Warwick bidding to be a force to be reckoned with among Midlands elite

There is jumping action at Warwick on Wednesday when the course hosts its Armed Forces Day.
There is jumping action at Warwick on Wednesday when the course hosts its Armed Forces Day.

It is Armed Forces Day at Warwick next Wednesday, when the course stages the second meeting of its new jumps season with a seven-race card that gets underway at 1pm, writes David Hucker.

The Class 3 Weatherbys Private Banking Novices’ Chase is the highlight of the afternoon and, although competing with a meeting at Chepstow, officials are hoping the bigger stables still bring some of their better horses to the track.

Last year’s contest went to hot favourite Balder Succes, who was scoring for the second time.

Alan King’s charge continued to progress as the season went on, winning three more races and ending on a rating of 160.

Huw Williams, general manager of Warwick Racecourse, said Wednesday’s meeting was the prelude to an exciting winter for the St Mary’s Lands track.

“We are expecting a good mix of local racing fans and national followers to be here for the fixture on November 5 and there are several standout meetings throughout the season,” said Williams.

“It’s going to be a very busy few months but we have no doubt that this is the start of a very bright future for this 300-year-old course.”

The fixture list for 2015 has confirmed that Warwick will host 17 jumps meetings, with the season extending into May and, after a summer break, re-starting in September.

The number is in line with expectations when Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR), which leases the track from Warwick District Council, announced that Flat racing was to end after more than 300 years.

Overall, JCR will see its fixture list shrink nationally by 24, costing the group £1m in profits that would have been put back into racing.

Warwick drops by four on the current year’s allocation of 21 but Williams was putting a brave face on it.

“The future of racing in Warwick was secured by the decision to move to being an all-jumps course and it’s our aim now to become one of the elite small jumps tracks in the Midlands - if not the UK - and this is the start of that.”

Hidden among the detail of the fixture list is a reduction of 80 in the number of steeplechases, which is a response to small field sizes where half of all races run attract fewer than eight runners, a minimum for each-way betting on the first three home.

Warwick will lose its share of races and it will be a matter of waiting and seeing how this translates into raceday programmes.

Wednesday’s card opens with the Follow us on Twitter @WarwickRaces Handicap Hurdle over two miles, won last year by the well-backed Keel Haul, and finishes at 4.10pm with the Whitson Bloodstock George Mernagh Memorial Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

The longest race on the card is the racinguk.com Novices’ Hurdle over three miles and a furlong, won 12 months ago by Willoughby Hedge, who brought up a treble for King on what was an afternoon to remember for the Wiltshire trainer.