Jerry McGrath recovering following Lingfield pile-up

Jerry McGrath is recovering from hip and shoulder injuries sustained in a three-horse pile-up at Lingfield on Monday.

The jump jockey remains in hospital after being operated on following his crashing fall from the Nicky Henderson-trained Vegas Blue in the concluding ‘jumpers bumper’.

“He had some surgery last night because he dislocated his hip and his shoulder. I haven’t heard much more,” said trainer Nicky Henderson.

“He might have fractures in those areas. He’s having X-rays and further examinations to see what else there is.

“His head and back are good. It’s just his shoulder and hip. He had an operation last night to put them back into place. It is possible he may need another piece of surgery.”

The falls occurred on the home turn less than three furlongs from home, when McGrath was about to make his challenge on Vegas Blue. The six-year-old appeared to be short of room, clipped heels and came down.

Perfect Percy, partnered by Jordan Nailor, and the Alexander Thorne-ridden Lord Howard were brought down. Those two riders rose to their feet, and all three horses got up too.

McGrath was reportedly conscious and speaking while being treated on track before being taken to hospital.

McGrath injured in Lingfield fall

Jeremiah McGrath was taken to hospital following a three-horse pile-up in the concluding ‘Jumpers Bumper’ at Lingfield.

The jump jockey took a crashing fall from the Nicky Henderson-trained Vegas Blue on the home turn as the two-mile race began to take shape.

Favourite Vegas Blue was about to make her challenge when she appeared to be short of room. The six-year-old mare clipped heels and came down.

Perfect Percy, partnered by Jordan Nailor, and the Alexander Thorne-ridden Lord Howard were brought down. Those two riders rose to their feet, and all three horses got up too.

McGrath was reportedly conscious and speaking as he was treated on the track, and Lingfield clerk of the course George Hill told “Jerry McGrath is going to hospital for further examination.

“He was treated on the track by paramedics.”

An inquiry into the incident was adjourned because of McGrath’s injuries.

The race went to Lucky’s Dream (6-4), who was giving jockey Tom Scudamore and trainer Ian Williams a double. The pair had earlier struck with 33-1 shot Robelli.

Henderson later confirmed via Twitter that McGrath has had x-rays.

He wrote: “@JerrymcGrath is rather battered and bruised and has been taken for precautionary x-rays, I can report that Vegas Blue is ok, other than a few cuts and scrapes, she will be home this evening. Thank you for all your messages of concern, we will of course keep you all updated.”

Honour takes Lingfield Glory

Glory And Honour moved a step closer to an outing at the Cheltenham Festival after proving a cut above his rivals at Lingfield.

The Tom Lacey-trained five-year-old had little trouble following up his November success over hurdles at Huntingdon in the first division of the Follow At The Races On Twitter “Jumpers Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race.

Maintaining a handy position throughout, the 8-13 shot quickly put the race to bed when sent on by Richard Johnson down the home straight, crossing the line eight and a half lengths clear of runner-up My Boy James.

Lacey said: “He hasn’t done much wrong in all fairness as he bumped into two nice ones when he got beat in Any News and Isolate.

“Jerry Hinds, who owns half of him with Ashley Head, is very ambitious and he would love to find a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in March if we can.

“He is clearly a stout stayer given the way he has run out there. Maybe we could look at the County Hurdle or the Martin Pipe. He has got a great temperament to handle either race.”

Glory And Honour was introduced at 25-1 for the County Hurdle by Paddy Power.

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Whitlock and Nico de Boinville storm to glory at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)
Whitlock and Nico de Boinville storm to glory at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)

Too Darn Hot’s former lead horse Whitlock secured his first success since joining Nicky Henderson when obliging by a length and a quarter in the second division of the two-mile prize.

Nico de Boinville, winning rider, said: “We will have to go back to the drawing board now as he has answered a few questions, but created some more.”

Rose Of Aghaboe (5-2) continued to go up in the estimations of trainer Nick Gifford when rallying close home to deny Now Children by a neck in the Sky Sports Racing On Sky 415 “Jumpers’ Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race.

Gifford said: “I was getting a little bit worried when Tabitha (Worsley, rider) was scrubbing him along half a mile out, but all she does is stay though.

“You can see when she is in front she doesn’t like getting beat, she really puts her head down and that was her third win this season.

“We’ve got a soft spot for her after she won the race named after dad (Josh) at Plumpton. ”

Joe Tuite received more than he bargained with stable stalwart Black Kalanisi (7-1), who ran out a two-and-a-half-length winner of the Watch Sky Sports Racing In HD “Jumpers Bumper” National Hunt Flat Race.

He said: “It was better than expected, though I did think it might pan out that way. I told Daryl (Jacob, jockey) just to take his time and sit in behind and wait for the openings.

“We will go back over fences with him now, but I need decent ground and if we can’t find any we will wait until the spring when it dries out a bit.”

City Derby made amends for unseating Paddy Brennan on his debut at Hereford when getting up by length in the Visit Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race to initiate an across the card double for Fergal O’Brien.

The winning trainer, speaking away from the track, said of the 3-1 shot: “It was hard to say if he would have won at Hereford, but the way he has won today, you would have thought he would have been there or thereabouts.

“He picked up a little injury after that race as he got loose and ran into a rail. I’m delighted for his owners as they have been very patient. He will make a lovely novice hurdler next season.”

Becky The Boo (1-2) completed O’Brien’s brace when becoming his 70th winner of the season in the EBF/Quinnbet Mares’ Standard National Hunt Flat Race at Newcastle.

Marco Ghiani keeps his name in lights at Lingfield

Red-hot apprentice Marco Ghiani continued his sensational run of form with a double at Lingfield on Tuesday.

Since booting home two winners at Southwell on New Year’s Day, the Italian-born jockey had added further successes at Wolverhampton and Lingfield to take his recent record to five winners from his last seven rides ahead of his return to the Surrey circuit.

The 5lb claimer kept the run going with victory aboard the Amy Murphy-trained Jennivere in the Get Your Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boost Handicap, with the 100-30 chance clinging on by a short head from Nozieres.

Murphy said: “She’s a tough little filly and she deserved that as she probably should have won the last day – she just ran out of time.

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“She’s a home-bred, so it’s great to get a second win on the board for her.

“Marco is riding out of his skin and is definitely a jockey to follow.”

An hour later, Ghiani successfully combined with boss Stuart Williams as Passional completed her hat-trick in fine style in the Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap.

Bought for just 5,500 guineas out of Simon and Ed Crisford’s yard in October, the daughter of Footstepsinthesand was placed on her first two starts for Williams, before bolting up at Southwell last month.

Having followed up at Wolverhampton on Saturday, Passional was the 8-15 favourite under a 5lb penalty and quickened up smartly to score by a length and a half.

Williams, saddling a fifth winner from his last five runners, said: “I think she was a bit unlucky in a few of her races for Simon and our family actually bred her, so we always kept an eye on her progress.

“When she went to the sales we said we’d try to buy her back and see if we could win a couple of races with her. It’s worked out well.”

Passional (centre) charges home at Lingfield
Passional (centre) charges home at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

On Ghiani, the Newmarket handler added: “He’s doing really well. He had a really good year two years ago and I didn’t want him to ride his claim out through the winter, so I sent him over to Brendan Walsh in America, just to ride trackwork for three or four months.

“He came back just before the start of the season here last year and obviously we went straight into lockdown. He ended up not riding for about seven months and lost all the contacts that he’d built up the year before, so in hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.

“It’s just taken him a while to build his contacts back up again. My horses weren’t in spectacular form after the lockdown either, so little things like that conspired against him.

“Now we’re in better form, Marco has been around for a bit longer and is getting more rides off other people and it’s all come together.”

Elsewhere on the card, the Roger Varian-trained La Tihaty (10-11 favourite) went one better than when runner-up on his course and distance debut with an emphatic victory in the Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free Novice Stakes.

Newcastle and Lingfield to stage all-weather bumper cards

The British Horseracing Authority has announced ‘jumpers bumpers’ cards will be held at Lingfield and Newcastle on Friday.

The move has been made following the abandonment of the jumps cards which were originally scheduled at both venues on the same day.

The afternoon all-weather fixtures will be seven-race cards, with the option of dividing up to eight races if required. Entries will close on Wednesday, with declarations at the 24-hour stage on Thursday.

An inspection at Lingfield on Tuesday led to the decision to call off the National Hunt fixture, with standing water on heavy ground, and it was similar story at Newcastle too.

Clerk of the course James Armstrong tweeted: “Sadly the NH turf fixture due to be run on Fri 8th Jan @NewcastleRaces has been abandoned due to waterlogging & false ground with no significant improvement likely given forecast of further rain & prolonged frost forecast.”

Racing Insights, 31st December 2020

An easy winner on Wednesday with Inevitable Outcome appreciating Laura Pearson's ride and claim at Wolverhampton. The horse was well backed from 6/1 into 10/3.

On to Thursday...

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Once again we have a completely free choice of races to look at on Thursday with all races open to registered free users and a competitive 6f Lingfield handicap (3.35) catches my eye, largely because there is a runner I have had my eye on for several months running in this! Let’s see what kind of chance he, and the rest of the field, have in this contest.

I’ll start with my primary horse of interest and then I’ll see if a stronger case can be made for any other runner.

Porto Ferro went into my tracker in June after a couple of strong efforts in 6f handicaps at Windsor. She ran in a race on the 22nd June and although beaten just over 4 lengths in 3rd, time has shown that to be a strong effort.

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The winner, runner up and 4th all won next time out. In fact the 4th won his next two starts after that run. It would therefore stand to reason that Porto Ferro would be capable of winning again off that mark (which was 45). She ran again over the same course and distance a week later and was 2nd on that occasion, with the winner franking the form again somewhat by finishing a close 2nd in two of his next three starts.

Now it’s worth noting that Porto Ferro is a bit of a Windsor specialist having won two of her three turf victories there and she’s also gained three of her eight runners up berths there too. However she’s run well here at Lingfield too in the past, both on their turf course and more importantly in the context of this race on the all weather course too having won and finished 2nd here.

So why hasn’t she won this season if so well handicapped? Well her next run came a month later on soft ground at Goodwood and she predictably ran poorly as she’s barely been a rival home in three attempts on soft ground. Since then she’s had five all weather runs but they’ve all come at 7f, a distance over which she had previously failed to place in seven runs. Not much was expected of her in her five recent spins over 7f with SPs of 50/1, 28/1, 100/1, 66/1 and 33/1 but she’s worked herself into decent form, finishing 3rd and 4th on her last two starts in twelve runner fields. On those final two runs she had cheekpieces back on that were worn and run well in much earlier in her career.

She’s unfortunately 3lbs out of the handicap here but that means she’ll be racing off 46, which means she’s still well handicapped on her June form. Plus she has Darragh Keenan taking off 3lbs for good measure. Her last run here, when 3rd, came off this mark and she looked very much as though she’d improve for the drop back to 6f on that occasion and the runner up has won since so everything points to her being very competitive once again off this mark.

Comeatchoo has been running well here on his last few starts, he’s probably equally effective at both 5f and 6f so there is no reason why he should necessarily improve on his latest 2nd at 5f back up to 6f. Since winning narrowly here off a mark of 54 in November he’s been held three times here and a further time at Wolverhampton giving the whiff that he’s no longer well enough handicapped to win. His two handicap wins have been off 51 and 54 and his form figures off higher marks read 5642354744445333 which seems to suggest he still needs to drop a couple of pounds from his current mark of 56. That’s not to say he can’t run well though.

Come On Girl, ridden by Geegeez sponsored David Probert, won a weak course and distance handicap off this mark in July and her best form since has possibly come over 7f. She was 7lbs out of the handicap last time out in a class 3 handicap here over 7f so a 4 length beating was no disgrace but she’s failed to place in all three runs over this distance for Mick Appleby off this sort of mark. She needed every yard of this 6f when she won here so she’ll probably need a very strong pace to figure.

Hey Ho Let's Go went close at Kempton last time out over this trip an is now 2lbs higher as a result. His only previous career win from twenty-five starts came here over the minimum trip on turf off a 4lb lower mark but he has finished 2nd off higher marks before on both turf and artificial surfaces. A repeat of that run should see him go well given the winner of the race won again easily next time but his overall profile is quite patchy so whilst he's capable, he comes with risks attached.

Aguerooo only beat one home on his last run which came over course and distance. He’s down just 1lb as a result. His last two wins came off much higher marks over course and distance but they were almost two years ago and he needs to bounce back to form here.

Catapult has the widest draw to deal with here, coming out of stall 12.

Stall 12 has the poorest PRB in handicaps over this course and distance and double figure draws offer three of the worst five PRB figures so Catapult is clearly going to be at some disadvantage here. He’s on the right kind of mark to be competitive but hasn’t had any obvious excuses on his recent runs. There was a bit more of a revival at Kempton last time out when 4th but the winner has been well beaten since.

Mont Kiara was 1.25 lengths behind Catapult that day, given a very contrasting type of ride and probably not seen to best effect given how the race panned out. Having previously been rated 95, he’s a shadow of his former self now with a rating of less than half that. He’s probably better over 7f these days but given a strong pace he could run into a place at a price. However he too is drawn very wide which is a negative.

Amnaa was the horse that won that race Catapult and Mont Kiara contested last time out but as previously mentioned, Amnaa came out and ran poorly next time out. She won that race at 40/1 and in the other five of her most recent starts she’s beaten just 10 of her 56 rivals so clearly isn’t one who puts it all in very often.

Of the remainder here, Giovanni Tiepolo has finished nearer last than first on his three runs for a new trainer, Morning Shadow also ran poorly for a new trainer last time (and was running poorly before that), Clashaniska has been running very poorly over further and will probably do better back at sprint trips but still has to massively improve on what he’s been showing whilst Stopdworldnletmeof has a wide draw and is a 40 race maiden.

Pace could be crucial here with a few of these happy to get on with things.

Looking at the past returns by run style it’s a huge advantage to be nearer the pace in this sort of contest. Front runners have the best strike rate of any run style and they produce a huge WIN PL of 60.0! Contrast that with a WIN PL of -232.50 for hold up performers.

There should be a decent pace on here though with at least two or three capable of going forward early. That may well mean that in this contest it is those that are ridden prominently that are seen to very best effect. One of those prominent runners is badly drawn (Stopdworldnletmeof) and another one of them is extremely consistent (Amnaa).


This may be a competitive race but it’s certainly not a good race. That comes with the territory in betting in this grade though and it’s simply a case of finding the least poorly handicapped runner that has conditions to suit. The only thing that would probably suit Porto Ferro better is to run this on fast turf at Windsor but she’s done enough around Lingfield to suggest she can transform her form here. The recent runs at 7f have helped her rediscover her form (as have the cheekpieces) and this smells of a slight ‘plot’.

Come On Girl does look better at 7f but with a strong pace on the cards and question marks over a lot of the field she could be next best. She has a 60% place strike rate in this race class which is almost twice as good as anything else in the field.

Another landmark success for Hollie Doyle

Hollie Doyle continued to take the headlines as she secured her 150th winner of 2020 aboard Darwell Lion at Lingfield.

Record-breaking Doyle capped her remarkable year by finishing third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year poll on Sunday and reached her latest milestone two days later with a clear-cut victory on Ellmarie Holden’s Irish challenger.

The two-year-old was a 4-1 shot for his racecourse debut in the Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football EBF Novice Stakes and overcame signs of inexperience to power down the outside and score nicely by a length from La Tihaty.

Doyle told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s great to get to 150. To get the 100 up was a relief, but to get 150 is different class – I didn’t think it would happen this year.”

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Of Darwell Lion, she said: “He’s a big strong horse and knew what he was doing, to be honest.

“He travelled nicely, but was finding it all a bit sharp early on, so I just sat on him.

“He was very green in the closing stages, but I’ve no doubt he’s a nice horse.”

Doyle had already surpassed her own record tally for the most winners in a calendar year by a female jockey, set in 2019 – and pulled off a brilliant Champions Day double at Ascot in October, including her first Group One aboard Glen Shiel in the British Champions Sprint.

The 24-year-old also claimed her first Royal Ascot success on Scarlet Dragon, and rode fives winners on a card at Windsor in August.

She has since taken part at the Breeders’ Cup in America and became the first female to ride a winner in the Longines International Jockeys Championship in Hong Kong this month.

Doyle added: “The Group One on Champions Day is the biggest highlight of the year for me. Hopefully it will unlock a few doors for the future – it’s great to get it under my belt at such a young age.”

Asked whether she would like to challenge for the jockeys’ championship in 2021, she said: “I’ll give it a go. I’ll always be trying as hard as I can and I hope I can land in that position one day, whether it be next year or the the year after I don’t know.

“The main thing is to try and keep people happy and ride as many winners as I can.”

Sangarius scores comeback victory at Lingfield

Royal Ascot winner Sangarius defied a long absence to beat Bangkok and Dubai Warrior in the Betway Quebec Stakes at Lingfield.

Sir Michael Stoute’s representative won the Hampton Court Stakes at the big meeting last season, but had been seen only once since then.

That was in the rearranged Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock when he could finish only fourth – although later events proved he had a tough task against subsequent Prince of Wales’s winner Lord North.

He looked to face a big ask on his return too against the all-weather specialist Dubai Warrior, last year’s Winter Derby winner, but Ryan Moore always had him in the right place.

After he had just got the better of Dubai Warrior deep inside the final furlong, Bangkok came from off the pace to challenge – but the 5-1 chance held on by a nose, with a neck back to the favourite.

There were several minutes of drama after the tight finish, as a stewards’ inquiry was called, but the placings remained unaltered.

Racing Insights, 19th December 2020

Friday's analysis wasn't too far off but the main selection Raspberry got going a bit too late and finished a staying on 5th. A good run at the price but just needed a bit of extra early pace.

Saturday’s feature of the day is the Trainer/Jockey Combo report which is available in full to all free registered users. The free races on Saturday for free registered users are as follows:

11.50 Haydock
1.05 Newcastle
1.25 Lingfield
2.25 Ascot
3.25 Newcastle

The 1.25 at Lingfield is a class 2 6f handicap featuring some progressive performers and is a race I’m immediately drawn to here.

Premier Power is the obvious starting point as barring any major market moves he’ll be going off favourite here. He represents the powerful Roger Varian yard (who has an impressive course IV of 3.1 in the past 12 months) and having raced four times to date is yet to finish out of the first two.

His latest start was his handicap debut and although beaten by Brian The Snail (who reopposes here) he was only beaten a nose and is clearly still very progressive. So how much substance is there to his form? Well in August after 11 months off he beat reliable yardstick Recall The Show easily by 3.75 lengths giving that 80 rated rival 7lbs. That victory meant he started life on a mark of 100 and he proved that mark certainly wasn’t beyond him when getting beat in the final stride at Kempton. More on Brian The Snail to come but that was a very much in form horse getting the better of him so it was no disgrace. He’s only up 2lbs for that so is obviously going to be competitive again.

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Can Brian The Snail confirm form with Premier Power here at Lingfield? He’s now 3lbs higher and doesn’t have anywhere near the improvement left in the locker that Premier Power does so you’d expect Premier Power to reverse form.

Brian The Snail is chasing a hat trick here having won his last two (at Newcastle and Kempton) and he’s actually won his last three on artificial surfaces. In fact he’s tasted defeat just once at this distance on the all weather. He’s still unexposed away from turf but does have to translate that form to Lingfield.

Aberama Gold is yet another progressive runner here with recent form figures of 121. He’s slowly come to hand as the year has progressed and won last time out at Chelmsford off a 3lb lower mark and the runner up franked that form with a next time out win so a 3lb rise could underestimate him.

Will To Win ran in some strong handicaps over the summer but seemingly lost his form a little on his last two runs and will need to have benefitted from a 90 day break to figure here. Simon and Ed Crisford do really well here though (course IV of 3.35 in the past 365 days) and the horse has finished first and second here from two runs, albeit in small field handicaps. If he bounces back he could run well but this might be a bit deep for him.

Top Breeze is a very consistent performer on the all weather but he’s struggled to get his head in front recently, producing recent form figures of 22332. It’s worth noting that whilst he’s won at 6f, his other two wins came at 5f, as have all his recent places. His last three runs at this distance have produced form figures of 979 and he looks a bit short given how strong this race looks and the distance it will be run over. He’ll do well to place.

Mohareb has run 15 times on artificial surfaces and although still largely running well, it does seem as though the handicapper has him. He’s 11lbs higher than his last win at this distance and looks slightly better at 7f these days now.

Typhoon Ten will need to improve to figure here. He was 3rd off this mark two starts ago at Kempton, only beaten .25 lengths, but that wasn’t anywhere near as good a race as this. He does run well at Lingfield and would be of interest in a weaker race but this is a tough ask.

Merhoob looks underestimated in the betting. He was much better than the bare result two runs ago at Chelmsford behind Aberama Gold and was only beaten 0.75 lengths. He’s now 2lbs better off and trainer John Ryan has an IV of 1.38 when turning horses around within 7 days of their previous run. His course and distance form reads 1122331435 and the majority of those runs have come off marks in the mid 90s. His form here in handicaps off marks between 90 and 93 is 122 and his current mark is 87.

Lomu completes the field and the first thing that catches the eye is the booking of Laura Pearson. She’s been a revelation in recent weeks and is well worth her claim of 7lbs. She’s had 7 winners from just 17 runners in the past fortnight and has interestingly has only tasted defeat once (when 2nd) when riding a runner priced 7/1 or shorter (5 winners from 6 in that sample). Lomu has been running as if a return to 6f is required but he hasn’t run well at that distance for over two years and is almost certainly just not particularly well handicapped or in great form at the moment.

Pace is likely to play an important role here.

Premier Power is likely to get an uncontested lead and front runners are favoured here so things are setting up nicely for him. He’ll also have no trouble grabbing the perfect position from stall 2. With Aberama Gold in stall 1 almost certainly happy to drop in just behind the favourite.

Merhoob is likely to be anchored near the back early on, which is of course a negative here, but it’s been a negative every other time he has run very well here. He’d ideally get a stronger gallop than he's going to get here but he’s well enough drawn.

PRB (Percentage of rivals beaten) drops off for the higher draws over this course and distance so those drawn particularly high in this contest so Top Breeze, Mohareb and Will To Win face an extra obstacle to overcome.


The quartet of most interest (no prizes for originality) are Premier Power, Aberama Gold, Brian The Snail and Merhoob. There is every chance they’ll be the first four home. Premier Power is possibly the best handicapped horse in the race. We know the ceilings of most of the rest of the field but not with this runner and this course could ideally suit him. He’ll be advantaged by the way this is run and is definitely the most likely winner.

The ‘value’ has definitely got to be with Merhoob but he may well finish 4th through no fault of his own and without an overly strong pace to run at. He still looks an interesting enough each way though.

My personal preference for how to play this race would be to back Merhoob each way and to cover Aberama Gold, Brian The Snail and Merhoob in combinations of tricast behind Premier Power (that would be six permutations). At the likely prices the forecasts don’t particularly look worth covering.

Tracks poised for return of racegoers on Wednesday

Racecourses are ready to welcome spectators back on track, albeit with limited numbers, on Wednesday.

Hundreds of punters will be allowed through the turnstiles at Haydock, Kempton, Lingfield and Ludlow for the first time since the end of March – barring two pilot events at Doncaster and Warwick in September – after the Government announced limited crowds would be permitted under the post-lockdown restrictions.

Outdoor venues in Tier 1 and 2 areas are allowed to admit spectators after the end of the national lockdown in England on Wednesday, with up to 4,000 spectators or 50 per cent capacity limits – whichever is lowest – in place in Tier 1, dropping to 2,000, or 50 per cent capacity, in Tier 2. No crowds are permitted in Tier 3 areas.

Ludlow, Lingfield, Haydock and Kempton all fall under Tier 2 restrictions and can get racing on the way back to some kind of normality.

Haydock will be among the first tracks to welcome back racegoers
Haydock will be among the first tracks to welcome back racegoers (David Davies/PA)

Haydock and Kempton come under the Jockey Club Racecourses banner.

They have made the maximum number of tickets available between annual members, owners and general admission.

Nevin Truesdale, group chief executive of the Jockey Club, said: “Aside from our successful pilot race day at Warwick, it’s been more than eight months since we’ve been able to welcome spectators on course – and racing fans have been incredibly patient in that time.

“Since the restricted number of tickets went on sale for our race days in Tier 2 areas of the country, we’ve seen a really positive response, including our general admission allocations selling out for this weekend’s feature race days at Sandown Park and Aintree.

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“Last week’s Government announcement that a limited number of spectators will be allowed to return is a great first step on the road to recovery for sport in general.

“But there is no magic switch you flick to ensure your venues are instantly ready, and I’m very proud of all our teams around the country who have been working tirelessly to ensure that racing fans can purchase tickets as smoothly as possible and will then have a safe and enjoyable day out.”

Ludlow are limiting their numbers well below the 2,000 mark at about 650 as they look to find their feet before their Christmas meeting on December 16.

Spectators will be back at Ludlow on Wednesday
Spectators will be back at Ludlow on Wednesday (Tim Goode/PA)

General manager and clerk of the course Simon Sherwood said: “The phones have been very busy. We’ll probably be up to our maximum allocation as far as numbers are concerned.

“Hopefully we’ll be around the 650 mark, plus essential workers.

“It’ll be good to have people back on the race track. We’ve had to change our zones a little bit.

“It will be nice to have the owners back properly – because they have been restricted up until now – and members who, likewise, have been sitting on the sidelines for a long time. They are obviously our most important people.

“We are very much limiting our numbers, because it is a step in a new direction and we’re using it as a stepping stone to hopefully opening up a bit more for our December meeting.”

Lingfield raced on Tuesday, 24 hours before spectators return
Lingfield raced on Tuesday, 24 hours before spectators return (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Lingfield is preparing for a few hundred patrons as it too looks to future meetings over jumps and on the all-weather.

Mark Spincer, Arena Racing Company’s managing director, said: “We’ll get a few hundred people. We’ll probably be a little busier than would be expected for a normal midweek all-weather fixture.

“We’re not doing any hospitality, only for owners – so we haven’t put any corporate on which would normally be a reasonably good corporate day there – but we decided that before Christmas we’re just going to focus on the owners and the general admissions area.

ARC's Mark Spincer is expecting a busier Wednesday than normal at Lingfield
ARC’s Mark Spincer is expecting a busier Wednesday than normal at Lingfield (David Davies/PA)

“We’ll learn a lot tomorrow, as we have done all along. We’re ready – we’ve got processes and procedures in place. The site is ready.

“We’ve got a lot of fixtures there in the month of December – that’s another factor.

“The team have worked so hard. They were one of the first sites to come back behind closed doors. Any last minute changes and tweaks that get thrown at us, we’ll be ready to deal with accordingly.”

Nicky Henderson has praised the BHA and other parties
Nicky Henderson has praised the BHA and other parties (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Trainers have paid tribute to the British Horseracing Authority and other parties who have ensured racing has had a fair crack of the whip.

Nicky Henderson, who has runners at Haydock and Ludlow, said: “I think the first thing to say is how well the BHA have done to get us this far. To be the first to have crowds attend a sporting event is a great achievement, and something we’re all looking forward to.

“It has been slightly soulless, but it has been fantastic that racing kept going at all, even if it has been under weird circumstances.

“Yes, it’s been soulless – we’ve been quite a lot recently, and it’s been good, but a bit lonely. I think there were 42 people at Cheltenham the other week, but they did it really well and everything has gone well. It will just be nice to see a few different faces – you miss seeing people.”

David Pipe, who has just the one runner at Lingfield, said: “It’s fantastic for the sport. The sport has worked very hard with all the different parties for once working together – and look what we’ve done.

“We had to put it towards the Government, but we’ve done a fantastic job. Everyone has worked extremely hard – and everyone should be praised a lot for it.”

Crowds could return on Wednesday under post-lockdown tier system

Spectators could be back on track at Ludlow, Lingfield, Haydock and Kempton on Wednesday – because all four tracks are in Tier 2 areas under the Government’s post-lockdown restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that outdoor venues in Tier 1 and 2 areas would be allowed to admit spectators on a limited basis after the end of the national lockdown on December 2, with up to 4,000 spectators or 50 per cent capacity limits – whichever is lowest – in place in Tier 1, dropping to 2,000, or 50 per cent capacity, in Tier 2.

With Shropshire, Surrey, Merseyside and London all falling under Tier 2 restrictions, as published by the Government on Thursday, all four tracks could welcome racegoers next week – although courses in Tier 3 areas, such as Newcastle, Wolverhampton and Leicester, will not be allowed spectators.

Racing has been staged behind closed doors since its return on June 1, barring two crowd pilots at Doncaster and Warwick in September.

Ludlow’s general manager Simon Sherwood is looking forward to the return of a crowd, although he is anticipating no more than 600 spectators on the day as the track “treads cautiously”.

Racing has been held behind closed doors since June 1, barring two crowd pilots
Racing has been held behind closed doors since June 1, barring two crowd pilots (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He said: “We’re trying to work out the configuration of the course with a crowd back. It will be great for the atmosphere.

“We’ll tread cautiously being one of the first back. We’re allowed 2,000, but realistically we’ll be welcoming our members back first and then a small amount of the public. I wouldn’t have thought we’d be pushing close to 2,000, our capacity wouldn’t allow that anyway with social distancing.

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“For that meeting in December, we’d normally get around 1,500 to 2,000, but I suspect we’ll be having between 500 and 600.

“The fact the other meetings are in Tier 2 does take a bit of the pressure off, otherwise all eyes would have been on us. It will be interesting to see how people engage as I’m sure there will be a bit of nervousness to start with.
“No one will be allowed to turn up and walk into the racecourse. For the members, we have all their details and have informed them already what the protocol is going to be, they have to ring in advance. Because of our numbers it is all going to be done through our office, but the actual detail, we haven’t been informed what that is.

“We need to decide if we’ll be selling alcohol. We might take a view that as you have to serve substantial food to have alcohol, we might not make it available to the public. However, for the owners, because they’ll be having substantial food, alcohol would be available. We might just take a cautious route to start with on that.

“We have a Christmas meeting so if all goes right next week, hopefully we can expand a little then.

“Financially this is not going to be a record breaker, but what it will do is bring some much-needed atmosphere back to the course.”

An example of the Covid-19 protocols in place at Lingfield
An example of the Covid-19 protocols in place at Lingfield (David Davies/PA)

Lingfield, which is run by Arena Racing Company, is staging an all-weather Flat card on Wednesday.

“It’s been a long time since March, so we’re delighted to hopefully be welcoming crowds back from Wednesday,” clerk of the course George Hill told Sky Sports Racing.

“We’re, I think, one of the first racecourses back on December 2 – so we’re looking forward to it.

“At racecourses throughout the country, it’s been shown how much of an impact (is made by) not having crowds or any catering or hospitality on offer for racegoers. To have no racegoers coming through your gates for six months plus, obviously is going to be a massive financial hit.

“So I think getting back to some crowds back is a massive step in the right direction, to start with.

“Then hopefully, 2021 – as we head towards the summer, with good news on vaccines coming out – we will eventually get back to normal.

“It’s quite a complicated set-up which, obviously until the last couple of days, it’s (been) difficult to plan too far ahead when you’re racing every second day at the moment here – we’re pretty busy,” he said.

“But it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I think even if you’re getting a couple of hundred through the gate, to show you can put on racing safely and it is a safe spectator sport is definitely a step in the right direction.

“Everyone has worked really hard to make sure it is as safe as possible and that we adhere to all the rules and regulations that are put in place – to make sure we can continue safely.

“Racing as a whole has proved itself over the last six months, especially since getting going again in June behind closed doors.

“The news of next Wednesday, starting again for some courses to get back with some sort of crowds, is definitely good.

“I think we’ll be able to do so safely.”

Judicial out to defend Golden Rose title

Judicial will bid for back-to-back wins in the Betway Golden Rose Stakes at Lingfield.

The eight-year-old sprang a 20-1 surprise in the 2019 edition of Saturday’s Listed heat, and trainer Julie Camacho was looking towards All Weather Finals Day with her charge until the April event was cancelled because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Judicial returned with a fine effort to finish second in the Palace House Stakes back in June, before adding the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle on his next start and then also winning the Queensferry Stakes at Chester in August.

He has not run since finishing fourth at York in September. But Steve Brown, husband and assistant to Camacho, revealed this weekend’s feature race has been the long-term aim.

He said: “Judicial has had a nice preparation for this. The ground at the back-end of the turf season is generally against him, which is why we planned to wait for the Golden Rose.

“I think it looks a stronger race compared to last year, and obviously he will have a penalty to carry for his Group Three win at Newcastle. It will be a tougher test for him, but at the same time we are looking forward to it.

“In winning this race last year, he really proved himself over six furlongs, and I think that extra furlong over the last 12 months has really suited him. He has looked a better horse over six furlongs, because he has been able to travel more within himself.”

While Judicial is now in his seventh season, Brown feels the fact he has been lightly raced is key to how he is maintaining his form.

He added: “For all he is eight going on nine, he has not had a hard time of things.

“He has run 40 times in his life, which is not a lot for a sprinter of his age, and touch wood he is a very sound horse with no aches and pains. It all contributes to him being in such good form at this stage of his life.”

Buick vows to continue title chase after Lingfield double

William Buick kept up his bid for a first Flat Jockeys’ title with a double at Lingfield on Thursday, only for reigning champion Oisin Murphy to hit back with a four-timer at Chelmsford’s evening meeting.

Buick, completed his brace aboard the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Sorrel, who backed up recent wins at Leicester and Doncaster in the Ladbrokes EBF River Eden Fillies’ Stakes.

Picking up smartly once sent on by Buick down the home straight, the Dansili filly had more than enough in hand to hold off the staying-on Elizabethofaragon by a length and three-quarters.

Buick said of the 3-1 winner: “She has got her valuable black type and she stays very well. She is very straightforward, she is progressive and that was lovely. She definitely felt like she stepped forward from Doncaster.

“It went beautifully to plan today. The pace was pretty good. I could have done with a couple of them leading me a bit further, but she is filly that I know stays going in front.

“I don’t know what her future plans are, but she has won a Listed race now, so those staying Group races would have to be on her radar.”

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Murphy’s Chelmsford wins give him a double-figure lead over Buick, but he has vowed to continue fighting all the way until the conclusion of the season at Doncaster on Saturday week.

Buick, who also struck on Fame N Fortune (5-4) in the Betway Handicap, added: “Obviously we have just over a week left, but I’m enjoying it still. We’ve chased it for a fair while now. We are where we are, but we will give it our absolute best shot until the end.”

The George Baker-trained Fame N Fortune (5-4) got the ball rolling for Buick when following up his recent course-and-distance success by a length and a quarter in the Betway Handicap.

Frankie Dettori steered Indie Angel to the most significant success of her career in the Ladbrokes EBF Fleur De Lys Fillies’ Stakes.

Having his first ride since finishing down the field on Alternative Fact in the Balmoral Handicap on British Champions Day at Ascot earlier in the month, Dettori was anchored close to the rear of the field for much of the race, before sweeping around the outside entering the final furlong and quickening clear to score by a length and a quarter.

Dettori said of John Gosden’s 12-1 winner, who he was riding for the first time: “I was listening to Rab (Havlin) and John and they told me to sit back and go around the outside of the field as she doesn’t like to go through horses and it worked a treat.

“She liked to have some clear air on the outside and she has won well. I started making my move just after the three as we were rolling downhill and we had some momentum.

“The most important thing was to get black type and get in the first three. Winning is a bonus, but she has done it well.”

Connections of Documenting are dreaming of a second appearance on All-Weather Championships Finals Day after the Kevin Frost-trained seven-year-old got up on the line to land the Bombardier British-Hopped Amber Beer Handicap by a neck.

Mick Brunt, member of joint-owners Kevin Frost Racing Club, said: “On Finals Day the year before last, unfortunately there wasn’t a seven-furlong race and he had to run over a mile. He ran well and came sixth, but this is his distance.

“It (Finals Day) was the plan before it was called off (in April). The decision was do we go for the six or the eight and I suppose that decision is there in the background.”

Tom Marquand got in on the double act, which was initiated by the Sylvester Kirk-trained newcomer Invite, who ran out a two-and-a-quarter-length winner of division two of the Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football/EBF Fillies’ Novice Median Auction Stakes.

Marquand said of the 18-1 winner: “She was nice and relaxed and pretty professional and she finished the job off with some effect.

“She could definitely go a mile on a track like this, but she showed a good bit of toe there.”

Jacinth (4-5) went one better than on her previous start at Chelmsford to form the second leg of Marquand’s haul with a decisive five-length victory in the Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free/EBF Novice Stakes.

Marquand said of the William Haggas-trained winner: “She was impressive to be fair and I think the track suited her. She kicked off the bend pretty smartly. I probably rode her wrong last time, but hopefully we have made up for it today.”

Spirits seeking further Listed glory in Fleur De Lys heat

Cloak Of Spirits bids for her second Listed success of the season at Lingfield on Thursday following a fine effort at Group One level.

The Richard Hannon-trained filly ran a tremendous race to finish third in the Sun Chariot Stakes, only beaten a length and three-quarters by the winner, Nazeef.

That came after the daughter of Invincible Spirit had landed her first win of the season in the Listed Rosemary Stakes over the Rowley Mile.

Cloak Of Spirits now makes her first appearance on an artificial surface in the Ladbrokes EBF Fleur De Lys Fillies’ Stakes, a fast-track qualifier for the All-Weather Championships.

Trainer Richard Hannon
Trainer Richard Hannon (Nigel French/PA)

“Her last two runs have probably been her best runs of the season,” said Hannon.

“She’s in good form, I think the track will suit and she’s got a nice draw, so I’m very hopeful she’ll run very well.”

When Cloak Of Spirits was second in the 1000 Guineas on her seasonal debut, Romsey was a length and three-quarters behind her in fifth place at the massive odds of 200-1.

However, the daughter of Mukhadram was kept off the track until earlier this month. She looked to need the outing when well-beaten in the Group Three Pride Stakes at Newmarket when stepping up to a mile and a quarter.

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Trainer Hughie Morrison is just pleased to have the filly back on the course.

“Romsey obviously ran a great race in the 1000 Guineas, but she came back from there a bit jarred up, so we had to give her a break and have run out of time a bit really,” said the East Ilsley handler.

“We ran her at Newmarket at the start of month just to sharpen her up more than anything, as there are a lack of opportunities on the turf.

“We hope she will get a mile and a quarter in time, but she certainly wasn’t going to that day given the testing ground and her fitness levels.

Trainer Hughie Morrison expects Romsey to have benefited from her recent outing
Trainer Hughie Morrison expects Romsey to have benefited from her recent outing (Julian Herbert/PA)

“Cloak Of Spirits brings in the best form and is clearly the one to beat, but if we can run up to our Guineas form, we should be able to give her a race getting 3lb, as we were only a couple of lengths behind her at Newmarket.”

Others in the line-up include Sir Michael Stoute’s lightly-raced Soffika, Roger Varian’s Group-race placed Farzeen and Amanda Perrett’s Lavender’s Blue, a Group Three winner in 2019.

The Mark Johnston-trained pair of Vivid Diamond and Tulip Fields head for the Ladbrokes EBF River Eden Fillies’ Stakes in contrasting form.

Tulip Fields looked a filly very much on the up when lifting a mile-and-a-half handicap in good style at Doncaster on Saturday.

“She won impressively at Doncaster last week. She hit the line strong there and it looked like the extra furlong would not be an issue to her,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“She’s already got a bit of black type and we’re looking to try to build a bit more for her for her pedigree.”

Vivid Diamond has been below her best this campaign, which has prompted connections to try her in blinkers.

“She has been a bit disappointing this year,” said Johnston.

“She had a very good autumn last year, winning at Chester and finishing third in the Park Hill. (It’s) been a bit of a struggle this year.

“She’s just not been travelling well through the early stages of her races, so the blinkers have gone on to try to sweeten her up and get her to travel a bit better.

“If they have the desired effect, I think running to a mark of 100 is probably going to be required to win this and she’s certainly capable of doing that on her best form.”

Aidan O’Brien, who took the prize with Delphinia, banks on Elizabethfaragon to give him back-to-back victories.

Eve Johnson Houghton’s Hyanna will attempt to improve on her seventh place in this race 12 months ago. The hat-trick seeking Sorrel and Jane Marple are lightly-raced three-year-olds who could have more to offer.

Webber favouring Lingfield option for Indefatigable return

Indefatigable is likely to return to action on the Flat ahead of a jumps campaign, for which the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham is the ultimate objective.

Trainer Paul Webber is set declare the seven-year-old for the Ladbrokes Football Acca Booster EBF River Eden Fillies’ Stakes, a Listed contest over one mile and five furlongs on the Polytrack.

She also holds an entry in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday, but Webber fears the ground will be too soft for Indefatigable on what would be her first try at three miles.

The mare is already a dual Listed winner over the smaller obstacles and claimed the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at last season’s Festival over an extended two and a half miles.

She has yet to run on the Flat, although she did win a bumper at Southwell on her first start for Webber in April 2018 before she went hurdling.

“The thinking at the moment is we are worried about the forecast for Wetherby,” said the Banbury handler.

“I think we’ll probably go to Lingfield rather than go three miles for the first time on ground softer than is ideal for her.

“We’ll probably declare her for Lingfield and Jim Crowley has been booked to ride her.

“I think that’s what we’ll do because she certainly wants better ground. Her only disappointing run last year was at Sandown on heavy ground and I think we’ll try to avoid that for as long as we can.”

Webber had thought of giving Indefatigable her first taste of Flat racing at Royal Ascot, but had to scrap that plan as the mare was under the weather.

“We were going to run her in the Ascot Stakes, but she didn’t scope right before then, so she had a holiday and this is a suitable starting point,” he went on.

“The Stayers’ Hurdle will be the plan and she’ll be entered in the mares’ hurdle over two and a half as well. We’ll just have to see how things go, but she is better on better ground.

“I don’t want to pull her about first time out over further. There are some nice hurdle races coming up in three weeks’ time if she has a nice prep at Lingfield.”