Great entries for Totepool National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell Park

Fontwell Park stages one of its most valuable races of the year – the Totepool National Spirit Hurdle with a total prize fund of £50,000 this Sunday February, 24. This race is aimed at progressive horses and has, in the past, attracted World Hurdle prospects such as Barracouda and My Way De Solzen en route to the Cheltenham Festival.

This year’s 13 entries include some quality campaigners, three from Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls yard – Brampour who has been third twice to current World Hurdle favourite Oscar Whisky, Dark Lover a winner already at Cheltenham in December, more recently a good fourth to My Tent Or Yours at Newbury.

He also has Prospect Wells who’s been running in high class company, his best run this season was probably when beaten just ¼ length by Zarkandar at Wincanton back in November.

Donald McCain aims to saddle Any Given Day – originally a proven flat horse now very well suited to hurdling with five wins and six seconds from 20 runs over obstacles, most recently runner up at Kelso on February 14. Alan King is represented by Smad Place the smart French Bred 5 year old aimed at the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, his form is looking promising, second in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and third to Tidal Bay in the John Smith’s Hurdle at Wetherby back in November.

Also featuring on the card, in partnership with the Tote, is a race in memory of a very special and local trainer, the (Class 2) Novice Chase for the Josh Gifford Cup. Unsurprisingly, this race has been well supported by trainers, many of whom have very fond memories of the highly successful and charismatic Sussex trainer.

Nick Gifford, son of Josh who took over training at their Findon base said, “It is particularly thoughtful of Fontwell to put on this race for Dad, it is also quite poignant that they are using a trophy that Mum won in the 1970’s in a race for amateurs known as ‘The Mad Hatters which we have photographs of her holding.”

Nick Gifford

Nick Gifford

The Gifford family will be attending Fontwell Park on Sunday to present the winning connections of the memorial race with the Josh Gifford Cup, including daughter, Olympic Gold Medallist, Tina who will be getting involved with the entertainment and demonstrations surrounding the “All About The Horse” Raceday.

Richard Rowe, local trainer and ex-stable jockey to Josh Gifford, commented, “It is great that Fontwell have put on this race in memory of Josh, Fontwell was one of his favourite tracks and where we had a lot of success.”

Rowe added, “It’s good prize money and will attract some nice types, I remember riding Captain Dawn for the Governor in a similar race at Fontwell, and he went on to win at Cheltenham”.

Racegoers on the day will be treated to a whole host of entertainment surrounding the seven races which begin at 2.10 pm. Gates open from midday with plenty to see and do prior to the racing. The Racehorse Sanctuary are bringing along some very friendly ex-racehorses for the public to meet and get up close to with experts on hand to answer questions. There will also be pony rides for the children, farrier demonstrations, a jockey’s mastermind plus more fun and family attractions.

Spectacular action promised at Britain’s largest indoor carriage driving show

Exiting action at the Carriage Driving Fair

Exiting action at the Carriage Driving Fair

BRITAIN’S largest indoor carriage driving show, the annual South of England Carriage Driving Fair organised by Brockham Harness Club, takes place at Merrist Wood Arena, Guildford again this year on April 15.

Held at the South of England Show ground for many years, the show switched to Merrist Wood last year and celebrates its 16th year when it is held at this newer venue this spring, offering carriage driving enthusiasts and newcomers to the sport the excitement of a live sporting event.

It has all the entertainment of top quality attractions and has become recognised as the start of the driving season.

There will be some superb demonstrations from top carriage drivers in the country plus spectacular and exciting displays stunt teams, as well as the chance for newcomers to the sport to learn about everything from experts.

A variety of stands will cater for all levels.

Merrist Wood has a balcony seating area overlooking the main display arena for the Carriage Driving Fair. Booking a ticket for this area will guarantee a seat for the day in a prime location.

There will also be additional seating available at ground level as well.

Online Ticket Bookings will close at Midday on Friday April 19. Tickets will be available on the gate on Sunday April 21 but are subject to availability and full payment in cash.

Book at

Don’t miss Fontwell Park’s All About The Horse Raceday

Learn about the horse at Fontwell's raceday

Learn about the horse at Fontwell’s raceday

A race meeting not to be missed is Fontwell Park’s All About The Horse Raceday on Sunday February 24.

This will be the course’s first feature meeting of 2013, and racegoers will have the opportunity to learn all about the Sport of Kings with some great entertainment themed around the racehorse.

Along with seven races, entertainment such as Meet The Racehorse, Pony Rides, a Racehorse Simulator and a Farrier demonstration will feature in the running order of the day, with a live auction raising money for the Racehorse Sanctuary in the Parade Ring after the second race.

London 2012 Olympic Silver Medallist, Tina Cook, will also be at Fontwell Park showing off her  medal and giving a live interview talking through her Cross Country round in the Team Eventing in July last year.

This will be a fitting appearance for Tina, as the second race will be run for the Josh Gifford Cup in memory of her late father, a former Champion jockey and Grand National winning trainer. Josh Gifford died in February 2012 and was a keen supporter of FontwellPark.

The feature race on the card will be the running of the totepool National Spirit Hurdle; Fontwell Park’s richest race with prize money increased from £29,000 in 2012 to £50,000 this year.


Clerk of the Course, Edward Arkell said “I’m delighted that our plans to increase the prize money for this race were passed by our board of directors. We are committed to increasing the prize money and quality of racing here at Fontwell and we have made a number of upgrades to the programme.

“We have now included a Class 3 race in most of our race programmes to create a feature race on even weekday racing.”

Advanced ticket prices start from £16 if booked in advance, and under 18s go free. To book, click

The Polo Test Match is back at Hickstead

Action at Hickstead poloPicture John Periam

Action at Hickstead polo
Picture John Periam

THE Polo Test Match is back at Hickstead in March, promising another day of top class play with England taking on the best of the British Isles.

Captain of the British Isles, Jamie Morrison, has two gold medals in the Federation of International Polo European Championships to his name and his successes in the arena include two Arena Nations Cups and three Arena Gold Cup titles.
England will be captained by 9-goaler Chris Hyde, Europe’s highest handicapped arena player. Sparks will fly when the teams clash, with England out to repeat their succession of Arena Polo Test Match victories in Hickstead’s famous arena for the coveted Bryan Morrison Trophy.
The day’s play will open with The Clogau 12 Goal Challenge, with Wales, captained by Ricky Cooper, going head-to-head with the Commonwealth.
To celebrate what promises to be an unmissable day of polo, and to safeguard Hickstead’s reputation for providing some of best apres polo on the circuit, Hickstead will be hosting a post match luncheon with a delicious three course meal and fine wine and a chance to mix with the who’s who of polo – all with Hickstead’s famous international arena providing a stunning backdrop.
Tickets can be obtained from
The All England Polo Club was founded in 2006 and Hickstead quickly became established as one of the premier venues in the country.
Nicholas Colquoun-Denvers, chairman of the HPA, delighted at the new arena facility declared that:’Hickstead has created one of the most modern and impressive arenas in the country. Not only has it hosted very successful international matches but it has worked hard to encourage the young to play.’
Hickstead HPA coach Jack Kidd attributes this success to the huge surge in popularity of arena polo in recent years saying ‘in the last ten years the science of arena polo has evolved to create the most passionate, gladiatorial, fast game that I have ever played.’
The difference between Summer and Winter Polo is akin to that of football, and five-a-side football. Arena is played with 3-a-side teams, using a larger and softer ball than traditional polo, and shots and angles can be played off the boarded sides of the arena.
It is an ideal way to bring on young horses or improve those that are too much of a handful on the bigger summer pitch.
Another huge selling point of Arena is that it requires less horse power, thus eliminating the need for a large string of ponies. A club member could happily play with two ponies throughout the season, only having to rent an additional one or two for tournament days.

Horse riders have access to only 22 per cent of rights of way

rights of wayHorse riders have access to only 22 per cent of our rights of way network, it has been revealed.

Mark Weston, BHS Director of Access, Safety and Welfare, said: “It is a continuing travesty that horse riders have access to only 22 percent of the rights of way network and carriage drivers to only five percent. The proposals in this document would help to redress this unjustifiable imbalance.”

An Equestrian Access Forum (EAF) has launched Making Ways for Horses, a new publication highlighting proposals for the future provision of equestrian access in England.

The EAF’s aim is the provision of a cohesive, comprehensive, integrated nationwide network, free at the point of use, with a horse, on a bicycle or on foot. Making Ways for Horses sets out proposals for the future provision of equestrian access in England, many of which can be achieved under current legislation, which would help to address the lack of public rights of way currently available to equestrians.

The EAF is made up of the five main equine access organisations: The British Horse Society (BHS), the Byways and Bridleways Trust (BBT), the British Driving Society (BDS), the National Federation of Bridleway Associations (NFBA) and the South Pennine Packhorse Trails Trust (SPPTT).

Catriona Cook, Chairman of BBT, said: “Horse riders and carriage drivers should be treated equally with other rights of way users. However, over the past 12 years four successive pieces of access legislation have removed equestrian rights, including ancient rights of access on horseback to moors, heaths and the foreshore.

 “In addition, the public Forest Estate has dedicated access for the use of walkers only, while the equestrian rights of way network is becoming even more fragmented as a result of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act. Walkers have been given statutory access to the countryside at the expense of equestrians and cyclists.”

Sue Hogg, Chair of the NFBA, said: “We managed to stage the Olympics on time, but over the past 60 years the local authorities haven’t managed to record our public rights of way. In 2026 any unrecorded rights will be extinguished, but as yet there is no programme in place to get them recorded before the cut-off.”

Didy Metcalf, Trustee of SPPTT, added: “We estimate that around two thirds of our bridleways were wrongly classified as footpaths when the first legal record of paths was made; they still are. This existing, but hidden, network of sustainable routes is a wasted national resource. It must be recovered and preserved for the future benefit of horse riders and cyclists; not just for people on foot.”

Margaret Pawson, Rights of Way Coordinator, British Driving Society, said: “As a result of previous legislation carriage drivers lost access to many miles of Rights of Way, only partially replaced by the creation of Restricted Byways in 2000. We must now strive to further improve their access and the consequent safety of carriage drivers.”

New service from Anna and Chris offers therapy and advice for horses

Chris working with a horse

Chris working with a horse

A NEW service to enable horse owners in the South East to access physical and behavioural therapy and advice for their horses has been launched by Anna Blunden in association with Chris Morris.

Their new partnership, called Whispering Equus, will combine their skills and qualifications in a service which offers to host courses, clinics and demonstrations at yards across Sussex and surrounding areas.

Anna, who has a masters degree in Animal Manipulation from the McTimoney College, and Chris, one of only eight qualified Monty Roberts Instructors in the UK, have got together to offer the new service which allows horse owners in the south east access to McTimoney physical therapy and behavioural therapy, helping to solve common issues.

Anna explained: “We decided to join forces after discovering that we were seeing clients with similar needs. We both have the same ethos for the management and care of animals.

“We are passionate about making a difference, not only for the good of the animal, but also for the safety and wellbeing of the owners, through advice and education. Horses can be dangerous and horse riding is widely accepted as a dangerous sport, but we see too many accidents that could be prevented using proper training and behaviour therapy or pain relieving physical therapy.”

Anna doing pelvic rotation

Anna doing pelvic rotation

Chris has returned from California this year, having worked directly alongside Monty Roberts, in front of prestigious clients.

He said: “Working alongside Monty at Flag is Up Farm was a privilege for his knowledge is immense. He always tries to think of innovative ways to help horses and their owners, my ambition is to continue his work, making the world a better place for horses.”

Anna originally trained as an animal sports massage therapist, but made the decision to train as a McTimoney manipulation therapist while helping a friend rehabilitate horses, including ex racehorses.

She explained: “I found massage extremely effective, but it needed to be applied regularly to have a lasting effect, in some cases everyday for a time. The McTimoney technique is gentle but effective, and well accepted by animals.”

Anna treats not just horses, but all animals and has seen for herself the benefits that dogs and cats can gain from treatment.

“Dogs and cats can benefit from treatment as much as horses. Lameness, even once the lameness had resolved, the compensatory pattern remains, getting your dog or cat treated at this stage can prevent injuries occurring due to the on-going compensatory pattern.

Whispering Equus is currently looking for venues to hold Monty Roberts courses, clinics and demonstrations, yard owners who would like to host an event are asked to contact Chris or Anna.

For more information see

Caroline helps set a record by riding side saddle in Ireland with the Meath Hunt.

Side saddle riders line the stairs of the Knightsbrook Hotel lobby, greeted by organised Susan Oakes on her stallion.Photo by kind permission of EQUUS PICS

Side saddle riders line the stairs of the Knightsbrook Hotel lobby, greeted by organiser Susan Oakes on her stallion.
Photo by kind permission of EQUUS PICS


WEST Sussex rider Caroline Wilkins took part in an outstanding event, hunting side-saddle at a special meet in Navan, County Meath recently.

Caroline (26) has competed internationally in many side saddle events and also starred in a hunting sequence in the popular television series Downton Abbey.

She was one of 50 women from all over the world invited by Susan Oaks to the second side-saddle hunt, which attracted riders from Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and England. It had been held for the first time last year, attracting 12 riders.

Susan Oaks currently holds the world record in side-saddle high jumping, having cleared 5ft 9 ins on Brand and Red at Aintree racecourse. The previous record was achieved in 1915  in Sydney, Australia.

Her aim was to set the Guinness Book World Record for the most ladies riding aside to hounds (foxhunting in a sidesaddle) at one time.

Susan rode her German stallion SIEC Atlas in the hunt. Recently they completed a one-day event in France, taking on all three categories: dressage, cross-country and showjumping while riding side-saddle.

It was not a straightforward journey for Caroline, who lives in Walberton, near Arundel. Her side-saddle had already been collected and taken ahead to Meath, when heavy snow arrived.

“My flight from Southampton airport was cancelled but I managed to get on another and we got away by the skin of our teeth after a lot of snow clearance and de-icing,” she said.

At breakfast on hunt day, riders gathered around the grand staircase of their hotel and Susan rode in on SEIC Atlas to greet them.

“I was given a lovely 16hh grey cob, Brinsly, who knew his job and was a superb  All the horses were provided and the event was sponsored by to make it cheaper to take part. I was given a lovely 16hh grey cob, Brinsly, who knew his job and was a superb ride,” said Caroline.


She said the land was mostly flat, with massive drains, eight feet wide, combined with hedgelines.

“Brinsly jumped the whole lot from start to finish and we were out for two and a half hours and I was thrilled to be able to take part. I’d definitely go again and feel lucky to have done this one. My face was covered in mud- but that’s known as Irish make-up!” said Caroline.

Caroline covered in mudPhoto by Jennifer O' Sullivan

Caroline covered in mud
Photo by Jennifer O’ Sullivan

“At the Hunt Ball at the golf club, 450 people enjoyed a four course meal and auction, organised by Goffs. When the music started, the huntsman rode into the ballroom on his horse! It was an unforgettable day, ” she added.

Caroline and Jez in recent snow

Caroline and Jez in recent snow

Back home, Caroline has steadily been bringing on her Irish sports horse, Jez, now seven, for the last two years. This year she will be competing with him in dressage  completely side-saddle and also take part in eventing.

They have been invited to hunt at Swainshill Manor and hope to go to France in May to compete in side-saddle and dressage to music championships.

Meanwhile Caroline has set up her own business to help obese children and families, and those with low-esteem. She works with referrals from local authorities and says her job is very rewarding and she enjoys achieving results.

Go racing at Plumpton for £10

Action-packed racing at Plumpton

Action-packed racing at Plumpton

At Plumpton’s February Raceday on Monday February 25th, you can go racing for just £10 if you buy tickets on line by February 18th.
There will be seven action packed races and admission tickets include a free race programme, and free car parking.
The offer includes grandstand and paddock admission and a £6 discount per ticket.

To book your ticket contact:

Jockey Harry Bentley teams up with ISM following biggest double of career

Jockey Harry Bentley

Jockey Harry Bentley


Highly successful Flat jockey Harry Bentley (20) from Storrington in West Sussex has teamed up with International Sports Management following the biggest double of his career this month, which included his first Group 1 winner.

Harry, who has been in the saddle since the age of four, partnered Naseem to victory in the HH The President’s Cup, the most valuable purebred Arabian contest in the United Arab Emirates.

And he completed a memorable double for Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and trainer Majed Al Jahouri bringing home Thakif in the Group 3 Al Ruwais at the same Abu Dhabi meeting.

He is delighted to become the first jockey to operate under the ISM banner which made its name through guiding the careers of golfers such as Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood and cricketers like former England captains Freddie Flintoff and Michael Vaughan. He hopes the association will help improve his and the sport’s profile.

Although Harry is guided and managed by his father John, the pair thought it might be a good idea to approach somebody involved in other sports and with broader experience of promoting high profile sporting figures.

“That’s why we went for Chubby Chandler at ISM especially since he has a love of racing,” he said.

“Even though racing is such a large industry, there aren’t many people outside who seem to know a lot about it and the people involved,” added Harry, who clinched his 13th winner of the season and second at the Carnival in the UAE this week, where
he was the leading apprentice in his first two seasons.

“Ask most people what flat racing is about and they’ll say Frankie Dettori and Lester Piggott”.

Chandler was more than happy to extend his company’s portfolio particularly as it involved helping somebody already tipped to become one of Europe’s finest jockeys. “I met Harry last week and was impressed by both his skills as a jockey and a person,” he said.

“We are delighted to have the chance to help a very talented and nice young man,” added Chandler, whose horse Rerouted, jointly owned with Westwood, was a winner in Dubai last week at a meeting where Bentley was also successful in what is his third winter in The Emirates.

Harry, currently riding for Ali Rashid Al Raihe’s Grandstand stables in the Dubai international carnival from January to March, will join the growing racing and bloodstock empire of Sheikh Fahad Al Thani when he returns to England in the spring – as rider for the fledgling yard of Olly Stevens, now installed in a 50-box stable near Chiddingfold in Surrey.

“I can’t remember not riding,” said Harry. “My family’s always been in the game and I’m very appreciative of the support they have given me”.

He was about to go to college when he was 16 to take his A levels, but Horsham trainer Gary Moore encouraged him to get an apprentice licence and offered a few rides.

“It was a big risk to drop out of education, but I took it and so far so good,” he said.

Jeannie rediscovers a former apprentice jockey that was her father’s favourite


Jockey Wendyll Woods

Jockey Wendyll Woods

Wendyll Woods- now that is a name from my racing past.  My father had always enthused about his virtues in the saddle and shrewdly placed his modest bets with great success on horses that Wendyll rode, from the time he was a young apprentice.

“You’ll not find a finer apprentice jockey anywhere than Wendyll Woods,” he used to say.

I’d forgotten about that until I visited new trainer Philip Hide at his impressive Cissbury Stables in Findon recently.

He mentioned that his brother-in-law Sean Woods, who trains in Hong Kong, had bought  four horses for him.  Philip had also bought another horse, an unnamed filly by Aussie Rules and out of Snow Gonal,  from Brook Stud, Newmarket.

Out of interest I had a look at Brook Stud, in Newmarket, and  Wendyll Woods sprang back into my life once again.

Racing is a long-standing affair for the Woods family, and the eldest of three brothers, Dwayne,ran the family Brook Stud, near Newmarket, now with the help of second brother Wendyll.

Wendyll began his career as an apprentice to Guy Harwood and rode his first winner on Harwood’s old horse, Big Pal, which first made my father take note- and other winners soon flowed richly between 1992 and 1996.

His younger brother Sean had started training and there was a memorable family double with Wendyll in the saddle at one of my father’s regular tracks at Thirsk in Yorkshire.This was on board Expansionist and Cosmic Star,  trained by youngest brother Sean, then in Newmarket and  who now trains in Hong Kong.

One of their biggest successes together was in 1996 when Wendyll rode Sean’s Mistle Cat to success in the valuable Prix du Palais Royal Group Three race at Longchamp.

Wendyll left Britain and went to Hong Kong,  continuing his successful riding career. He returned to this country in 2002, after signing off in Hong Kong with his biggest win there in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup for trainer David Haynes.

At the same time his brother Sean moved out to Hong Kong to train, and Wendyll eventually went back  to ride for his brother for two seasons.He retired from the saddle there at the age of 41 in 2005 and the Hong Kong Jockey Club made a special presentation to him at a fixture at Sha Tin.

The Woods family is fascinating. They were born in Bangalore, where their father Barney Woods was top jockey with more than 1,500 winners, including the Queen Elizabeth Gold Cup in Pakistan.

Their mother Jessica, was a member  Indian racing family of Fownes,  founded by her father, Eric, a champion trainer.

While winners are continuing to flow in Hong Kong for Sean, Brook Stud in Cheveley, near Newmarket, has made a name for itself producing quality racehorses.

The Aussie Rules filly in training with Philip Hide should be well worth looking out for.