Wetherby’s Jump season kicks off with its annual Spinal Research Charity Raceday on Wednesday, 12th October.
Spinal Research is the UK’s leading charity, funding medical research around the world to develop reliable treatments for paralysis caused by a broken back or neck. Every year more than 800 people in the UK and Ireland are paralysed following an injury to their spinal cord, with some of these injuries coming through racing or riding accidents.
Now in its 26th year, the Spinal Research Charity raceday at Wetherby has raised more than £500,000 since its inception, including £55,000 in 2015.
Racegoers can support Spinal Research by joining them in their exclusive hospitality marquee, which includes a drinks reception, three-course luncheon followed by a charity auction and raffle. Items on offer include a week-long stay in Barbados for four people, a morning on the gallops with Nicky Henderson, a night’s stay at the award-winning Coniston Cold Hotel and tickets to the Henley Royal Regatta.
Stuart Dunne will be the guest speaker on behalf of Spinal Research, with former Jump jockey Chris Pimlott the master of ceremonies.
Dunne founded Cyclone Technologies in 1989, four years after a car crash that left him tetraplegic and reliant on a wheelchair. With a background in engineering, his thoughts turned to improving the range of wheelchairs available and the company has since become one of the market leaders in innovative solutions for people with spinal cord injuries.
The action on the track gets underway at 2.20pm with Spinal Research Rachel Wright Memorial Juvenile Hurdle (15 entries), run in memory of Rachel Wright who founded and organised this Spinal Research Charity Raceday until her death in 2006.
There are 26 entries for the highlight of the card, the £10,000 Bobby Renton Handicap Chase over just shy of two and a half miles. Last year’s renewal was won by Village Vic, who went on to capture a pair of Grade Three handicap chases at Cheltenham.
Among the 2016 contenders is lightly-raced chaser Mystifiable (Fergal O’Brien). The eight-year-old has won two of his four starts over fences and looked a horse to follow on the back of impressive handicap victories at Leicester and Newbury last season.
He was pulled up on his final start of the campaign when tackling three miles for the first time in a Listed handicap chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April.
Trainer Fergal O’Brien said: “Mystifiable is in good old form. He had a good summer off and has come back fresh and well. We are very pleased and, providing it is good jumping ground, he will run.
“We are looking forward to him this season because he looked a good horse at Leicester and Newbury. His brother [Hidden Keel] got better with age and he is by Kayf Tara so there should be more improvement there.”
Other high-profile entries include top-weight Ballybolley (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who captured a valuable prize at Haydock Park in March, progressive seven-year-old Gabriel The Great (David Pipe) and popular 12-year-old Mr Moonshine (Sue Smith).
Tickets for Wetherby’s first raceday and Spinal Research charity lunch can be purchased at www.wetherbyracing.co.uk
Donations to Spinal Research can be made via www.spinal-research.org
The bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting on Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 is the early season highlight of the Jump racing calendar, with high-quality action headlined by the £100,000 Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.
The three-mile contest boasts an illustrious roll of honour and is often the starting point for the country’s top staying chasers. Last year’s winner Cue Card went on to Grade One triumphs in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park and Aintree’s Betfred Bowl.
The two-day meeting also features the £40,000 Grade Two bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle, won in the past by World Hurdle heroes Inglis Drever and Cole Harden, as well as three Listed prizes including the £22,000 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and £20,000 Weatherbys Stallion Book Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle.
Wetherby’s new look
Over the summer, the Old Members’ Grandstand has been demolished as part of the £3.2 million redevelopment project. The new grandstand will be constructed as an extension to Millennium Grandstand and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2017.
New facilities are set include a spacious public bar on the ground floor with a betting shop and more refreshment outlets.
The first floor will provide an exclusive facility for owners and trainers with balcony viewing of both the parade ring and winning post, as well as extensive panoramic views of the whole racecourse.
The second floor will be a premium facility for Premier Enclosure racegoers, providing unrivalled viewing of the racecourse, and it is hoped will be one of the best public sporting facilities within the region. A new stewards’ room will also be accommodated on this floor.
The top floor will provide essential accommodation for race meeting integrity services including the judge, photo-finish facility, side-on television camera positions and the racecourse commentator.
Jonjo Sanderson, Chief Executive & Clerk of the Course, Wetherby Racecourse & Conference Centre, commented: “Everyone here is ready and raring to go for the start of what we hope will be another exciting season.
“As has been much publicised, we’re undergoing a major redevelopment at Wetherby, which we hope will not impact too much on everyone’s enjoyment of their visits to the course.
“However, we very much hope and expect the finished article will make any inconvenience worthwhile in the long run.”
The ground is currently Good, with watering taking place.
Sanderson added: “The ground has summered extremely well; the prolonged warm weather we have been experiencing, interspersed with some occasional rain, has left us with a wonderful cover of grass as we enter the Jump season.
“I couldn’t be happier with the condition of the track. We are predominantly Good all round, with one or two slightly quicker areas up the home straight, and we’re applying just enough water to maintain and marginally improve.”