Now the course has revealed that they hope to start National Hunt racing at the course, possibly as early as 2015. It would only stage hurdle races, because the track is too tight to run races over steeplechases safely. The executive at Chester sees this as complementary to the 15-day flat programme, and in the first instance will probably only seek a single jumps fixture.
Last year the course ran a trial over two circuits of the Roodee, with several horses from Donald McCain’s stable testing things out. Only one horse fell, and that, at the time, was an unraced creature, so the tumble was more likely due to inexperience rather than any problem with the hurdle or course. There were four hurdles around the track, effectively one on each side – or after the sharpest bit of each turn if you prefer.
Chief executive Richard Thomas was very happy with the way that went. He said, “The trial went well really, other than one tired horse falling at the last hurdle. All it proved was the track was big enough, we were able to bypass that hurdle and it worked perfectly well. There were no issues with it, the big issues are when you would race so you don’t jeopardise the flat programme which is the bread and butter and what’s important to the business.”
Now Thomas is waiting to see how the British Horseracing Authority views the plan. He went on, “We are looking for a specific fixture we want to put on. We can’t achieve it in 2014 but we are looking for 2015. We have started talking with the BHA. It’s certainly not dead and buried and it’s something we don’t in any way want to affect the flat programme. We have done quite a bit of work on it.”
I hope the idea comes off, because on such a tight track you would be sure of a close up view of the action.