The Loch Lomond Whiskies National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell Park tomorrow, Sunday, February 28

THE National Spirit Hurdle is the most valuable and prestigious race in Fontwell Park’s racing calendar, and always promises a thrilling day. Named after the winner of the champion hurdle in the 1940’s, this race continues to attract some of the finest racing talent in the country.

This year it takes place this Sunday, February 28 and the Grade 2 £50,000 National Spirit Hurdle has a new sponsor- Loch Lomond Whiskies– an independent distiller and blender of some of the rarest scotch whiskies in the world. The company also produce a range of popular vodkas and gins. 

Unfortunately, Coronavirus has meant that this year, Lomond Whiskies National Spirit Hurdle will have to be held behind closed doors. The race has always attracted a quality field of runners and recent winners include Vision Des Flos, Old Guard, Camping Ground and Lil Rockerfeller.

Champagne PIAFF is expertly blended by 6th generation wine makers Épernay and can be ordered direct from their cellar to your door. www.champagnepiaff.com

Eleven times champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won the race three times including with Celestial Halo ten years ago.

Celestial Halo, trained by Paul Nicholls on the way to victory Photo by John Simpson

This year Paul Nicholls has entered the highly regarded McFabulous, winner of the Grade 2 Unibet Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow last October.  Also entered is the 2019 Grade One Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle winner, Cornerstone Lad from the Micky Hammond yard and the Harry Fry trained If The Cap Fits, successful in the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in 2019. 

There are eight entries in total for the big race :  Ballyandy, Brewin’upastorm,  Call Me Lord, Cornerstone Lad, If The Cap Fits, McFabulous, and Molly Ollys Wishes and Reserve Tank.

It is 20 years since dual Stayers’ Hurdle winner, Baracouda, won the National Spirit Hurdle for owner JP McManus and trainer Francois Doumen. 

The seven race card starts at 2.10pm and is live on Sky Sports Racing.

Frustrating time for horse racing says Plumpton

Dan, Holly and the team at Plumpton have been reflecting on the lack of positivity regards to racing generally and feel the timings of lifting restrictions have been poorly placed.

They said: “For example, the Grand National is run on Saturday April 10 but the betting shops don’t open until Monday April 12 which will cost the industry a huge amount of levy from bookmaker payments which help fund the sport.

“Similarly, crowds in full may be allowed from Monday June 21, but Royal Ascot is run between June 15-19 and we are not sure if moving such large events would be possible, but it would be hugely beneficial if they could.

They added: “Similarly, we were disappointed with the announcements from our own perspective, as our funding now faces some restrictions and as it stands it doesn’t look like we will have any crowd before September.

Racing action could be back at Plumpton later this year Photo: Jeannie Knight

“Our last fixture of the 2020/21 season is Sunday May 8, but it doesn’t look like crowds will be allowed before Monday May 18 -and so that is quite frustrating!”

Dan said:” I am just exploring whether we can move any of our April or May fixtures to different dates (to allow attendance!) and if we can have a crowd as a “pilot” but to be frank with you all, it looks unlikely.

“This will no doubt be very frustrating for you to hear and it likely brings to a conclusion a long and strange season. Once I hear about the fixtures mentioned above, I will get back in touch and I’ll also provide options on the membership details for 2021/22 where it looks like full attendance will be allowed….we hope. There will of course be options regarding your money held here and again, I’ll re-iterate my thanks to you all for the support and understanding.”

In more positive news, last weekends racing was particularly enjoyable and also successful and Plumpton’s “home team” trainers. One of Plumpton’s favourite teams (The Moores) had a super day at Wincanton, with Goshen romping home in the Kingwell and firmly back into the picture for the Champion Hurdle.

“We’ll be in touch with you again ASAP, and our apologies that we can’t get you back with us sooner but we hope in your own lives there can now be some more to look forward too.

“Meanwhile the Grand National is run on Saturday April 10 but the betting shops don’t open until Monday 12  which will cost the industry a huge amount of levy (bookmaker payments which help fund the sport) and similarly, crowds in full may be allowed from Monday June 21 but Royal Ascot is run between June 15 and 19. I’m not sure if moving such large events is possible, but you never know and it could be hugely beneficial if they could.”

Expect top class jump racing at Plumpton when racing resumes. Photo: Jeannie Knight

“Similarly, we were disappointed with the announcements from our own perspective, as our funding now faces some restrictions and as it stands it doesn’t look like we will have any crowd before September. Our last fixture of the 2020/21 season is Sunday May 9 and as it stands, it doesn’t look like crowds will be allowed before Monday May 17- and so that is quite frustrating!

” I am just exploring whether we can move any of our April or May fixtures to different dates (to allow attendance!) and if we can have a crowd as a “pilot” but to be frank with you all, it looks unlikely.

“Once I hear about the fixtures mentioned above, I will get back in touch and I’ll also provide options on the membership details for 2021/22 where it looks like full attendance will be allowed….we hope. There will of course be options regarding your money held here and again, I’ll re-iterate my thanks to you all for the support and understanding.”

“In more positive news, the weekends racing was particularly enjoyable and also successful for Plumpton and its “home team” trainers. One of our favourite teams (The Moore’s) had a super day at Wincanton, with Goshen romping home in the Kingwell and firmly back into the picture for the Champion Hurdle.

“Chris Gordon’s Annual Invictus has been a winner with us twice this season (and you saw one of them live on December 14 as this horse flew home in the Betfair Hurdle to finish fourth.

“Andy Irvine (Zoe Davison’s husband) had a first winner at Market Rasen with Blarney Bateleur at 28/1. Some of our past winners also developed into “Saturday horses” too in Thibault (2nd at 80/1!) at Ascot, The Two Amigos following up his Welsh National runner-up achievement with a  fine 3rd in the Grand National trial at Haydock,.

“First Lord de Cuet bolted up at Wincanton and Gellino Bello followed up his fine December win here with a third in the listed bumper at Newbury on Sunday. It’s great to see that good horses are still coming here and progressing on nicely.

“We’ll be in touch with you again ASAP, and our apologies that we can’t get you back with us sooner but I hope in your own lives there can now be some more to look forward too.”

Best Wishes,

Dan, Holly & Team at Plumpton

Three RDA volunteers have won prestigious award

THREE long standing volunteers have been selected as recipients of this year’s Riding for the Disabled Association Presidents’ Award – the most prestigious award presented by the RDA for exceptional dedication to this charity. What is more exceptional is that two are from the same Group.

Bridgyd Richards from Fairwarp and Sally Grainger (Bidborough) are both from Eridge RDA (which meets in normal times at Chelwood Gate) and Jo Lee is from Epsom RDA. It is hoped that all three will be able to receive their awards in person from the RDA President, HRH Princess Anne, at a prestigious event as soon as circumstances allow.

BRIDGYD RICHARDS OF ERIDGE RDA is pictured below with Ockey

Bridgyd is a stalwart of Eridge RDA and has been for 46 years, having joined soon after the Group’s inception. She has been a committee member and trustee ever since – a record of volunteer service unequalled in the Group.  Indefatigable in attendance at committee meetings, riding sessions and fundraisers, she has shown a life-long commitment and loyalty to the riders.  She is the Group’s memory-keeper and an unflagging proponent of the charitable aims for which the group was founded so many years ago.

Bridgyd has never missed the Monday session despite the years of milking and caring for her prize Jersey herd of cows until her retirement and now, despite hip problems, she still attends to keep records of each session.

“I am so thrilled to have received this award as it was so unexpected. I have had a wonderful time, visiting many other groups and competing three times at the RDA Pony of the Year at Wembley – even coming second” says Bridgyd. “It’s been a great ride and still is!”

Her many years of experience with disabled children has stood the Group in good stead. Bridgyd simply is Eridge RDA.

SALLY GRAINGER, ERIDGE RDA

Sally has given a lifetime of service to Eridge RDA and has remained quiet, unassuming and constant throughout. She started as a teenager over 40 years ago and has always been a firm favourite with the riders with her reassuring and friendly manner. 

Sally Grainger of Eridge RDA

Sally has been the Group’s Secretary, a pony keeper, a pony transporter, an occasional rider’s chauffeur, a Christmas Lunch Chef, a weekly volunteer, a keeper of confidences for parents, volunteers and trustees. She has supported the Group in at least five moves, secured and overseen healthy finances, seen many riders progress from tots to young adults and shy volunteers become confidant instructors.

“I was really surprised but absolutely delighted to have been given such an amazing award” says Sally. “It has been a privilege to have been able to help and I have met so many inspiring young people, their parents and carers and have learned from them all”.

Sally is certainly a rock of the Eridge Group which would be lost without her and would not have flourished in the way it has.

JO LEE, EPSOM RDA

Jo Lee began with Epsom RDA in 1989 as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award and in the three decades journeying from teenage volunteer to Trustee and Group Coach, Jo has made an outstanding contribution to the Group and is very much at its heart.

As well as coaching disabled riders on her regular Wednesday evening riding sessions, Jo has responsibility for overseeing the care of the charities’ herd of 10 horses. In addition, she is always prepared to step up and lead on a myriad of other activities to help the Group including organising the in-house riders’ championships, tackling the logistics of volunteers, riders and ponies travelling to Regional Championships and National Championships as well as fundraising and making sure the yard is kept in an orderly fashion.

Jo said “When I first arrived at Epsom RDA as a teenager I never for one moment imagined that Epsom RDA would become such an important part of mine and my family’s life. I am delighted to have been recognised in this way, but I am mindful that I am one individual representing the wider Epsom RDA community.”

About Riding for the Disabled (RDA) in the South East:

In the South East we have 35 groups across Surrey, Sussex and Kent with over 2,000 riders of all ages. They come to enjoy the experience of riding, carriage driving, show jumping, dressage endurance and western style, with opportunities to learn a new skill, enter competitions or even take a holiday.

This can bring a new dimension to necessarily restricted lives, encourage independence and does much to improve a wide range of medical conditions. We have the commitment of more than 1,000 volunteers who regularly and cheerfully give up their free time. Its instructors work closely with physiotherapists and other health professionals to encourage every individual to aim for attainable goals – some modest, others far more ambitious.

RACING AT PLUMPTON HAS BEEN ABANDONED TODAY

Plumpton Winter Raceday – Monday February 8 2021 cannot go ahead

Racing at Plumpton today was subject to a morning inspection, and was abandoned because of rain, snow and frost. If the card had gone ahead it would have been racing behind closed doors.

A Plumpton spokesman said:”So this is February! And it all feels remarkably similar as we are still struggling against the elements (rain, snow and a frost threat) and we still race behind closed doors.

“Unfortunately I don’t have any further insight as to when we might be able to get you back with us, but as soon as we do we will get in touch and please remain assured we will get you back as soon as we can.

Breen Equestrian opens state-of-the-art new stud


Showjumping team Breen Equestrian has expanded its business by launching a luxurious new breeding facility close to its home base at Hickstead in West Sussex.

Pook Bourne Stud is a state-of-the-art breeding premises with space to accommodate up to 85 mares and young horses. Nine stallions will stand at the stud, including prolific show jumping winners- Golden Hawk, Can Ya Makan and Clyde VA.

The aim is to breed around a dozen foals each year under the Breen Equestrian prefix, while the stud will also cater to clients who wish to send their mares to the stud with the aim of breeding their own potential superstars.

BELOW: SHANE BREEN EN ROUTE TO WINNING THE HICKSTEAD AL SHIRA DERBY Photo courtesy of Hickstead


Breen Equestrian is run by Irish international showjumper Shane Breen and his wife Chloe, who already have a superb reputation for breeding, producing and selling top class sport horses.

Fellow showjumper Greg Le Gear, a qualified AI technician, is the Stud Manager at Pook Bourne Stud and is in charge of the day-to-day running of the breeding side of the business.

Shane Breen commented: “I’m very proud and excited that Breen Equestrian can offer some of the world’s best stallions, as well as facilities that are second to none.”
For more information visit www.breenequestrian.com