Tributes paid to WHW Digger

One of Europe’s tallest horses  and much-loved adoption horse, 19hh World Horse Welfare Digger has been put to sleep due to ongoing health problems.

Digger arrived at World Horse Welfare’s Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre as a four-year-old in 2007 after his owner contacted World Horse Welfare to ask for help. He was growing fast and at such a young age, problems had started to occur with the joints in his hind legs.  After extensive rehabilitation from World Horse Welfare and gentle veterinary care, Digger regained confidence and continued growing – earning his title as the biggest horse the charity has ever cared for.

Digger at Belwade Farm

Standing at an enormous mine feet from the ground to the tips of his ears and weighing almost a tonne, Digger caught the attention of The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and was accepted on a two-year training programme to become a drum horse, taking part in preparations for the Royal Wedding and Major General Parades. Unfortunately, it became apparent that Digger was much better suited to life in the slow lane away from busy London, so he returned to the Scottish Highlands in 2012 where he became Belwade Farm’s adoption horse.

Over the last few months, Digger had been struggling with recurring abscesses and more recently, his demeanour had become increasingly subdued and withdrawn which was a marked change from the inquisitive, friendly personality that he was known to be. Often a significant change in demeanour like this can be a sign that a horse isn’t feeling right in himself and in Digger’s case the team felt his quality of life had very much deteriorated as a result of the health problems he had been experiencing.

Digger received the very best care from World Horse Welfare’s vet and farrier, but sadly his condition showed no signs of improving and so it was with a heavy heart that the whole team decided it was in Digger’s best interest to put him to sleep.

World Horse Welfare Belwade Farm Centre Manager, Eileen Gillen, said:

“Digger was not only an amazing personality, loved by everyone who knew him but also a fantastic ambassador the charity. Despite losing his mother at just a few weeks old and battling a number of problems due to his extraordinary size, Digger led an inspiring life.

“He was the most loveable character who always enjoyed greeting visitors from far and wide, being careful and gentle with everyone – young and old, humans and horses alike.

“Digger captured the hearts of so many people from not only the UK but around the world. He will be sadly missed by each and every one of us here at World Horse Welfare.”

Mountain Bell scores at Newcastle

 Mountain Bell (Ralph Beckett/Josephine Gordon, 2/1 Fav) came from last to first to land the £25,000 Betway Conditions Race at Newcastle yesterday, Saturday, December 16.

The extended two-mile Tapeta contest was a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Final over two miles on Polytrack at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, March 30. Following her success today, Mountain Bell gains a free and automatic place in the Good Friday contest.

The four-year-old Mount Nelson filly, who is owned by Qatar Racing Limited, raced at the rear of the seven-strong field as Watersmeet (Mark Johnston/P J McDonald, 5/2) made the running, with Cape Cova (Mick Appleby/Dougie Costello, 33/1) and Cohesion (David Bridgwater/Graham Lee, 5/1) disputing second place.

Mountain Bell comes from last to first to win under Josephine Gordon   Photo All Weather Racing Championships

Mountain Bell did not appear to be travelling well and still had plenty to do as the field entered the final straight. It was not until she approached the last quarter mile that she really found her stride. Coming with a strong run, Mountain Bell took the lead inside the final half-furlong and at the finish she was an ultimately comfortable two-length winner from Cape Cova with Watersmeet another short-head back in third.

The winning time was 3m 31.36s.

Winning rider Josephine Gordon was partnering her 106th winner of 2017, further extending her record number of British winners in a year by a female jockey (the previous record was 100 winners, achieved by Hayley Turner in 2008). Gordon was also partnering her second successive Fast-Track Qualifier winner, having scored aboard the Hugo Palmer-trained Never Back Down at Wolverhampton seven days’ ago.

Gordon said after her victory today: “I didn’t want to jump out of the gates last, but Mountain Bell was very keen early on and I tried to switch her off.

“She eventually did switch off and if anything she switched off a bit too much and made it hard work. This was her first time over two miles and I’d rather she was like that rather than running away and doing too much.

“When she finally got the hang of it, she has won quite comfortably. It is hard to come from the back here, especially when there is not much pace on but she has done it nicely. I gave two little flicks and she got into the race.

“Newcastle is a big, galloping track but I don’t see why she wouldn’t handle Lingfield. The good thing here is the long straight, which helped her today. If she settles better, you would like to ride her a bit handier.”

Sire De Grugy officially retired

Sire De Grugy, trained at Horsham by Gary Moore, winning 17 races and earning £885,446 in prize-money during his racing career has been officially retired.

His regular jockey, Jamie Moore, who rode the horse for all but two of his victories, said  he felt five-time Grade 1 winner Sire De Grugy “achieved everything he possibly could” during his long and illustrious career which came to an honourable conclusion at Cheltenham this month.

Sire De Grugy finishing sixth in the two mile four furlong handicap chase and Jamie Moore,  described the horse as his “best mate”.

Stable star Sire De Grugy in his stable at Horsham    Photo: Jeannie Knight


Now 11-years-old, Sire De Grugy was trained throughout his career by Moore’s father Gary and had competed for eight seasons during which he won 17 races and £885,446 in prize-money.

Jamie Moore told reporters:”We have achieved a lot together. The day we bought him in France I sat on seven horses. He was the cheapest but he was the best.

“Thanks to him I’ve won some of the big races amongst his 17 victories.”

Part-owner Steve Preston had celebrated win a Champion Chase, a Clarence House Chase, a Celebration Chase and two Tingle Creeks.

Following Saturday’s effort, he said: “He has been the most wonderful horse and, of course, he’ll stay with the Moores. He has been their icon horse. They will look after him and make sure he has a fantastic retirement.

“He’s been the horse of a lifetime for us. He is the only horse we’ve ever had but I think if you’d had 30 or 40 horses he would have been the horse of a lifetime.”

Preston added: “There is no point pushing him any harder. He has achieved everything we could possibly have wished. Jamie said he wanted it and still had the appetite for it but in the home straight it just wasn’t there.

“I think his aches and pains have now just got a bit too much for him. He has had lots of injuries over the years. He has had an arthritic condition since he was six but he never ever did anything but give 100 per cent. He deserves to have a great life. It’s time for him to retire.”

Access to countryside at risk

Horse riders, cyclists and walkers in England are currently at risk of having their access to our countryside restricted, The British Horse Society has warned.

Up to 20,000 pathways and bridleways are at risk of being extinguished from the map, and the charity is renewing its efforts to raise awareness of the threat to our countryside.

By 2026, routes that existed in 1949 and still exist on January 1 2026 have to be recorded on a Council’s definitive map- otherwise they will be erased from the records and could be closed for good.

Preserve off road routes by  recording  bridlepaths

With just nine years until the 2026 deadline, The British Horse Society (BHS) is encouraging the public to check that the routes they used are recorded.

The BHS has almost 300 access volunteers who give up their spare time to work tirelessly to ensure routes are recorded. In 2017 alone, they identified 500 bridleways and byways that needed to be recorded.

However, it isn’t a quick or easy task and it’s not uncommon for it to take decades before a route is officially recorded.

Many Rights of Way departments have been cut back due to austerity measures; and as a result they have to deal with a huge backlog of requests to record routes.

BHS Director of Access, Mark Weston explained: “We wouldn’t be able to achieve what we have without our access volunteers. It’s vital that these routes stay open so that horse riders have an alternative to riding on the roads, where the speed and volume of traffic is often increasing.

“We would love for more people to join us, and help us keep our countryside open.”

If you enjoy riding, cycling or walking in our countryside, or just want to save these routes, you can get involved and make sure these routes stay open. One in four people volunteer regularly and the BHS offers training, support and advice to those who wish to become access volunteers.

Currently, the BHS is raising awareness of the work of its volunteers as part of its Platinum Year celebrations and needs everyone to help log routes that are currently in use.

You can help by sending details of exisiting routes

Major marathon contenders at Newcastle today

The extended two-mile Tapeta contest is the first of four Fast-Track Qualifiers for the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Final over two miles on Polytrack, with the winner receiving a free and automatic place in the Good Friday highlight on March 30.

Lightly-raced four-year-old Mountain Bell (Ralph Beckett/Josephine Gordon) finished in front of G1 performers King’s Fete, Sumbal, Frontiersman and Western Hymn when taking second in the G3 St Simon Stakes over a mile and a half on turf at Newbury in October, 2016.

The daughter of Mount Nelson has made just two subsequent appearances, coming home fourth in this year’s St Simon Stakes and filling the same position on her All-Weather debut in the 12-furlong Listed 32Red Wild Flower Stakes at Kempton Park on November 29.

Watersmeet (Mark Johnston/P J McDonald) has gained eight victories on the All-Weather, including a Fast-Track Qualifier at Chelmsford City in March, and finished second to Winning Story in last season’s Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Final.

Cohesion came home fourth behind Winning Story on Good Friday 2017 and the David Bridgwater-trained four-year-old lines up for the third time in the space of 21 days following two good handicap runs over shorter on Tapeta at Wolverhampton.

After finishing fourth over a mile and a half on December 2, Cohesion returned to Dunstall Park for a 14-furlong handicap on December 9, in which he was collared on the line by Velvet Revolution to go down by a short-head. Graham Lee partners the son of Champs Elysees for the first time.

“Adam Kirby, who usually rides Cohesion, is abroad, but Graham Lee is a top-drawer replacement and we are hoping for a good run.

“This will be Cohesion’s third start of the All-Weather Championships, so he should get qualified whether he wins or not, and then we will make a plan leading up to Good Friday.

“He ran over hurdles at Plumpton in October and I was a shade disappointed that he was beaten, but I think the winner that day is quite a tidy horse and we probably rode him wrong.

“He will win a race over hurdles but, while we are contesting valuable races on the All-Weather, it is a great bit of fun.

“It was a really good run in the Marathon Final last season, when he didn’t get the clearest of runs. We were thrilled and Ryan Moore felt that we probably should have finished a bit closer, so I would like to think that we could have another crack at it.”

Cape Cova (Dougie Costello), third in a valuable Newmarket handicap in July, makes his first appearance for trainer Michael Appleby, while Master Singer (John Gosden/Robert Havlin) has won two of his three All-Weather starts, including a 16-length maiden success over 10 furlongs at Newcastle in May.

Northumberland Plate fourth Lord George (James Fanshawe/Daniel Muscutt), Italian Listed winnerCosmelli (Gay Kelleway/Tom Eaves) and Song Of Love (Shaun Harris/Charlie Bennett) complete the field.

A bumper eight-race card at Newcastle also includes the seven-furlong £25,000 Handicap (4.05pm), which has 11 runners including the 2015 Bunbury Cup victor Rene Mathis (Richard Fahey/Jack Garritty) and top-weight Reckless Endeavour (Jamie Osborne/Dougie Costello), a dual winner at Dundalk earlier this year.

Magnolia Cup 2017 raised £178,000

The 2017 Magnolia Cup at Goodwood Racecourse has raised a total of £178,000 for children’s mental health charity Place2Be, it was revealed this week.

 The seventh running of the Magnolia Cup, presented by Swarovski, was run on Ladies’ Day at the Qatar Goodwood Festival in August and was won by Dido Harding.

This year’s total means that the race has now raised in excess of £1.2 million for charitable causes since its inception and Goodwood is indebted to all the riders, silk designers, trainers and owners who have supported the race.

Line up for a previous year’s Magnolia Cup Photo: Copyright Jeannie Knight

 Place2Be provides in-school support and expert training to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff.  Founded in 1994, the charity has school-based teams across England, Scotland and Wales and is now working in over 280 schools reaching a population of approximately 116,000 children across some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK.

 Children and young people aged four-14 can book their own one-off appointment to speak to a Place2Be counsellor, or they can be referred by a teacher or parent for longer-term one-to-one or group sessions.

This support helps young people to cope with wide-ranging and often complex social issues including bullying, bereavement, domestic violence, family breakdown, neglect and trauma. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge is a patron of the charity.

 Catherine Roche, Chief Executive of Place2Be, said: “It was a real honour to partner with Goodwood for the unique and very special Magnolia Cup. The event was an enormous success, raising an incredible £178,000 and shining a spotlight on children’s mental health.

“We are so grateful to Goodwood and all of the inspirational jockeys for their generous support, helping Place2Be reach thousands more children when they need us most.”

 It has been confirmed that the Magnolia Cup will again take place on Ladies’ Day at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, which in 2018 falls on Thursday August 2 . The full list of riders and designers and the charity partner will be revealed in 2018.

Past winner Camilla Henderson receiving her trophy from HRH Princess Eugenie. Photo: Jeannie Knight

 The 2018 Qatar Goodwood Festival takes place at Goodwood Racecourse in West Sussex from Tuesday 31 July to Saturday 4 August. Affectionately known as ‘Glorious Goodwood’ and an undoubted highlight of the summer social season, the event will feature three Group 1 races and total prize money of over £5million.Tickets for all of Goodwood’s 2018 fixtures are now on sale, including early-bird prices for the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Please visit to get your tickets now.

Taunton set for tomorrow

TODAY was the second day without a jumps meeting- but if weather conditions remain as expected overnight, Taunton will host the £50,000 Peterborough Chase tomorrow (Thursday)

Taunton Racecourse

After a blank two days, jump racing is set to resume at Taunton  with the Grade 2 Chase set to become the most valuable race to be staged at the track.

Yesterday, Taunton clerk of the course Jason Loosemore said :” It is a cracking race. We have a Listed race ourselves, but nothing of this calibre. It’s brilliant news for Taunton.

Taunton Racecourse

“We’ve five lovely runners and it should be a great race. The race was transferred from Huntingdon after its cancellation last Sunday – and it is the most valuable we’ve ever had.

“The going is good to soft, good in places, but that’s likely to ease a bit with some rain forecast.”

The Peterborough Chase restaging is great news for Taunton, whose planned £115,000 Betfair-backed raceday in January 2013 – which would have been their richest raceday ever – was lost due to snow.

Tomorrow’s eight-race card surpasses that total by £1,000.

Fontwell double for Skelton

DESPITE heavy ground, a strong wind  and sleet, racing at Fontwell Park yesterday saw some decent fields for most of the card, resulting in fairly competitive racing. The event also attracted a good crowd,despite the weather.

Christmas jumpers were plentiful for this festive meeting, with its annual competition to find the best design. It was won by Anthony Ashcroft who won this the £500 prize,. Fontwell Park also thanked T I Engineering, title sponsors for what was a highly competitive day.

Jockey Harry Skelton, who not only secured a double for trainer and brother Dan Skelton, also completed his 100th winner and was star of the day

Jockey Harry Skelton on his way to victory with Roksana. Picture: Fontwell Park

Jockey Harry Skelton on his way to victory with Roksana. Picture: Fontwell Park

Trainer Dan Skelton continued his run of good form with a double at the track, winning  both the Mares Novices Hurdle and the three miles two furlongs handicap chase comfortably with brother Harry was in the saddle for both.

The opening juvenile hurdle, run over a distance just short of two miles two furlongs, attracted nine runners, was won easily by 9-2 shot Aiguille Rouge, trained at Horsham  by Gary Moore and ridden by son Jamie.

The three-year-old chestnut filly came home eight lengths clear of runner-up Acaro, sent out by trainer Robert Walford.

But Robert Walford did not go home empty-handed when Our Merlin went on to score under Harry Cobden in the Memorial Handicap Hurdle.

Fontwell’s next raceday is the big one – Boxing Day racing returns and a huge crowd is expected, so book your tickets early from

Toast of New York’s winning return

Toast of New York, rated among of the world’s best horses in 2014, made a winning return to action following a three-year layoff with a comfortable success in the 10-furlong £19,000 Betway Conditions Stakeson on the Polytrack at Lingfield Park last week.

The six-year-old was retired with a soft tissue injury in early 2015, having gone down by a nose to Bayern in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt at Santa Anita, USA, in November, 2014 – a performance that saw the son of Thewayyouare receive a rating of 124 in that year’s World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.

Toast Of New York initially took up stallion duties in Qatar but returned to Lambourn trainer Jamie Osborne in April this year in preparation for a surprise return to racing.

Sent to the front of the four runners by Frankie Dettori, Toast Of New York was headed by Mr Scaramanga with seven furlongs to race but regained the lead turning for home and stayed on well to beat 7/4 favourite Petite Jack (Archie Watson/Luke Morris) by a length in 2m 4.01s.

It was a fourth All-Weather win for the 2/1 chance, who also captured a pair of minor races on Polytrack at Wolverhampton in 2013 before going on to readily capture the G2 UAE Derby, run on Tapeta at Meydan, UAE, in March 2014.

Toast of New York’s winning return Photo: All Weather Championships

Winning jockey Frankie Dettori commented: “I was very pleased with the way that Toast Of New York used both legs. Jamie has done a great job to get him into this shape first time out and he still feels heavy and rusty.

“I can’t emphasise how brilliant everyone has been to get him back. He is only a 70 per cent horse at the moment but still won. It was a step forward and I think that we can improve him a lot. After three years, it was a great effort.”

Harry Herbert, racing advisor to owner Al Shaqab Racing, said: “I think everyone involved feels relieved to see Toast Of New York back on a racecourse again and winning.

“This is a phenomenal training performance from Jamie and Jimmy McCarthy, who has ridden Toast Of New York in all of his work. It has been an incredibly patient journey and it is just so exciting.

“I think Jamie’s expectations were pretty high. He had liked what he had seen in Toast Of New York’s work and knew that the flame still burned pretty brightly.

“He is an entire horse – he covered 15 or so mares in Doha and got 10 in foal. There wasn’t the support for him as a stallion and Duncan Moir, the veterinary surgeon who looks after Al Shaqab’s horses, was responsible for telling us that the tendon injury he sustained wasn’t that bad.

“It’s not very often that you see an entire horse at his age racing and coming back from over 1,000 days off, so it is a remarkable effort.

“Frankie said that he is still very big and burly but he changed his leads well and I loved the way Frankie got him balanced in the straight and then was always going to win the race. It was a very sympathetic ride and I take my hat off to Jamie and the team – it was wonderful to see.

“It really is a fairy tale. Sheikh Joaan (bin Hamad Al Thani) was happy to let Toast Of New York go back into training and Khalifa Al Attiya, the general manager of Al Shaqab, and everyone was saying that we were going to do this but we were going to take our time.

“He was at Longholes Stud for a long time, with spa sessions galore, and then there were issues with him locking his stifle. Duncan Moir said that he could come through this as, the fitter he gets, the better he gets.

“I think we will see what the next stage is. We don’t have a slot for the Pegasus World Cup (G1, Gulfstream Park, USA, January 27) but those normally become available at some point. We will let the dust settle and have a good think about it.

“I am sure Sheikh Joaan would love to see him go for the Dubai World Cup (G1, Meydan, UAE, March 31) and that would be an obvious target. He was originally bought to go for that race – it has just taken a while to get there.”

Highland Reel bows out in fine style

Top horse Highland Reel has ended his career on a fine note- at very top level at Sha Tin in Hong Kong with Ryan Moore in the saddle. Yesterday he won the Longines Hong Kong Vase during Longines Hong Kong International Raceday at Sha Tin Racecourse.

Highland Reel, Ryan Moore up Photo courtesy of Press Association

This outstanding horse topped his illustrious racing career in inimitable style when winning  a Group 1 and enormous prize-money, which ensures that Highland Reel has won more prize-money than any horse trained in Europe, with this success taking his winnings to an incredible £7,513,355.

Highland Reel under a fine ride from Ryan Moore held off the strong challenge of Talismanic, trained  by Andre Fabre.  But Highland Reel held on for a seventh Group One victory in his farewell race.

“This is a really fitting way for him to finish,” said Moore. “He’s been a brilliant racehorse and there’s plenty to look forward to at stud now.

“We thought the longer straight here would help. He’s a very, very good horse, his record shows that, and it’s been a delight to be a part of it.”