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

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.

New chairman for Cowdray Park Polo Club

Cowdray Park Polo Club has announced that, following completion of his term of office, Roderick Vere Nicholl has stepped down as Chairman of the Club.

New chairman for Cowdray Park Polo Club

The Club’s President, Viscount Cowdray, stated: “On behalf of the Committee we are hugely grateful to Roderick for the enthusiasm, energy and commitment he brought to the role, and for steering the Club through a difficult year.”

The Club is further delighted to announce that Andrew Swaffield has accepted the President’s invitation to be appointed the new Chairman.

Hickstead’s ‘Royal’ appearance

  Equestrian fans might have spotted one of sport’s most iconic venues on screen this week, with the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead appearing on the hit Netflix series, The Crown.

Hickstead was used as the filming location for scenes for another famous equestrian event – Badminton Horse Trials. Erin Doherty, the actress playing The Princess Royal, is seen competing in the showjumping phase at the 1979 event, where she finished sixth.

The huge Longines International Arena with its permanent grandstands and multitude of showjumps at Hickstead made a convincing backdrop, with cheering crowds added through computer graphics. Princess Anne is seen jumping a clear round over a sizable course of jumps that included some of Hickstead’s famous fences, such as the Al Shira’aa Derby wall.

In the scene, the characters of The Queen and Prince Philip, played by Olivia Coleman and Tobias Menzies, are seen in the Master’s Box, cheering their daughter on. They are also joined by the character of Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), who is later depicted having one of his early meetings with the young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) when queuing to leave the event.

“I’m a huge fan of The Crown so we were more than happy for part of the new series to be filmed here,” says Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “It was quite a production, taking several weeks to set-up and four full days of filming. Quite a few members of the Hickstead team were involved in filming the scenes too, playing roles such as the gate steward and the official waving a flag at the finish. They all had to go to Elstree to be fitted out with costumes from the era, which was great fun.”

The rider who did the actual jumping in the action shots was Amy Inglis, who is a regular competitor at Hickstead and was a member of the British Nations Cup team there in 2019.

The Crown may have used some artistic licence when it came to creating the ‘Badminton’ scenes, but Princess Anne did actually compete at Hickstead, most notably winning the combined training in 1973 on her famous horse Doublet. The Princess Royal has also visited the showground on a number of occasions in an official capacity, while Her Majesty The Queen is the official patron of the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead.

 
About Hickstead
The All England Jumping Course at Hickstead in West Sussex was founded in 1960 by Douglas Bunn, who had dreamed of creating a venue that could rival those on the continent. The showground has been the venue for several World and European Showjumping Championships over the years, and now hosts two major international shows annually – the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting and the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Great Britain at the Longines Royal International Horse Show – as well as a national show in September known as the Science Supplements All England Jumping Championships.

Christmas In April wins Plumpton’s Sussex National

PLUMPTON’S prestigious Sky Sports Racing’s Sussex National race was won yesterday by trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Harry Cobden with French-bred Chrismas In April.
This horse was sent off as 9-2 joint favourite and a front-running performance saw off any challengers from the 11 strong field which tackled the three miles four furlongs race.
Christmas In April was in front throughout the race and his task was made easier when Hard To Forget blundered at the third fence, unseating his rider.
Sackett continued in the lead, with Vinnie Lewis and Christmas In April the nearest pursuers and then came Uallrightharry. But Christmas in April took up the lead when Sackett made a bad mistake with two circuits to go.
Four from home Sackett made another bad mistake and Christmas In April, with Harry Cobden in board,took advantage and went into the lead, followed by Rathlin Rose and Uallrightharry.

Harry Cobden and Christmas In April en route to victory Photo courtesy of Plumpton Racecourse

They went on to win by two lengths from Uallrightharry, with Rathlin Rose third and then Belle Empress.

The Colin Tizzard stable is currently in top form with Christmas In April’s victory, becoming the second big winner for  the yard another big winner over the weekend, following the success of Fiddlerontheroof in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle on Saturday.

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Isabella wins BHS Charity race

Jockey Isabella Budge secured a victory on Bird to Love in The British Horse Society’s (BHS) second annual charity flat race at Newbury Racecourse yesterday (7 November).

The midday, one mile flat race saw a tense finish with racehorse trainer Michael Appleby following a close second on Bancuanaheireann (IRE).

Eleven jockeys, from across the country competed in the race at Newbury and had to undertake months of intense training to reach the fitness levels and stamina required to compete. The jockeys were also tasked with each raising a minimum of £2,500 for a BHS campaign of their choice.

Isabella Budge in the paddock
Photo: British Horse Society

Following her win, Isabella Budge said: “I don’t know when I last travelled that fast, it was over in a flash! It was just an unbelievable, unforgettable day. I’m on cloud nine and I don’t think I’m coming down anytime soon!”

Tracy Casstles, Director of Fundraising at The British Horse Society said: “We are hugely grateful to all the jockeys for their incredible efforts over the past couple of months whilst preparing for the fantastic race at Newbury yesterday. It has not been an easy challenge but the money they’ve all raised so far will make an invaluable difference to the work of the BHS. We’d also like to extend our thanks to all the owners and trainers who loaned a horse to our jockeys and the trainers who trained them so perfectly for the closely fought race. Without their time and generosity, the race would not have been possible”.

To find out more about the BHS’s second annual charity race please head to bhs.org.uk/fundraising.

RDA qualifier for National Championships

Disabled carriage drivers from the Riding for the Disabled’s South East Region met at Sands Farm, Warnham recently in the annual qualifying competition for the RDA National Championship held in July 2020.

Drivers from across Surrey, Kent and Sussex went head-to-head in the three combined disciplines of dressage, cones and obstacles with only the top placed competitors qualifying.

The Carriage Driving Groups represented included East Sussex’s Kipling County (Chalvington), West Sussex’s Cherry Park (Chichester) and Happy Landings (Billingshurst), Surrey’s Stella Hancock group (Worplesdon), Kent’s Bradbourne (Sevenoaks) and for the first time, Alkham Valley (Dover).

Steven Holland of Alkham Valley drives Ted through the cones. Photo: Joanna Sale

There was edge-of-the seat excitement, particularly in the Novice Whip where young sisters, Gemma and Stacey Tiley from the Stella Hancock Group competed against each other in their first competition. Happily, they came first and second (respectively), both qualifying for Hartpury and both scoring exactly the same time in the cones.

Sisters Gemma and Stacey Tiley both qualify for the Nationals Photo: Joanna Sale

The final results showed less than a point between them. Linda Redmond, also of Stella Hancock, came third to make the hat-trick of qualifiers.

Following his second place at the Nationals this year, Jack Marr from Bradbourne continued his winning streak in the Intermediate Whip qualifying again but at the higher level. Amanda Hardy of Happy Landings also qualified for coming second.

Sandra Spininer of Cherry Park, hot on the heels of winning the Championship at the Nationals this year, qualified safely in the Open Class.

Jean Leverett of Bradbourne drives Disney in the cones Photo: Joanna Sale

In the non-qualifying Assisted Whip’s Class, Amanda Wakefield pipped team mate, Josie Cyster, both from Kipling County, to first place.

Julia Hockin of Regional Sponsors, Cowan Architects, presented the awards. She was impressed by the speed and agility. “These drivers are really inspirational but it’s also lovely to see their warmth and pleasure at having achieved so much. I’ve been amazed today” she commented.

The day’s organiser, Helen Pritchard, gave thanks to the hard work of the team behind the scenes in putting the event together saying: “I take a lot of pride in the events that we offer to our regional members and the team is amazing at getting stuck in when we really need it. We’re also very grateful to our wonderful judges led by Sara Howe, an internationally acclaimed carriage driver and Team GB member.”.

WHW’s care of emaciated ponies brings Equifest awards

Ponies Buttercup and Fydlyn Kenen (Clyde) have been so successfully transformed since coming into the care of World Horse Welfare that they were awarded Champion and Reserve Champion Rescue Pony at Equifest this year – an incredible achievement given the ponies’ condition a year ago.

Equifest is the biggest rescue competition of the year and for the ponies to reach the final is in itself a huge achievement. A field of twelve deserving ponies qualified for the evening championship so to win was a triumph for all concerned.

Clyde arrived at World Horse Welfare emaciated and in poor condition Photo: WHW

Piebald mare Buttercup came into the charity’s care in June 2018 and is amongst the worst cases that staff at Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre had ever seen. She was severely emaciated and dehydrated, yet somehow still gave birth to a tiny filly foal.

Buttercup was also found emaciated and in bad condition Photo: World Horse Welfare

Penny Farm Yard Supervisor Karen Wright said: “It’s incredible that Buttercup and her foal both survived, given the terrible condition that Buttercup was in. She needed urgent treatment and was far too weak to care for her foal herself, so the team had to hand-rear the foal, Frieda.

“It took months of dedicated care from the team to get Buttercup strong enough to even be turned out in the field, but she’s gone from strength to strength since then. She’s really blossomed this summer and loves attention, so we thought she should have a trip to Equifest to take part in the rescue classes. Seeing her win Rescue Pony Champion is incredible – a real testament to the team’s dedication and care over the last year.”

Black gelding, Clyde came, into the charity’s care in May 2018 after being found in a field, severely emaciated and with overgrown chipped feet.  He was covered in lice and had chunks of hair missing from his coat where he had tried to rub to ease the irritation. Clyde was very lethargic when he arrived, with sunken eyes and no real will to survive.  The team at Penny Farm worked hard to make him more comfortable, treating his skin condition and using a duvet under his stable rug so that his protruding bones did not rub and create sores.

Karen said: “Clyde was in such a poor condition on arrival that it took weeks of dedicated care and attention before he started to become interested in his surroundings and really respond to treatment. He’s comes on in leaps and bounds since then and although he can still be a bit wary of new people his confidence is growing fast. He’s turned into a very handsome pony and we were really proud to show him off at Equifest.

Wiinners Buttercup and Clyde in top form after care by WHW.

“For Buttercup and Clyde to be transformed into showing champions in just over a year is a great tribute to the team’s hard work, given how poorly they were on arrival.  We’re very proud of both ponies and Buttercup is doing really well with learning to drive, so we hope that she will be ready to rehome very soon.”

You can seeWHW horses and ponies which are currently looking for new homes here: www.worldhorsewelfare.org/rehoming

World Horse Welfare (Registered charity no: 206658 and SC038384), is an international horse charity that improves the lives of horses in the UK and worldwide through education, campaigning and hands-on care of horses.  Since it was founded in 1927, itswhole approach has been practical, based on scientific evidence and our extensive experience, and focused on delivering lasting change across the full spectrum of the horse world.

In the UK its dedicated network of Field Officers investigate and resolve welfare problems, and it has four Rescue and Rehoming Centres where horses in need can receive specialist care, undergo rehabilitation and find loving new homes through WHW’s rehoming scheme – the largest of its kind in the UK.

Its international programmes alleviates the suffering of thousands of working horses by providing essential knowledge for horse owning communities in the developing world. WHW also works tirelessly to change legislation and attitudes to horse welfare through campaigns and education, including our founding campaign to end the suffering endured by the tens of thousands of horses transported long-distance across Europe to slaughter each year. It supports the responsible use of horses in sport, and is independent welfare adviser to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) and British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

World Horse Welfare relies on voluntary donations. Itssupporters are its lifeblood and WHW always aims to fundraise in a caring and responsible way. Its fundraising activity is governed by the Fundraising Regulator but it also go much further to ensure our supporters feel valued and protected.

Find out more at: http://www.worldhorsewelfare.org/our-pledge-to-supporters

Plumpton’s new season starts this month

RACING resumes at Plumpton Racecourse with a Core Spreads Family Raceday on Sunday September 22.

This popular National Hunt track has a season opener raceday for all the family, with activities and entertainment throughout the day, and accompanied under 18s are admitted free.

Good viewing facilities of horses in the paddock at Plumpton           Photo: Jeannie Knight

Racegoers have a good view of racing and can also see runners and riders at close quarters in the paddock before racing as well as in the unsaddling enclosure afterwards.

There will be plenty of family entertainment, ranging from Meet The Trolls, face painting and a mascot race to static falconry display, derby horse hoppers, rodeo bull, soft play area, as well as seven races on the card.

    1. Plumpton offers top class jump racing with good viewing facilities.  Photo:Jeannie Knight

The opening day is an ideal time to sample some of Plumpton’s renowned hospitality with two restaurants to choose from. Enjoy the Paddock Restaurant with a three course a la carte menu, welcome drink, table for the day, racecard, admission all for just £80pp.

In the Marquee Restaurant you can enjoy a three-course set menu, welcome drink, table for day, racecard and admission opposite the final fence for just £70pp. To book call 01273 890383.

You can enjoy all 17 racedays at a reduced price by becoming a Plumpton Racecourse Annual Member.Single Membership – £200 while Double membership is £380.

Included in the price of the membership is a racecard at every fixture, discounted hospitality prices, £600 worth of tickets to other racecourses and sporting venues PLUS much more.

At this popular jumps track, racegoers can look forward to enjoying some top class jump racing throughout the winter and into next spring, with some quality horses amongst runners on racedays. Get your tickets early to save money.

Tickets are on sale now.