Thursday sees the start of a new era for Warwick racecourse with the first jumps meeting of the autumn, heralding a major change of direction after more than 300 years, writes David Hucker.
Earlier this year, Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR), which leases the course from Warwick District Council, announced plans to discontinue Flat racing and stage a 17-fixture jumps programme starting in 2015.
Having been the first to stage jumps racing in Great Britain in 1831, Warwick has an historic place in the sport and JCR is putting plans in place for it to become one of the UK’s leading small courses within the next five years.
While there are five fixtures already scheduled for the remainder of 2014, culminating on New Year’s Eve, the programme for next year has still to be announced, so it is a matter of waiting and seeing just when the course will race.
One meeting that is already pencilled in, however, is the popular Classic Chase Day for which the British Horseracing Authority has announced an upgrading of the long-distance novices’ chase to Listed status.
The 2015 renewal, which takes place on Saturday January 10, will be called the Hampton Novices’ Chase (Listed Race).
Last year’s race, which went to Corrin Wood from the Donald McCain yard, also featured Black Thunder who, like the winner, went on to be rated 150+ by the end of the season, showing the depth and strength of the runners taking part that day.
Other top novices who competed over the previous three years were Rocky Creek, Highland Lodge, Frascati Park, Alfie Spinner, Golden Chieftain, Wayward Prince and Peveril.
Clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “It is great news that this chase has been upgraded to a Listed event. The racing on Classic Chase Day is a really strong card, which has been further developed by this upgrade.
“With so many top novice chasers taking part in the contest over the past few years, the race really does deserve its new status.”
Thursday’s action kicks off at 2.10pm with the racinguk.com “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and gates will open two hours before.
Feature race of the day is the Class 3 Watch On 3 Devices racinguk.com/anywhere Handicap Chase over three miles and half a furlong.
The seven-race card comes to an end at 5.20pm with the rewards4racing.com Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Fillies and Mares).