Could we see jumping at Chester?

Chester - a new jumps course?

Chester - a new jumps course?

If you are looking for innovation in racing, then Chester is the place to be. For all its faults, the replacement Tote service, ChesterBET, is here to stay. We also saw that earlier this year, the course experimented with a cashless bar in which punters downloaded an app to a mobile phone and placed their orders from that. The course hopes to extend that into cash free betting in the future.

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.

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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.

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2 replies
  1. Chris Worrall says:

    I can see the anti-jumps lobby and the Health & Safety groups having something to say!

  2. Debbie says:

    The question that immediately springs to my mind is ‘Is the Roodee up to it?’. The racecourse is one of the most vulnerable in the country when it comes to the weather – specifically, the rain. It is liable to flooding…..with disastrous consequences for the race-goer…

    The River Dee (clearly visible in the photograph that accompanies your article) is prone to burst its banks and this is just what happened during Chester’s ‘showpiece’ May Meeting in 2012, which descended into complete chaos because of the rainfall over the preceding weeks – on the second day of the meeting, the car park had to be closed at very short notice. For those unfamiliar with the course, the only car park at Chester – for members and non-members alike – is the infield – i.e. the centre of the course. Richard Thomas, the course chief executive, apparently failed to implement any warnings that the car park was no longer open, with the result that thousands of race-goers turned up at the course only to discover that there was nowhere for them to park….

    The National Hunt season is not exactly known for its balmy weather. Flooding is not unlikely and this means that not only could there be nowhere to park, but the track could also be vulnerable to damage if the racing surface is pressed into service during the remainder of the year… I hope that Chester knows what it is doing….

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