Don’t miss Plumpton’s Sussex National

Start the New Year in style with a day at Plumpton races on Monday January 2 – and enjoy action at its most prestigious raceday of the year.

Plumpton’s Sussex National will be a key feature of this exciting day of racing.
Save £5 per person by booking online and children go free. There will be free car parking and a complimentary racecard for everyone.

Live music from Irish band “Reel Strings” in The Paddock Bar will set the atmosphere for this raceday while there is the chance to hear Plumpton panel interviews or take a walk to the start with racing legends Simon Holt and Colin Brown.

Get close to the racing action at Plumpton Photo: Jeannie Knight

Get close to the racing action at Plumpton
Photo: Jeannie Knight

Gates open at 11am with the first of seven races at 12:50pm.
There are further discounts for groups of 10 or more and also the chance to enjoy a three course lunch in the trackside Pavilion Marquee restaurant.

2016 Sussex National winner Tour des Champs, Sam Twistin-Davies up

2016 Sussex National winner Tour des Champs, Sam Twiston-Davies up

Please be aware that due to the Southern Rail train strike, no trains are running to Plumpton on this day. There is a limited replacement service, details of which can be found here.

For more information on the racing or our hospitality packages, visit Plumpton Racecourse website or call 01273 890383

Exciting BetBright Dipper Novice Chase

Exciting chaser Clan Des Obeaux heads 14 entries for the £32,000 G2 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase  (1.25pm) over an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

The five-year-old, one of three entries for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, produced a 10-length demolition of his rivals in a G2 novices’ chase over a similar distance at Newbury on November 25. Nicholls has also entered Frodon, winner of the G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at The International on December 10, and second season novice As De Mee who captured the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree on his latest start.

Clan Des Obeaux- Photo: John Simpson

Clan Des Obeaux- Photo: John Simpson

Nicky Henderson’s three entries are headed by Whisper who posted a polished performance when beating Baron Alco (Gary Moore) in a novices’ chase over the course and distance on December 10. Another course scorer in O O Seven and Different Gravey, who was the beaten favourite behind Whisper at The International, complete the trio.

Gary Moore is weighing up his options for Baron Alco after his two and half length defeat behind Whisper. The five-year-old, who coasted to victory on his previous start at Plumpton, has an 8lb swing in the weights with Whisper this time around.Moore said today: “Baron Alco has the Cheltenham entry and is also in a novices’ chase at Plumpton the following day.

Winner Baron Alco with Jamie Moore and owners Photo: Jeannie Knight

Baron Alco with Jamie Moore and owners following easy Plumpton win
Photo: Jeannie Knight

“It really depends on what is running where. I looks like Whisper is running at Cheltenham and if he is the only big one we have to take on, then we will probably have a go because of the swing in the weights.

“The Plumpton race would mean dropping back to two miles, but the main horse there Buveur D’Air has been declared for Haydock tomorrow. We will just see how things work out before making a decision.”

Entries for the BetBright Dipper Chase also include Charbel (Kim Bailey), who was runner-up to Altior in the G1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park, and Bangor scorer Potters Legend (Lucy Wadham)

Cheltenham offers the perfect way to see in 2017 with a seven-race card on New Year’s Day, Sunday, January 1.

The richest race of the day is the £60,000 G3 BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase (2.00pm, 23 entries) which was won last year by Cheltenham specialist Village Vic (Philip Hobbs, 11st 11lb) who could attempt a repeat victory this season. Village Vic was last seen out when third in the G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at The International on December 10 when Aso< (Venetia Williams, 10st 12lb) was second and Quite By Chance (Colin Tizzard, 11st) fourth.

Noel Hayes, director of sportsbook at BetBright, said: “We’ve seen some wonderful racing over the Christmas holidays and the Cheltenham New Year’s day meeting will be just as exciting. It will also be the first day of ITV’s coverage of racing and we would like to wish them the best of luck on Sunday. As always there will be a large and knowledgeable crowd at Cheltenham and BetBright is delighted to sponsor the key races for the day.”

Also taking place on New Year’s Day is the £40,000 G2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (3.10pm) over an extended two and a half miles. Last year’s first and second, Camping Ground(Robert Walford) and Lil Rockerfeller(Neil King) could both line up once again along with 2015 Stayers’ Hurdle victor Cole Harden (Warren Greatrex).

Realtra wins after lay-off

British-trained Realtra was the impressive winner of the Listed Prix Miss Satamixa, the first French Fast-Track Qualifier of this season’s All-Weather Championships this week on Polytrack at Deauville.

The grey four-year-old daughter of Dark Angel, trained by Roger Varian, won the extended seven-furlong contest eased down and receives a free and guaranteed place in the £150,000 32Red All-Weather Fillies’ And Mares’ Championships Conditions Stakes over seven furlongs at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, April 14, 2017.

Realtra, making her first appearance since finishing a close fifth in the mile G1 Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket in October, 2015, raced in fourth of the 16-strong field as a good pace was set up front.

She improved to second with nearly a quarter-mile left and challenged the leader before going to the front just inside the final furlong under Christophe Soumillon

Realtra soon established a decisive advantage and her rider was able to ease down for a length and a half victory in a fast time of 1m 25.42s from the ill-fated 2015 scorer Caointiorn who started to fall just before the line.

Realtra winning on home turf Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Realtra winning on home turf
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

She gained three turf wins during 2015, headed by a decisive success over seven furlongs in the G3 Sceptre Stakes at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting.Soumillon, who put up 2lb overweight at 8st 13lb on the 3.3/1 favourite, said afterwards: “Her trainer was confident beforehand. I was instructed to ride the race to win, but without doing too much.

“She was able to do that well under these conditions. She will definitely head for Dubai.”

The Group Two Cape Verdi Stakes (1m, January 26) and the Group Two Balanchine Stakes (1m 1f, February 16) are possible targets for Realtra in Dubai.

Bumper crowd enjoyed Fontwell’s raceday

A bumper crowd enjoyed competitive racing at Fontwell Park’s Boxing Day meeting yesterday, when trainer Alan King continued his successful run of success at this popular Sussex track.

Rainbow Dreamer as 11-10 favourite, initiated the double winning the Juvenile Hurdle of the day by 13  lengths, ridden by Tom Cannon.

Trainer Alan King Photo Jeannie Knight

Trainer Alan King at Fontwell Park
Photo Jeannie Knight

Then Bastien, a 10-1 shot, took the Novices’ Hurdle  for the trainer by a comfortable six lengths with William Featherstone in the saddle  the Mares Handicap Hurdle over two miles one furlong.

Patience was rewarded for trainer Neil Mulholland  when Bishops Court, a six-year-old, won the Winterfields Farm Handicap Chase under jockey Nick Scholfield, at 5-2. This was his first win over jumps and he has taken well to fences, with more victories set to follow.

Bishops Court in action Photo: Fontwell Park Racecourse

Bishops Court in action
Photo: Fontwell Park Racecourse

Divine Spear, a 7-4 shot trained by Nicky Henderson won the handicap hurdle of the day by a short head, under a good ride from Ned Curtis, beating the Ian Williams-trained  Cool Sky by a short head.

Divine Spear

Divine Spear

Herefordshire trainer Kerry Lee has a good record at Fontwell Park and she continued her victories there when 4-1 shot Happy Diva took the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle under amateur rider Richard Fitzpatrick.

Happy Diva Photo: Fontwell Park Racecourse

Happy Diva Photo: Fontwell Park Racecourse

This gutsy mare beat 33-1 shot Easter In Paris, trained by Paul Henderson by 18 lengths.

The next meeting at Fontwell Park is a winter afternoon of Sunday racing on January 8  with six races. Gates open at 11am and the first race is 1.10pm with the last at 3.40pm.

Kick off 2017 at Plumpton races

Kick off the new year in style with a day at Plumpton races and enjoy this excellent track’s most prestigious raceday of the year.

Save £5 per person by booking now -children go free and there is free car parking and complimentary racecard. Also there will be live music from Irish band “Reel Strings” in The Paddock Bar.

Good viewing of the paddock at Plumpton

Good viewing of the paddock at Plumpton

Also listen to Plumpton panel interviews and a walk to the start with racing legends Simon Holt and Colin Brown.

Gates open at 11am with the first of seven races at 12:50pm.

Good racing promised at Plumpton

Good racing promised at Plumpton

Further discounts are available for groups of 10 or more and there is the opportunity book the trackside Pavilion Marquee restaurant for a sumptuous three course lunch.

Please be aware that due to the Southern Rail train strike, no trains are running to Plumpton on this day.

There is a limited replacement service, details of which can be found at

Pony Club mini-major

The Pony Club Mini-Major returned to Olympia this week, seeing Pony Club Members paired up with a top international rider in a thrilling competition to each complete a Show Jumping round in the quickest time, with the fewest faults.

Top of the tree this year was eleven-year-old Annie Gibson who teamed up with Anna Power to finish in 25.29 seconds; clinching victory by just 0.01 of a second.

The long journey from Northern Ireland was worthwhile for Iveagh Branch Member Annie, who said: “The whole experience was amazing! I’ve never been to Olympia before and the atmosphere was incredible. I met lots of my heroes, including Nick Skelton and Cian O’Connor.” Annie went on to thank Anna Power for being ‘such a good partner,’ her family for supporting her and her coach Joe Sharkey.

Special thanks also went to Iveagh DC Vanne Campbell who made the trip over to support Annie, despite being on crutches. “I’d like to qualify for the Dengie Winter League and The Pony Club Championships next!” commented Annie.

Annie has been a Member of The Pony Club for eight years and she and her pony, Lisboy Black Magic, have represented their Branch on numerous occasions. They qualified for Dublin Horse Show in July, leading to Annie receiving an Outstanding Sporting Achievements award from her school.

Annie Power in action Photo: Kris Houghton

Annie Power in action Photo: Kris Houghton

A last minute call-up proved lucky for runner up Harriet Birkby who rode alongside Lorenzo De Luca to finish in 25.30 seconds.

Eleven year old Harriet, who is a Member of the Southdown Hunt West Branch, finished ahead of third placed Amy Morris (also eleven) from the Edinburgh Branch, who was partnered by Laura Renwick.

They completed in a time of 25.82 seconds.
Members from all over the UK applied to be amongst the eight drawn to take part, and the lucky riders were selected at random to compete at Olympia in front of a sell-out crowd.

Mary Tuckett, Chairman of The Pony Club, said: “This year the Mini-Major kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Our members and their partners gave it their all which resulted in some nail-biting moments and some very close finishes. I’d like to thank the team behind Olympia for inviting us to be part of this very special event, and acknowledge the tremendous effort of the families and helpers who support the riders; some of whom travelled for several hours to take part.”

Competitive Grade Three Wetherby Chase

Brian Ellison is looking forward to saddling Definitly Red in the £40,000 Grade Three 188BET Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (1.50pm), the feature at Wetherby on the first day of the Yorkshire Christmas Meeting, Boxing Day, Monday, December 26.

Definitly Red, one of 23 entries for three-mile contest, was beaten four and a half lengths into third by Otago Trail and Bristol De Mai on his latest start in the Listed Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on November 26.

The seven-year-old already has experience over fences at Wetherby having finished second, beaten eight lengths, to subsequent RSA Chase hero Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies) on heavy going in the three-mile G2 totepool Towton Novices’ Chase in February.

He ended last season with a deserved victory in a two and a half mile Listed handicap Chase at Ayr in April and started this campaign with a dominant success in a class two handicap hurdle over a similar distance at Carlisle on October 30.

North Yorkshire-based Ellison said today: “Definitly Red worked and schooled this morning and, at this moment in time, is an intended runner at Wetherby. He has been in really good form and I have been very happy with his preparation.

Definitly Red in action Photo Press Association

Definitly Red in action Photo Press Association

“Brian [Hughes, jockey] said he wasn’t enjoying the ground at Newcastle. It was dead and tacky, and so Brian decided to take him wide all the way to try and find better ground. It was probably a bit of a disadvantage but he still ran well and the handicapper dropped him a pound.

“Definitly Red is not slow and is very effective at two and a half miles, but you can’t say he didn’t stay at Newcastle because he went wide on testing ground and was still there at the finish. I think two miles and six furlongs is probably his absolute optimum.”

Definitly Red has been allocated 11st, with Blaklion the top-weight with 11st 12lb

Jim Crowley’s top jockey role

LAST month Pulborough-based jockey Jim Crowley took a break from race riding after breaking his nose in a fall at Kempton, when fellow jockey Freddy Tylicki was paralysed from the waist downwards.  He decided to get back in the saddle on his children’s ponies before riding thoroughbreds again, giving him a chance to recover fully from the accident and be as fit as possible on his return.

Meanwhile he was awarded the role of being Sheikh Hamdan’s number one jockey. He told reporters that he was delighted to be given the job, which would mean riding out and getting to know Sheikh Hamdan’s horses at different racing stables.

Now he is looking forward to riding out at different stables, with riding for Sheikh Hamdan his priority.  He does not think  being a retained rider will hamper his hope of retaining the Champion Jockey title for another year in 2017.

He said:”I’m absolutely delighted to take on the role. It’s going to be a bit different because I’ll be riding out for lots of different stables but hopefully I’ll be getting on some really nice horses.”

Pulborough based jockey Jim Crowley Photo: Jeannie Knight

Pulborough based jockey Jim Crowley
Photo: Jeannie Knight

“Last year, I didn’t think about the championship until after Glorious Goodwood, so it will be much the same this year. We’ll get Glorious Goodwood out of the way and see where we are and if we’re close enough, we’ll give it a go,”he told reporters when his new appointment was announced.

In 2015, he finished the year with 118 turf and all weather winners combined. These included ten major races, riding for seven different trainers, with the most valuable being the Qipco British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes Group One, worth £344,513, with Madame Chiang, trained by David Simcox. He also rode Glass Office for the same trainer to win the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes ( Group 2) worth more than £62,000.

As the end of this year approaches his tallies for 2016 are impressive. He had ridden184 winners by the middle of December with two weeks still to go to the end of the year, and his total prize money this year at that point was £1,883,054 compared to £1,680,609 at the end of 2015.

Impressive new equine hospital for West Sussex

Many are aware of the exciting new equine hospital being built in Ashington, just off the A24,  on the Billingshurst road. Arundel Equine Hospital, a top class facility in its own right, spent endless years of searching for the perfect site, and this 32 acre property was purchased for the development of this new equine facility.

I was invited by one of the directors, Rob van Pelt, to have a look at the progress. It is truly impressive, even though it is still vey much a work in progress, and is due for completion in July 2017.
As you drive in you can see the enormity of the project.

From left Dave Bell, Duncan Bell, of main equine hospital contractors Bell and Son, with vet Rob van Pelt, at the equine hospital site.

From left Dave Bell, Duncan Bell, of main equine hospital contractors Bell and Son, with vet Rob van Pelt, at the equine hospital site.

Why move from Arundel? The practice has been at its current site, just south of Arundel, for approximately 60 years.

Rob explained: “Over that time, we have seen significant growth,  and over the years have attempted to purchase extra pieces of land around us to expand, but it has been extremely difficult to do so. We are now finding that our facilities are starting to limit the service we offer our clients. Also, as everyone will appreciate, getting in and out of Arundel is increasingly more difficult and having horses in need of emergency treatment stuck on the A27 in traffic jams simply is not acceptable.

“About seven years ago, the current directors decided to actively look for a new property. Also at this stage ideas were collated as to what was needed in a state of the art equine hospital. Various vets visited numerous clinics in the UK and abroad, and with camera in hand took away the best ideas. Plans were drawn up and hung on the wall for everybody to make comments and draw arrows until the plans were finalised.  Planning permission was applied for, which was relatively straight forward.

“Initially the project was to be done in two phases  but as the existing Arundel site now has planning permission for houses, the extra money has allowed the whole site to be completed in one stage,” said Rob.

Equine hospital reception work in progress Photo: Jeannie Knight

Equine hospital reception work in progress Photo: Jeannie Knight

On entering the building, there is a long corridor which will act as a trot up strip for examining lame horses when the weather is bad or the day is short. Immediately off this there is the x-ray room, with dedicated client viewing area, a large examination room which will have a set of examination stocks in to allow standing surgical procedures to be carried out.

Moving along the corridor, there is a room which is being kitted out for an MRI scanner. There are also rooms for CT scanning and bone scanning and in addition, a large laboratory which will process all the blood samples and swabs taken.

In the middle of the building is the surgical area with areas of soft padding to enable horses to be to be anaesthetised, and then a large surgery. There are dedicated changing rooms for the surgeons and a nurses work area.

Operating theatre at the new hospital Photo: Susie Viner

Work in progress on the operating theatre at the new hospital Photo: Susie Viner

Separated from the main building is the stable block where there are 20 stables plus two dedicated for mares and foals and in addition two wash down areas and two stables for high dependency critical care.

There are also seven bone scan stables separate to the main stable block, hay and feed barn, a clinical waste storage barn, lunge area, trot up strip and a large sand school.

Hard or soft trot-up area Photo: Jeannie Knight

Outdoor hard or soft trot-up area under construction at the hospital
Photo: Jeannie Knight

In the main building there is accommodation for four students and two interns with a large conference room, which will be used for client evenings and professional development for local veterinary surgeons.

During my tour, Rob outlined the investment made by the practice, both into equipment and highly skilled personnel over the last 10-15 years. This has enabled this top class equine hospital to be able to provide a service which is undoubtedly one of the the best and highly respected in the country.

However, existing clients have no need for concern about the clinic moving, as primarily was it is still a first opinion practice, where a veterinary surgeon gets to know a client and their horse and build a trusting relationship as normal. It is only when things go wrong and the problem cannot be dealt with in the field, that referral to the hospital will be required. There has also been significant interest from other local veterinary surgeons looking to refer cases to the new hospital.

Rob says one of the best choices he made was to choose Bell & Sons Ltd as the main contractor. “They have been great from the word go. This is not a straightforward building yet they have been open to ideas all the way along so that we achieve the high quality design and facilities that this equine hospital needs.”

The Arundel Equine Hospital’s motto is ‘We care for and about horses’ and they are now  putting their money where their mouth is. There are planned open days for all clients to have a good look around this outstanding new facility, ask questions about the move and the building.

This new facility is certain to become a real jewel in the crown of West Sussex, and an asset to horse owners who will benefit from having such a ground-breaking top facility so close at hand.

Megan wins Shining Star Award

FOLLOWING a clear demonstration of grit, determination and talent, 15 year-old Megan Maguire from the Sussex Junior Academy has become the deserving winner of the monthly NAF Shining Star Award for showjumping for November 2016.

Megan was nominated for the award by Lead Coach Judi Piper-Dadswell, who said the following about her nominee: “Megan has been a member of Sussex Junior Academy since 2008. She started on her tiny ponies and is now approaching her last year of jumping ponies.

“She and her mother are really hardworking and have produced some super ponies over the years, which have gone on to provide other riders with great success.

“This year Megan has had a series of setbacks, all of which were really bad luck. Her best pony had an accident at the beginning of the year and then, in August, she had a horrible fall but just a week later bravely insisted on representing Sussex at the Academy Team Show, where the Maxi Pony Team brought home the Gold medal.

Megan Maguire in action Photo British Show Jumping

Megan Maguire in action
Photo British Show Jumping

“She has been a regular competitor in the NAF Five Star Performance classes at Weston Lawns and she is dedicated to training ponies correctly.

“She is a great team member who always supports the younger riders and she helps out a great deal. She has also completed the NAF 4 Star level and I really feel that the NAF Shining Star Award is very much deserved by Megan as she has coped with this year’s adversity in a very mature way.

“Congratulations Megan and keep up the hard work!”

Megan started her riding career at age eight and in doing so became the first horse rider in the family. It soon became apparent that she had a natural flare for not just riding but also horsemanship after just a few months in the saddle.

She joined British Showjumping and hasn’t looked back. Becoming part of the academy has really helped Megan flourish and it has allowed her to share her enthusiasm at the same time as improving her ponies.

Upon finding out she had become a NAF Shining Star, a shocked Megan said “I really am pleased to get this award! At the start of the year I had two injured ponies but it is a great feeling to get this award after putting in so much hard work to bring them back up to fitness.

“A huge thank you has to go to Judi, my Coach, she has been there from the very beginning, as well as my friends in the academy for all the support they have shown through my ups and downs this year. I am really looking forward to 2017 and I am hoping to again be part of the Sussex team and I’m looking forward to spending time improving my ponies even more. Thank you!”

Melissa Newman, NAF Brand Manager, added “Megan is an excellent example of the old adage ‘you have to get back on the horse’. Her bravery, determination and positive mind set are very admirable and essential in order to succeed in any sport no matter the setbacks – in this case bringing home the gold!

“She is clearly a very talented rider and producer of ponies and we wish her all the best in her future endeavours within showjumping and her continuation with the 5 Star programme. Well done Megan!’

Megan will kindly receive some NAF equine products to use alongside the supplements that she currently uses, which include; Pimp my Pony shampoo which is always in regular use, along with Superflex and the occasional minty treat after a good round.

The NAF Shining Star Award was introduced when NAF became a British Showjumping Business Partner. The award is for members of a Junior Academy who have shown a great deal of commitment, progression and outstanding behaviour along with their riding ability and much more. Riders are nominated by their lead coach, and then judged and awarded by NAF to one person each month.