five-time winner at Fairyhouse, she heads the nine remaining entries in the race with Gordon Elliott’s Fury Road, the Willie Mullins-trained Saldier, Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge and the Matthew Smith-trained Ronald Pump among the opposition.
Ballyadam, Gordon Elliott’s Down Royal winner is in line to clash with Willie Mullins’ Cheltenham Festival scorer Concertista and N’golo in a cracking renewal of the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Royal Bond Novice Hurdle. Cask Mate, owned by the High Spirits Racing Club, is set to take his chance for Noel Meade while the Ted Walsh-trained Dewcup, owned by Michael Ryan, and de Bromhead’s Annexation, running in the colours of the South Ros Racing Syndicate, also feature among the 11 entries.
Bristol De Mai is to be given a rest after winning his third Betfair Chase and will not run again before Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase in January.
Kingswell Theatre, the 22/1 winner of the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap Chase earlier this month is set to run at Cheltenham next month provided the found is suitable.
Trainer Michael Scudamore said: “He seems to have come back in such good form in himself, we’ll give him an entry in the December race at Cheltenham and see what the ground is like.
“If it came up soft, I think we’d probably swerve it, but if it was good to soft or better, I’d imagine he’ll take his chance, all being well. As I say, he seems in such good form in himself, it would seem a shame to stop while he’s still so happy and well.”
Laurina has been retired after disappointing on her first start for Paul Nicholls in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, when she was last of three.
She was unbeaten in her first six outings for Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins, including her standout win in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, when she beat Cap Soleil by 18-lengths.
The winning run ended when she was fourth in the 2019 Champion Hurdle and, while she won on her chasing debut at Gowran Park a year ago, she was then twice pulled up on her next two starts, and was then fifth of three at Punchestown.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said: “After discussions over the weekend it has been decided that after she bled again on Saturday, to retire wonderful racemare Laurina.”
Betting and Bookmakers
Betting shops can reopen from 3 December including those in Tier 3 areas where new protocols will be introduced. These will comprise the removal of chairs, a limit on the number of customers allowed entry at any one time, and no showing of live sport.
A study by the Horseracing Bettors Forum has found that Industry starting prices generated from the off-course market while racing continues behind closed doors offer poorer value about fancied horses than SPs returned from the on-course betting ring.
The Forum compared SPs in 1,000 races in Britain last month against the same period in the previous three years when bookmakers were operating on racecourses.
When racing moved behind closed doors, the Starting Price Regulatory Commission – which is responsible for the accuracy and integrity of SPs – began to sample off-course bookmakers’ prices.
Colin Hord, the chair of the HBF, said “Our SP analysis shows that punters betting the first two or three in the market will now be worse off than when SPs were derived from on-course bookmakers.
“However, those punters that bet longer-priced horses, which win less frequently, will be finding some additional returns. We will continue to review the figures, especially now that we have additional data from National Hunt racing.”
William Hill shareholders have given the green light to the £2.9 billion takeover by US casino owner Caesars.
William Hill said 86% of its shareholders voted in favour of the deal, surpassing the 75% approval rate needed to back the move.
It is understood that Caesars will dispose of the business in Britain and will drop the William Hill brand in the North American market.
FRIDAY 27 NOVEMBER (1.30 – 4.00) ITV3
1.50 LADBROKES “WHERE THE NATION PLAYS” NOVICES’ STEEPLE CHASE
2.25 GET YOUR LADBROKES £1 FREE BET TODAY HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE
3.00 LADBROKES LONG DISTANCE HURDLE RACE (Grade 2)
3.35 LADBROKES HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 2)
SATURDAY 28 NOVEMBER (1.30 – 400) ITV
1.50 GET YOUR LADBROKES £1 FREE BET TODAY HANDICAP HURDLE RACE
2.25 LADBROKES GERRY FEILDEN INTERMEDIATE HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (Listed Race)
3.00 LADBROKES TROPHY STEEPLE CHASE (HANDICAP) (Grade 3)
3.5 LADBROKES HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 2) (For the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy)
2.05 BETFAIR FIGHTING FIFTH HURDLE RACE (Grade 1)
3.15 BETFAIR REHEARSAL HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (Listed Race)