Don’t miss Fontwell’s National Spirit Hurdle race

One race meeting not to be missed is that which features the £80,000 National Spirit Hurdle race at Fontwell Park, this coming Sunday, February 24.

This race at Fontwell Park always attracts top class horses and is one of the historic races featured on the annual calendar.

This will be the 54th running of the popular race, which is named after the dual Champion Hurdle Winner National Spirit. The horse was a regular runner at Fontwell Park in the 1940’s.

Salmon Spray, a top class horse of his time, won the inaugural running of the race and went on to  win the 1965, 1966 and 1967 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the 1964,  1967, and 1968 Schweppes Gold Trophy Hurdle.

2016 National Spirit winner Lil Rockerfeller trained by Neil King and ridden by Trevor Whelan
Photo Jeannie Knight

Today the race is widely regarded as a trial for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Fontwell has been a good track for subsequent notable winners of the race, for  Comedy of Errors went on to win the Champion Hurdle twice while in 2001 Baracouda won the race before going on to win two World Hurdle crowns for  French trainer, Francois Doumen.

A similar feat was achieved  by trainer Alan King  in 2006 when he sent out My Way De Solzen to success in The National Spirit before lifting the World Hurdle crown the following month.

Old Guard , trained by Paul Nicholls, with  Harry Cobden up, coming home to win the National Spirit Hurdle Race last year

Lough Derg won back-to-back renewals of The National Spirit Hurdle for David Pipe in 2008 and 2009 while Paul Nicholls has won three of the last five renewals of this top class race with Celestial Halo in 2011, Prospect Wells in 2013 and Old Guard in 2018.

Also Vagador, trained at Coombelands Racing Stables by Guy Harwood won The National Spirit Hurdle twice- in 1988 and  in 1990.

Sunday is a day of racing not to be missed at Fontwell Park.


£50,000 prize money on offer at next Plumpton raceday

PLUMPTON Racecourse is staging what is expected to be one of the most competitive racedays of its season on Monday February 25, with more than £50,000 prize money on offer.

Plumpton offers top class jump racing
Photo: Jeannie Knight

The feature race is an extremely competitive Class Three handicap hurdle, last year won by the Gary Moore-trained Not Never, which recently went on to win a very competitive 0-140 Class Three handicap hurdle at Fontwell Park.

Not Never was impressive when trotting up in the 2018 R.A.B.I/Joan Collison Memorial Handicap Hurdle at Plumpton. Then six-years-old, he followed up his course-and-distance success at the track in January with an authoritative performance.

Jamie Moore with his father, trainer Gary Moore
Photo: Jeannie Knight

Jamie Moore was in the saddle and took the 5-4 favourite into the lead after the third-last flight and Not Never strode away to win by 16 lengths from Jumping Jack.

The Moore family is in good form and will no doubt have some competitive entries at this popular meeting where the first race is at 2pm and the last at 5.15pm.

Good racing is guaranteed at this popular racetrack, which has train services with a stop on the outer edge of the racecourse, while there are good parking facilities.

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) is also being welcomed at Plumpton for the day. This organisation looks after people from the farming industry of all ages and in all sorts of circumstances so well. This day is a big fund raiser for them too, and gives the chance for a closer look at what they do and how you can help.

Admission tickets start at just £13 when booked in advance.

There still some availability in the Paddock Restaurant either by booking on line or through the office on 01273 890383. Advanced admission tickets start at just £13 when booked in advance.

New chairman for Equestrian Safety Group

The Equestrian Safety Group (ESG) is a group of representatives from a variety of organisations across the equine industry.

The group was formed in 2017 as an opportunity to provide a forum for discussion on and investigation into safety matters within the equestrian industry.

During the first meeting of 2019  a new Interim Chair was elected, Andrew Chadwick, representing British Eventing Organisers Association.

Andrew Chadwick     Photograph courtesy of British Horse Society

Andrew takes over from Clare Gabriel who founded the committee. The group has identified trailer and towing safety as a top priority for the focus of 2019.

They will be offering their support to the work currently being carried out by The British Horse Society on this subject.

Competitive racing at Fontwell Park

INVICTA Lake, trained by Suzy Smith at Lewes, scored his first victory over fences at Fontwell Park yesterday in fine style.

The 12-year-old bay gelding, ridden by Paddy Brennan, had been placed twice previously over the larger obstacles but this time won decisively, beating 13-8 favourite Sartorial Elegance by 15 lengths. Invicta Lake should go on to win again over fences.

Invicta Lake following a previous victory, with owners Bernard and Jan Wolford, jockey Paddy Brennan, trainer Suzy Smith and assistant trainer Sergio Gordon-Watson Photo Jeannie Knight

His past career over hurdles had been impressive with five wins and ten places to his credit.

It was double for rider Paddy Brennan, for he had won the opening race of the day, a handicap hurdle over two miles three furlongs, on board 16-1 shot Ted Bach for Paul Henderson, who trains at Whitsbury in Hampshire.

Trainer Paul Henderson

Ted Bach plugged on for a narrow half-length victory from the Sheena West-trained Fading Icon, sent off at 20-1 under Marc Goldstein.  Amzac Magic, the 2-1 favourite, trained by Jack Barber finished in  third place.

Paddy Brennan and Ted Bach on the way to victory: Photo courtesy of Fontwell Park

Four-year-old Christopher Wood had joined trainer Paul Nicholls this term, after previously racing on the flat and came good when winning the two miles one furlong hurdle race,  by a seven length margin under a good ride from Harry Cobden.

Horsham trainer Gary Moore’s patient training reaped a good result with promising eight-year-old Le Capricieux at this meeting. This smart bay gelding, owned by himself and Mr A Forman  had previously run over hurdles, until switched to fences this season.

Le Capricieux and Jamie Moore en route to victory
Photo: Fontwell Park Racecourse

At Fontwell, under a good ride from Jamie Moore, Le Capricieux won impressively by nine lengths from The Mighty Ash, trained in Dorset by Fiona Shaw. Le Capricieux should turn into a smart chaser.



Good day’s racing at Plumpton

Racing resumed in fine style over jumps at Plumpton on Wednesday when chief executive of the track, Dan Thompson reported attendance of almost 1,200 and said the outcome on the day had been a decent crowd.

Jockey Tom Scudamore spoke out, reflecting the views of many others when he referred to the original close-down, saying he liked the clarity the BHA had given at the beginning, but there were a few grey areas as they now started the return of racing.

The meeting opened with a good victory by Acey Milan for trainer Anthony Honeyball and jockey Aidan Coleman in the two mile handicap hurdle. They snatched the lead in the closing stages to win by half a length from The Flying Sofa, trained by Gary Moore and ridden by his son Jamie.

Winner Acey Milan with jockey Aidan Coleman, trainer Anthony Honeyball and connections Photo: Jeannie Knight

Just three runners went to the post for the Novices Limited Handicap Chase over two miles three and a half furlongs. Again Gary Moore had to settle for runner-up spot when his runner, All Currencies, ridden by son Joshua Moore, was beaten by one and a half lengths. Winner Good Man Pat, trained by Alan King and ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, justified his starting price as 5-6 favourite. There should be more wins to come with this six-year-old gelding, who was having only his second outing over fences.


Winner Good Man Pat with trainer Alan King and jockey Wayne Hutchinson
Photo: Jeannie Knight

There was a close finish in the two mile four furlong handicap hurdle when trainer David Pipe’s French-bred runner, Duc de Beauchene came home just  one length ahead of runner-up 7-1 shot Mr Jack, trained by Lynda Jewell.

Trainer Seamus Mullins sprang a surprise in the two mile one furlong handicap chase when Miquus, a 22-1 shot trained by Seamus Mullins and ridden by James Best  beat 40-1 shot Away For The Slates, trained in Wiltshire by trainer Milton Harris and ridden  by Kevin Jones,  by half a length.

There was a Sussex-trained winner in the handicap hurdle over three miles one furlong, when Suzy Smith sent out 9-2 shot Little Boy Boru at 9-2 to beat  David Pipe’s Three-Star General by a length. There was a lot to like about Little Boy Boru and he should go on to win again.

The Conditional Jockeys Mares’ Handicap Hurdle was won by Hope’s Wishes at 11-4, ridden by Jordan Naylor and trained  by Barry Brennan.

The next raceday at Plumpton is on Monday February 25 when the first race will be at 2pm.




RDA report on impact of volunteering

Following a survey of 1,629 volunteers, RDA has marked its 50thanniversary by launching a report on the impact of volunteering on health and wellbeing and the benefits for both RDA participants and the volunteers.

The report was presented at a recent Parliamentary Reception at Westminster, hosted by MP for Cheltenham, Alex Chalk on Wednesday. The charity called on the government to recognise the dual benefit that volunteering brings.

Local volunteer, Judi Singer was severely agoraphobic, but having been a horse rider, she joined her local RDA Group, Cranleigh in Surrey. She felt it would help her change her life – and it did.

Judy Singer presents award to fellow volunteer
Photo: Joanna Sale

She recalled:“To start I was only happy leading at the horse’s shoulder, not talking to anyone. But through the kindness and understanding of my colleagues, I started to progress and became able to join in the fun that everyone was having.

“Through the RDA volunteers’ non-judgmental understanding I am now able to go anywhere, speak to anyone, chair meetings and even speak in public”.

Judi Singer, second from right, with fellow RDA volunteers Photo: Joanna Sale

RDA’s 18,000 amazing volunteers contribute more than three million hours of their time each year and are the backbone of the organisation’s success. According to the report, 96 per cent of these volunteers said that RDA had improved their overall satisfaction with life, and 81 per cent said that volunteering makes them feel better about themselves.

RDA and its horses benefit the lives of 25,600 disabled children and adults through its 500 groups across the UK. Volunteers form an integral part in helping to transform the lives of those they help, whilst as the report acknowledges having a measurable impact on their own lives.

As RDA celebrates its 50th anniversary, there is still much to do to increase the number of people who can benefit from their work and so they have developed three calls to action to deliver its future plans and meet the ever-increasing demand for its services:

  • Government to recognise that volunteering for RDA delivers dual benefit for both the community and the individual volunteer and also contributes to tackling loneliness, and improving mental and physical health.
  • Local government and appropriate agencies, such as Clinical Commissioning Groups and local GP’s to signpost and refer volunteering opportunities through social prescribing, for volunteers to work with RDA.
  • Existing and new funding partners to support RDA in reaching more volunteers and enabling more people to benefit from activities.

RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher said: “The report shows clear and robust evidence that our volunteers feel more useful and better about themselves, they are more sociable and physically active and learn new skills and gained more confidence.

“With a clear sense of our future vision and direction, RDA is committed to attracting and supporting increasing numbers of volunteers.”

This vital research carried out by RDA was funded by Sport England, through the British Equestrian Federation, as part of a wider grant to support volunteer development.


Equine Hospital comments on equine ‘flu outbreak

SUSSEX EQUINE HOSPITAL  has commented on the equine ‘flu outbreak, saying:” As you are aware there is an equine flu outbreak in the UK. At the moment, seven yards have confirmed disease and further testing is underway. NO yards in Sussex, Kent or Surrey have been confirmed as affected yet.

Horses are at risk in current outbreak

“Flu can affect horses of all ages:

“Clinical signs include lethargy, coughing, nasal discharge and fever (temperatures over 38.5 degrees celsius). The disease usually resolves within 2-3 weeks with rest and supportive care in most cases but can have complications.
The virus is highly contagious and spreads rapidly between horses via nasal secretions and breathing. People can also spread the disease via contaminated clothing or equipment so hygiene is really important.

“To confirm the disease a nasal swab and blood is taken and sent to the Animal Health Trust.

“Vaccination is very important to limit the signs of infection and is the most effective tool against a large flu outbreak. Horses who have been fully vaccinated usually have no or only very mild signs. Protection against the flu virus starts to drop 6 months after vaccination so some horses can become susceptible again.

“Sussex Equine Hospital is taking part in a vaccination amnesty month. We use ProteqFlu which contains the relevant strain of flu virus.”

During February, all horses starting or re-starting their vaccination course will receive the 2nd vaccination for FREE.

Visit charges still apply. The offer is open to horses that are over 6 months of age and have not been vaccinated or those that are overdue an annual booster. The first vaccination must be booked to take place in February 2019.

Please feel free to discuss with one of the equine hospital vets if you have concerns.


All horses should be tested for equine ‘flu say experts

ALL owners have been urged to have their horses tested for equine ‘flu after the current outbreak among racehorses has been described as ‘the worst ever’ by experts.

This unexpected outbreak has caused racing to be cancelled in Britain, initially until  next Wednesday, when the situation was set to be reviewed by officials, to see if the ban needs to be extended.

But yesterday (Friday) the BHA also revealed there was another suspicious case relating to a runner on the all-weather this week, that has led to another 50-plus yards being placed in lockdown.

When will racing action return?

Also there are fears that horses outside racing could be infected if they have been in the same environment as the affected horses.

As a result all horse owners have been urged to get their animals vaccinated against equine flu as soon as possible in order to protect them, especially if they are in the same area as racehorses.

This is thought to be the worst outbreak of horse disease since foot and mouth, with racing yards closed and racing stopped after the initial confirmations of the disease.

Following three confirmed cases in racing, more horses are expected to be confirmed with the disease in the coming days. It takes 48 hours for the disease to incubate, while it can be up to three days to get the test results back.

It is now less than five weeks before the start of this year’s Cheltenham Festival – the annual highlight of the National Hunt calendar, and this  event could be under threat if there is any escalation in the numbers of racehorses affected by the disease.


BEF monitors outbreak of equine influenza

Following British Horseracing’s decision to cancel all racing yesterday following the outbreak of equine ‘flu,the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is closely monitoring the situation.

Veterinary experts have advised that it is not necessary to cancel other equine events at this time, but will issue a further update once the full extent of the outbreak is known.

In the meantime, it is recommend that all horse owners follow the guidelines below as a precaution and ensure that all vaccinations are fully up to date. If your horse is currently vaccinated, we recommend a booster if it has been longer than six months since your horse’s last vaccination.

Horse receiving an equine flu vaccine
Photo courtesy of John Simpson

Mandatory vaccination of racehorses was introduced by the Jockey Club in 1981 following an outbreak in 1979 which caused widespread disruption. A further outbreak occurred in 1989 in which vaccinated horses were not protected. The most major recent outbreak was in 2003 when more than 1,000 horses were affected in 21 yards in Newmarket. However, racing continued during that outbreak.

It is crucial for all horse and pony owners to be vigilant and follow recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease.

Look out for signs of disease which can include high temperature, cough, snotty nose, enlarged glands (under the lower jaw), swollen or sore eyes, depression, loss of appetite and swelling in the lower legs.

If you see any of these signs, isolate the horse and call your vet immediately.

It is essential that any horses showing signs of possible equine flu, or horses that might have been in contact with possibly infected horses, do not travel to competitions or other events where there will be groups of horses. If your horse has been in contact with an infected horse we suggest that you should take immediate veterinary advice.

We advise that horses are vaccinated with a booster for equine flu with a vaccine that contains the Florida Clade 1. There are two such vaccines currently licensed in the UK, ProteqFlu and Equilis Prequenza. If your horse is currently vaccinated, but it has been longer than 6 months since the last vaccination, we recommend that you discuss a booster with your veterinary surgeon.

The BEF also has guidance on its website regarding equine infectious diseases and is urging owners to take the necessary precautions to avoid their horses becoming infected.

Racing hit by equine ‘flu

Racing will not resume in Britain until next Wednesday at the earliest- and could go on for longer- as the BHA is in intent on containing the current outbreak of equine influenza.

Having initially cancelled all meetings in Britain on Thursday following three positive tests for the virus from the Donald McCain yard late on Wednesday evening, the blanket ban on racing has been extended for at least another six days.

A decision on whether racing can resume next Wednesday will be made by the BHA on Monday.

Brant Dunshea  Photo courtesy of Reuters

BHA chief regulatory officer Brant Dunshea addressed the situation on Thursday afternoon and said: “On balance, after fabulous collaborative feedback from trainers we felt it was important to get a message out to the industry for the purposes of clarity as quickly as possible.

“We haven’t yet received the results from the samples that have been collected from the affected yard or any of the samples we’ve collected today from the potentially exposed horses from yesterday’s fixtures.

“We know we’re not going to be in a position, given the incubation period of the disease, to make a decision about returning to racing until first thing next week at the very earliest.”

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