The 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
Grandstand tickets for Sandown’s Tingle Creek fixture on Saturday sold out in 16 minutes when they went on sale last week. A crowd of up to 2,000 is permitted at the Surrey track, made up of those successful with their ticket applications, plus those annual members who took up ticket options.
Ludlow imposed a maximum of 600 tickets on the first day that racegoers can return to tracks, whilst Lingfield do not expect to reach the 2,000 limit.
Chepstow are unlikely to be able to offer admission to their fixture on Saturday, with separate rules in operation in Wales but are in talks with officials and hoping that they can admit racegoers to the Welsh Grand National meeting on 27 December.
Cheltenham is to hold a ballot among its 8,000 annual members who have been asked to indicate the days they wish to attend of the 11 and 12 December meeting.
Anyone living in England’s Tier 3 is unable to attend sporting events.
A campaign to make everyone feel welcome in racing regardless of their sexuality has been launched by Great British Racing on behalf of the industry. ‘Racing is Everyone’s Sport’ aims to encourage and champion the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people, and represents racing’s support of the LGBT charity Stonewall’s annual Rainbow Laces campaign, which began in 2013.
The campaign has been backed by prolific Flat trainer Mick Appleby and Classic-winning jockey Tom Marquand. All jockeys riding at Aintree, Sandown and Wolverhampton on Saturday will be encouraged to wear rainbow armbands, while pin badges sporting the design will be available for staff and spectators at the courses.
Appleby, who is gay, has taken part in a video produced by GBR to share his experiences alongside ex-jockey Victoria Smith, work rider Christopher Williams and Di Farrell-Thomas, an owner who works for the British Racing School.
He said: “Racing in general is very welcoming and open to everyone, no matter what gender you are or who you identify as.
“I always try to be open, and all my staff know that. Racing is like a family; happy staff means happy horses.
“To anyone who is afraid to be open about who they are and their sexuality, don’t be afraid, just be who you are.”
Tom Marquand said: “We’re a big industry with a lot of people involved and with that brings a diverse range of people. I think it’s essential that everyone feels welcome and it’s something racing has tried very hard to do over the last few years.”
The Premier League and Premiership Rugby are other sporting organisations to support Stonewall’s efforts, which have been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic.
David Letts, a member of the Diversity in Racing Steering Group, said: “Research demonstrates that minority groups have been disproportionately affected during the crisis. As such, racing should be proud of the significant progress it has made to promote LGBT+ inclusion.
“The sport’s recently launched LGBT+ network, Racing With Pride, has been a great example of this work which has already proved most valuable to the industry’s LGBT+ community and allies.”
Jump jockey Danny Cook has put on hold his riding comeback due to problems with his eyesight after incurring multiple facial injuries suffered in a fall at Market Races.
Jump jockey Cook resumed riding last weekend after the fall in October where the injuries he incurred included a fractured eye socket. He needed 50 stitches when trodden on by a horse.
However, he gave up his rides at Carlisle on Sunday and is to consult his specialist in an attempt to cure the eyesight issue.
Cook said: “I’ve been having trouble with my eyesight since I’ve been back riding. I’m going to see the specialist and try to get something sorted.”
Tom Marquand has overtaken his best annual count of winners in Britain when Companionship, owned by the Queen and trained by William Haggas, won at Chelmsford on Friday night.
His haul for 2019 was 136 and he rode 100 winners for the first time the year before.
Marquand said: “Every year beating my previous year’s tally is my biggest goal and to do it in the Queen’s colours was a bonus. Thanks to everyone who has supported me in what has been an incredible year.”
Jockey Oisin Murphy has been banned for three months by French racing authority France Galop following a positive urine test for metabolites of cocaine.
He could have been looking at a six-month ban but the stewards took into account evidence from a hair test and Murphy’s testament that he was contaminated after having sex with a person, whom Murphy refused to identify, who it was later discovered was a cocaine user.
The dual champion jockey, who can appeal against the decision, will be suspended from 11 December to 21 March 2 inclusive, and France Galop will expect the ban to be reciprocated in other racing jurisdictions including Britain and Ireland.
Murphy commissioned hair samples at a private laboratory on 19 August, one day after he was informed of the positive test taken after he rode The Lir Jet at Chantilly on 19 July. Murphy went public in October about the positive test although he would have been granted anonymity by France Galop.
The 25-year-old duel champion jockey has strenuously denied taking any banned substance.
Jockey Hollie Doyle, who won The 2020 Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year, has been nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
On receiving the Sunday Times award, Doyle, 24, told Sky Sports: “I was pretty shocked. I was delighted to even get nominated.
“When I saw the other competitors, I was up against I thought that was a privilege in itself. When I was called the winner, I was blown away really. It’s just massive.
“I’m really pleased for the racing industry and as jockeys, we’re being seen as sportspeople now because we really are and it needs to be going that way.
“Racing can be in its own little bubble as such, so it’s really good to open the door to a wider audience maybe.”
Writing in The Sunday Times, Brough Scott said: “Let’s be clear about this. Hollie Doyle, the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year is not only an exceptional woman jockey, she’s a quite exceptional jockey.
“She is a five-foot phenomenon who has changed her whole body shape and is setting new standards in the only athletic sport where women compete on level terms with men.”
He added “If luck doesn’t do the dirty, the records for Doyle have only just begun.”
The winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2020 will be announced on Sunday, 20 December, to be broadcast on BBC1.
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Twenty-three-year-old jockey Nathan Evans was banned for six months at a disciplinary panel hearing last week after testing positive for metabolites of cocaine in the summer.
He admitted the offence and told the panel he had taken the drug two days before failing a test at York on 20 August, calling it an act of “silliness” at a time when he was drinking “quite a lot” as “things hadn’t been going my way”.
Evans was represented by lawyer Rory Mac Neice, who said: “Mr Evans accepts that he is in breach. He has made full admissions, he did so at the first opportunity.
“The background behind the commission of this offence is, I am afraid, all too familiar. It speaks to the pressures of riders, the isolation of riders, the fact that ultimately – almost uniquely – jockeys are engaged in a profession where they lose in nearly everything they do.
“Even the very best jockeys only win 20-25 per cent of the races they ride in. The vast majority of riders have a winning percentage in single digits. It is a tough way to earn a living. It is an isolating way to earn a living. It is not a team game.”
Horses and Races
The Grade 1 Matchbook Betting Exchange Faugheen Novice Chase at Limerick on 26 December has been supported by 31 top-notch entries.
The race has been renamed to honour the mighty 11-time Grade 1 winner Faugheen (pictured) who brought the house down with a terrific display to win last year.
His trainer Willie Mullins has made 14 entries, an enviable team that includes Monkfish, Blackbow, Asterion Forlonge, Janidil, Klassical Dream and Colreevy.
Gordon Elliott won the inaugural running of this race as a Grade 1 in 2018 with Hardline and Envoi Allen, Easywork, Andy Dufresne and Pencilfulloflead are among his entry of six.
Successful in a beginners’ chase at Limerick in October, Home By The Lee features among Joseph O’Brien’s four entries, while Eleazar Des Neiges, the winner of a maiden hurdle at last year’s Limerick Christmas Festival is one of two entries from Henry de Bromhead.
The Conditional is being lined up for the Dave Dawes Silver Cup at Ascot next month.
The David Bridgwater-trained eight-year-old, who won the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, was third in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, the second consecutive year he’s been placed.
With the Grand National a longer-term objective, Bridgewater said of his Newbury run: “It was a good effort – almost a career-best, for the time being anyway,”
“He was running against good horses who were hard fit, and we’d just had some minor problems – nothing serious, but things that stopped him cantering for a week, which catches up with you in these races.
“He jumped the ditch, and Brendan just felt him go, and he had he blow, but he kept going. I even thought at the second last we were going to win.”
Min is seeking a hat-trick of wins in Sunday’s 2m4f John Durkan Punchestown Memorial Chase.
The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old, who won the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, will face 10 rivals.
He is one of five entries for Mullins, along with fellow Rich Ricci-owned runner Chacun Pour Soi, Allaho owned by The Cheveley Park, Melon and Tornado Flyer.
Samcro could be a runner for Gordon Elliott together with Battleoverdoyen.
There could also be two in the race for Joseph O’Brien with Le Richebourg and Mortal.
Henry de Bromhead is set to be represented by Chris’s Dream and Noel Meade’s Tout Est Permis is another possible candidate.
Allaho, Chacun Pour Soi, Le Richebourg and Melon are also entered on Sunday in Cork’s Grade 2 Kerry Group Hilly Way Steeplechase, over an extended two miles.
Potters Corner will not be defending his Welsh Grand National title and instead is being aimed at the cross-country chases at Cheltenham before heading to the Grand National at Aintree.
The 10-year-Old, who was third on his first run over Cheltenham’s cross-country course last month, will there in January and again at the Festival in March.
Trainer Christian Williams said: “I know the horse well and I know how long it took him to recover last year.
“I told the owners last year he only had a certain amount of those National-type races left in him – and with the cross-country races, they are constantly on the turn and it’s not the same endurance.
“We think he’s got a good chance at Aintree – it will suit him, and we also think he deserves to go to the Festival with a chance.
Media and Marketing
Magners will not be renewing its sponsorship of the Cheltenham Gold Cup after next year’s race.
They succeeded Timico in sponsoring the race in 2019, when the four-day highlight of the jumps season was rebranded ‘The Festival, presented by Magners’.
A Cheltenham racecourse spokesperson said: “Magners and Cheltenham entered into a partnership in 2018 which saw Magners secure the presenting partner and sponsorship rights for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Cheltenham Festival and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“Magners also had an option to extend these rights to 2022, which they will not be taking up. We understand and appreciate that the Covid-19 pandemic has implications for all businesses and sporting events.”
The Racing Post, which last month ended its sponsorship of the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, has renewed its sponsorship of the first day of Leopardstown’s Christmas festival with the day being renamed Racing Post Day.
ITV Racing achieved a peak audience of over one-million for its coverage of Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy meeting on Saturday – the third week running the million-viewer mark has been exceeded.
FRIDAY 4 DECEMBER (1.30– 4.00) ITV4
- 13:50 My Odds Boost on Betfair Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m 4f
- 14:25 Ballymore Winter Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 4f
- 15:00 Petermps Handicap Hurdle 2m 7 1/2f
- 15:35 Listen to Weighed In Podcast on Betfair Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f
- 14:05 Download Tote Placepot App Novices’ Chase 2m 3f
- 14:40 tote.co.uk Home of the Placepot Handicap Chase 2m 3f
- 15:15 Haldon Hill Handicap Chase 3m 6 1/2f
SATURDAY 5 DECEMBER (1.15– 4.00) ITV4
- 13:50 Planteur at Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m
- 14:25 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1) 2m
- 15:00 Betfair Exchange Back and Lay London National (Handicap Chase) 3m 4 1/2f
- 15:35 Betfair Exchange December Handicap Hurdle (Listed) 2m
- 13:30 William Hill Becher Chase (Handicap) 3m 3f
- 14:05 William Hill Best Odds Guaranteed Fillies Juvenile Hurdle (Listed) 2m
- 14:40 William Hill Many Clouds Chase (Grade 2) 3m 1f
- 15:15 William Hill Grand Sefton Handicap Chase 2m 5f
SUNDAY 6DECEMBER (1.00 – 4.00) ITV4
- 13:10 Voler La Vadette Novices’ Hurdle (Listed) 2m 3 1/2f
- 13:40 John Durkan Memorial Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f
13:25 Hilly Way Chase (Grade 2) 2m
- 13:50 Fitzdares Novices’ Chase 3m
- 14:25 Fitzdares Peterborough Chase (Grade 2) 2m 4f
- 15:05 Drink Horse’s Neck Martini Responsibly Handicap Hurdle 2m
- 15:35 Fotzdares Salutes Henrietta Knight National Hunt Flat Race (Listed) 2m
- 14:45 Mrs Ivan Straker Paris Pike Novices’ Chase 3m
- 15:20 Persimmon Homes Scottish National (Handicap Chase) 4m