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Then and Now – February

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  • #1481732
    runandskip84
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    • Total Posts 98

    What Haydock did to it’s jumps course was nothing short vandalism and the BHA should have taken the Betfair Chase off them.
    A JCR course,as is Wincanton who scrapped all those lovely condition chases.

    #1481742
    apracing
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    • Total Posts 3054

    I presume that Reynoldstown also won at Wolverhampton, as they used to have a Grade 2 2m 4f novice hurdle there in late November, called the Reynoldstown Cup.

    In early 1991, the subsequent Champion Hurdler, Granville Again, won his first hurdle race there – ‘led 2 out,canter’ says the form book comment.

    And go back a bit before 1990, and there was also a Wolverhampton Champion Hurdle Trial, run on a Monday afternoon in February – a race won three times by Birds Nest in the late 70’s. That race disappeared sometime in the early 80’s.

    #1481761
    tony321
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    • Total Posts 370

    19 runner novice chases over 3M 1F, those were the days now we’re lucky to get double figures

    #1482481
    apracing
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    • Total Posts 3054

    February Week Three

    The week commencing Feb 12, 1990, was quite different from its predecessor, with little of interest midweek, but five races with major prizes spread across three meetings on the Saturday. More like 2020 than 1990!

    It was a week that had five meetings scheduled at courses that no longer stage NH racing (Nottingham x 2, Towcester, Folkestone and Windsor) – and in which the weather caused the loss of six cards, with no turf racing at all on the Wednesday.

    So nothing to add about the midweek fare, other than the presence of a two day meeting at Sandown on Thursday and Friday, which attracted the biggest crowd of the week on the second day, 4,750.

    Saturday was unrecognisable and would surely be dismissed by online critics as ‘ the worst Saturday ever’. The racing was at Chepstow, Newcastle and Nottingham, with Windsor scheduled but abandoned. But as mentioned earlier, there was a good spread of interesting races (the figure shown is the winners prize money):

    Chepstow John Hughes Grand National Trial 3m 6f £ 10k
    Rising Stars Chase 2m 4f £ 10.7k

    Newcastle Eider Chase 4m 1f £ 11.2k

    Nottingham City Trial Hurdle 2m £ 7.5k
    Nottinghamshire Nov Chase 2m £ 11.3k

    There wouldn’t be many times that Nottingham got to stage the most valuable race of the week.
    If Windsor had raced, their card included the 3m Fairlawne Chase, a conditions event worth around £7.5k. The Eider is the only one of those races to survive in the same form, and that will offer a first prize of £50k this year.

    The biggest name to emerge from those races was Royal Derbi, winner of the City Trial as the 7/4 fav in a field of eight. He’d been a useful juvenile the previous season, but had struggled prior to this win. But he went on to have a top class career over hurdles, winning a Fighting Fifth and a Bula, as well as second placings in the Christmas Hurdle and the 1993 Champion Hurdle, the latter after he’d failed to make any impact in the race in 1991/92.

    Royal Derbi ran in the colours of Michael Tabor, who continued to have the occasional NH horse in training over here, even as his racing interests developed elsewhere! The last good horse was the mare Refinement, trained by Jonjo, who won twice at the big Punchestown meeting and finished second in the first running of the Mare’s Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2008.

    Result of the Week

    Monday Feb 12th Nottingham Coral Hurdle Final Qualifier 2M 6F

    Invasion S D Williams (7) 9/2

    Trained by Jeremy Glover

    Invasion beat twenty one rivals, winning by 25L and 20L on heavy ground, running off a handicap mark of 121. He only ran once more that season, a 3m 1f novice hurdle at Kelso that he won by 12L at odds of 5/2 on. Those two wins saw his handicap mark rise to 142.

    The reason I’ve chosen to feature this winner comes in the following season, when he is switched to fences. That began with a singularly unimpressive win, when he got up in the last strides at Market Rasen to beat a maiden over hurdles and one other finisher. His jumping let him down next time at Uttoxeter, unseating at the 4th, and then he was brought down at Fakenham. Unsurprisingly, that brought about a return to hurdling for the remainder of the season, after which he moved stables to Owen Brennan.

    After one more run over hurdles, Brennan put him in a handicap chase – where he was allocated a mark of 100, 32lbs lower than his last hurdle mark. It didn’t immediately help him, as his first two handicaps were no better, but having fallen to 95 and fitted with a visor, he managed a win at Market Rasen. He went on from there to record a total of seven wins over fences, but his mark never got higher than 118.

    And there you have to my mind the single biggest difference between NH racing then and now. Then, if you ran three times in level weight novice chases, you would be handicapped solely on what you did in those three races, with no consideration of anything that had happened over hurdles previously. Now, the hurdle mark is automatically transferred, and if your horse turns out to be less proficient over fences, tough.

    To punters accustomed to our current system, this may seem ridiculous. How can a horse that runs to 132 over hurdles be allowed to run off 100 over fences? But so long as the same rules apply to every horse, is it really a problem? Trainers then still had the option to go straight into handicap chases using their hurdle mark, as they can now – but it wasn’t compulsory. One of the best examples would be the future top class 2M chaser, Waterloo Boy, who made his chase debut in a minor handicap at Worcester from a mark of 96. Less than five months later, he won the Arkle!

    Just to add, that in the best traditions of the Coral Golden Hurdle series (and it’s current replacement, the Pertemps Network series), the eventual winner of the Cheltenham final, Henry Mann, managed a well hidden 7th (btn 51L) in that Nottingham qualifier.

    Video of the Week

    Again with thanks to Espmadrid, the closing stages of the Nottingham Trial Hurdle, as a reminder of how Nottingham looked for NH racing.

    #1482489
    espmadridespmadrid
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    • Total Posts 532

    Here’s the link referred to:

    ....and you've got to look a long way back for anything else.

    #1482491
    GoldenMiller34GoldenMiller34
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    • Total Posts 1147

    The camera angles employed by the BBC at that time gave a much truer reflection of the undulating nature of the Chepstow course than those used currently.

    #1482506
    Cork All Star
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    • Total Posts 281

    Nice to see Owen Brennan mentioned. He was a good trainer and I always kept an eye on his runners. He never had many horses but he had some good ones. I think he trained Minnehoma to win his bumper. Lots of his best horses were owned by Lady Bentinck and ran in her black and white colours.

    The City Trial hurdle at Nottingham was won in 1992 by Royal Gait before he won at Cheltenham.

    #1482508
    apracing
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    • Total Posts 3054

    Strath Royal was the best horse owned by Lady Anne Bentinck and trained by Brennan. He won a remarkable twenty races under rules, twelve of them over fences. He was something of a Wetherby specialist, winning five chases there, culminating in a Charlie Hall Chase in 1998.

    #1482513
    espmadridespmadrid
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    • Total Posts 532

    ....and you've got to look a long way back for anything else.

    #1482514
    Ex RubyLightEx RubyLight
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    • Total Posts 1479

    I also remember Speaker Weatherill (won the Great Yorkshire Chase) and Organ Recital from the same ownership who were regulars at tracks like Wetherby, Newcastle, Uttoxeter or Donny….

    #1483056
    apracing
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    February Week Four

    The week commencing Feb 19, 1990, would have been one keenly anticipated by NH enthusiasts, with a sequence of meetings offering opportunities for Cheltenham bound horses. Several factors have since come together to either eliminate or reduce the importance of this week as far as Cheltenham is concerned nowadays, aside from the obvious reluctance to run any race of significance at a midweek meeting.

    My memory may be at fault here and I haven’t found any way to confirm the facts, but I believe that only the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup would have had their initial entry stage prior to this week, and I’m quite sure that thirty years ago, the handicap entries were made the week before the Festival. Now we have almost all the entries made early, and I’ve no idea who this is supposed to benefit, as the result is hundreds of multiple entered horses, leaving punters none the wiser than they were in 1990. I also feel that having the handicap entries made three weeks ahead of the meeting, has discouraged trainers from running during this particular week, for fear of either raising their handicap mark, or dropping it to a level that would eliminate them from the Festival races.

    But back to 1990, which offered these chances to see genuine Cheltenham ‘trials’ every day:

    Monday Fontwell National Spirit Hurdle Vagador bt Beech Road

    Tuesday Huntingdon Chatteris Fen Hurdle Royal Square

    Wednesday Warwick Coventry City Trial Hurdle Run For Free
    Highfield Road Nov Chase Party Politics bt Garrison Savannah

    Thursday Wincanton Kingwell Hurdle Kribensis
    Jim Ford Challenge Cup Cavvies Clown

    Friday Kempton EBF Novice Hurdle Forest Sun
    Kelso Hunter Chase Call Collect

    The week was completed by still familiar meetings at Haydock and Kempton. The latter has barely changed at all, still including the Dovecote Novice Hurdle, the Adonis Hurdle (then the Tote Placepot Hurdle), the Racing Post Chase (whatever that’s called now) and the Galloway Braes Novice Chase, that was renamed in memory of Pendil. The only real change is the switch of the Rendlesham Hurdle from Kempton to Haydock. In 1990, the Haydock meeting was run one week later than Kempton, now it’s one week earlier – another switch that I suspect is designed to fit around the desire of trainers not to run too close to Cheltenham.

    So midweek, we saw four 1990 Festival winners (and remember there were only 18 races then) – Garrison Savannah, Kribensis, Forest Sun and Call Collect. Vagador and Royal Square completed a double for Mark Perrett and Guy Harwood, and Cavvies Clown was a fourth winner of the Jim Ford for David Elsworth, who also had a sequence of four consecutive winners in the Kingwell Hurdle ended by Kribensis.

    I mentioned the duel between Party Politics and Garrison Savannah in an earlier piece this month – I was at Warwick that afternoon and the race made a lasting impression, with both horses high on my list thereafter. Taking the liberty to include a personal anecdote, I made a visit to the IJF facility called Oaksey House in Lambourn a few years ago, and had the good fortune to find myself talking to the lad who did Party Politics at the yard of Nick Gaselee, introduced to me then simply as Jumbo. Well Jumbo remembered that race just as clearly as I did and recalled the pleasure he and his colleagues had in the pub that evening having put one over the Pitman lads. Garrison Savannah was the 2/1 fav that day and Party Politics, despite his earlier course success, was sent off at 25/1, so as Jumbo told me, although he wasn’t a punter himself, there was enough cash to hand to make it a memorable session!

    Result of the Week

    Wed Feb 21st Catterick Aysgarth N H Flat Race

    Mudahim P Mcdermott (7) Trained by David Wintle

    This was the beginning of a long career under rules, that culminated with a win in the Irish Grand National. Mudahim didn’t have much luck in his three runs in bumpers, as he ran into a future Champion Hurdle winner, Flakey Dove, on debut – and a future Gold Cup winner, Jodami, on his third start, with this win sandwiched between those two races. Another legendary NH performer, but for totally different reasons, made his debut in this Catterick bumper, finishing a distant last – Quixall Crosset.

    By the time Mudahim started out over hurdles later that year, the owner had moved him to Chris Broad. After falling at the last when leading at Stratford, he proved a consistent performer, reaching a useful level of form when winning the Polycell Hurdle at Chepstow, the weekend before the 1991 Festival. Chasing had always seemed likely to be his game though, and when eventually given the chance, he won four ordinary novice chases late in 1993, not something that’s allowed in 2020, when horses are forced into handicaps or Graded novice races after two wins. In the last of those he beat Earth Summit by 25 lengths at Chepstow!

    The following season, his jumping went to pieces and he returned to hurdling, with considerable success, taking the Premier Long Distance Hurdle at Haydock in January 1995, then winning the Cleeve Hurdle by 7L a week later. With his confidence restored, he improved steadily over fences, finishing second to Lord Gyllene in the Uttoxeter National Trial before winning the Racing Post Chase and the Irish National early in 1997.
    Sadly for his original owner, Keith Bell, and for Chris Broad, those successes came in new colours and for the stable of Jenny Pitman, having changed hands for 26,000 gns at Ascot sales in June 1996. Injury curtailed his career after that, and there was just a brief campaign, now trained by Philip Hobbs, that ended with an unseat at Bechers on the first circuit of the 1999 Grand National as a 13-y-old.

    There were two other bumper winners that week who had high class careers over hurdles, Cab On Target and Ruling.

    Video of the Week

    The closing stages of the Kingwell Hurdle:

    But the thing to note is the number of people lining the rails, part of an official crowd that day of 4,987. That hasn’t been matched since and only once since the meeting was moved to Saturday has it come close. On February 19th, 2005, there was no other NH racing further south than Uttoxeter, and Wincanton also had an extra race, with the rescheduled Grade 2 Kingmaker Novice Chase. That attracted 4,704, but now they struggle to get 3,000. I’m sure that the increase in the number of handicaps from one in 1990, to five now, has had no bearing on that decline in the attendance!

    #1483106
    befairbefair
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    • Total Posts 1091

    Ruling was one of my favourites then, always got outpaced, then would come with a rattle at the ned. Very hard to find his racing record

    #1483155
    tony321
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    • Total Posts 370

    Just been looking through some old TV Times mags in relation to these memories, the ITV 7 on World of Sport on 16/2/85 featured

    145 Newcastle – Bloodstock and Insurance Brokers Handicap Chase 2 1/2M
    200 Nottingham – Bonusprint Handicap Chase 3M
    215 Newcastle – Vaux Brewerie Novice Chase Final (Limited Handicap) 3M
    230 Nottingham – Holsten Pils City Trial Hurdle (Limited Handicap) 2M
    245 Newcastle – Mercedes Benz Eider Handicap Chase 4M 1F
    300 Nottingham – Nottinghamshire Novices Chase 2M
    310 Leopardstown – Wessel Cable Champion Hurdle 2M

    Commentators Graham Goode, John Penney, Michael O’Hehir and Tony Sweeney

    Introduced by Derek Thomson (Newcastle) & Brough Scott (Nottingham)

    #1483161
    apracing
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    • Total Posts 3054

    Tony,

    I wonder what they actually broadcast though – Newcastle and Nottingham were both abandoned on that date in 1985 because the country was snowbound. The shutdown continued through to the following weekend, when the Racing Post Chase card was lost, as were the Kingwell Hurdle and the National Spirit at Fontwell.

    The Irish Champion Hurdle did go ahead though, won by Fredcoteri.

    #1483170
    Cork All Star
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    • Total Posts 281

    World of Sport sometimes used to show greyhound racing when the scheduled horse racing was abandoned. And I think it always showed the Golden Jacket from Crayford.

    It seems incredible now that the BBC used to show the Greyhound Derby final live.

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