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Jump Racing at Doncaster This Season
Doncaster is most famous as the home of the world’s oldest Classic, the Ladbrokes St Leger, on the Flat but the racecourse is also a traditional bastion of National Hunt racing.
Many of jump racing’s greats have graced Town Moor in the winter months, notably Sea Pigeon, Night Nurse, Mandarin, Mill House, Gaye Brief and Bregawn.
Red Rum, three-time winner of the Grand National in 1973, 1974 and 1976, was no stranger to Doncaster either. The greatest Grand National winner ever won a seller on the Flat first time out as a three-year-old in March, 1968, at Doncaster and, having made three starts over hurdles at the course, he opened his chasing account in the Town Moor Novices’ Chase in November, 1970.
The course’s National Hunt racing roots are entrenched in the old Doncaster Hunt Meetings of the 1820s. Jump racing declined and disappeared in the early part of the 20th century but returned for good in December, 1946, to make Doncaster the only Classic course in England to cater for the sport’s winter warriors.
Doncaster hosts eight days of jump racing during the 2008/2009 season and the highlights include:-
BETDAQ The Betting Exchange Handicap Chase - December 13, 2008
Sky Bet Chase - January 24, 2009
The great Mandarin was fourth to Chavara in 1961, while Mill House gallantly shouldered 12st 3lb when third to Spear Fir in 1967. Now known as the Sky Bet Chase, the three-mile race has been won by plenty of famous names such as the Grand National winners Freebooter (1950), E.S.B. (1957) and Nicolaus Silver (1962). Charlie Potheen was triumphant in 1973 before winning the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown. Bregawn prevailed under John Francome in 1982 and went on to lead home trainer Michael Dickinson’s famous five in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
This season’s running of the Sky Bet Chase is on January 24 and worth £85,000, an increase of £10,000 on last year’s value. The race continues to attract good horses. Last year’s victor An Accordion, trained by David Pipe, defeated Grade One winner Ungaro in a thrilling finish and proceeded to be successful at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle - January 24, 2009
Battlecry vanquished his rivals last season when taking the extended three-mile contest in impressive fashion. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge ran on strongly to win by two lengths from Coe. With prize money of £30,000, the contest is an attractive proposition for staying novice hurdlers being aimed towards the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Grade Two Doncaster Mares’ Hurdle - January 24, 2009
Chomba Womba has been in cracking form this season, winning the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and defeating Crack Away Jack in the Grade Two Ascot Hurdle. The eight-year-old could yet attempt to become the first mare to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham since Flakey Dove, herself victorious in a handicap hurdle on Town Moor in 1992, two years before her greatest triumph.
williamhill.co.uk Handicap Chase - January 31, 2009
Coolfun Ltd Grimthorpe Chase - February 28, 2009
The 2005 renewal of the Grimthorpe Chase, then a three-mile contest, went to Run For Paddy who landed a famous victory in the following year’s Scottish Grand National. This year’s race has a prize fund of £50,000.
DBS Spring Sales Bumper - February 28, 2009
DONNY GRADUATES TAKE FESTIVAL HONOURS
The 2007/2008 season brought plenty of household names to Doncaster with no fewer than four future Cheltenham Festival winners showcasing their credentials on Town Moor. The aforementioned An Accordion led the way with his Sky Bet Chase victory augmented by success in the William Hill Trophy Chase.
Tidal Bay was the undisputed rising star of the northern racing scene last term. Howard Johnson’s charge won five of his six starts in novice chases, taking the Grade One Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and adding the Grade One John Smith’s Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April. In fact, the gelding’s only reversal came at Doncaster in the Watch & Bet - Bet Live @ williamhill.co.uk Novices’ Chase in February, when Leslingtaylor defeated the odds-on favourite by a neck.
Celestial Halo was another to taste defeat at Doncaster and then follow-up with Cheltenham Festival glory. The son of Galileo made his first visit to Town Moor in September, 2007, when he lined up in the Group One St Leger itself. Having finished a creditable seventh, Celestial Halo joined champion jump trainer Paul Nicholls’ yard.
A debut success at Newbury was followed by defeat at Doncaster in February, the gelding finishing second to Sentry Duty in division two of the Every Minute, Every Match - Betlive @ williamhill.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle. Celestial Halo stepped up on that effort when a game victor of the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle in March.
Whiteoak enjoyed a fantastic season under the care of Donald McCain. After a victory at Bangor-On-Dee in December, the mare stepped up in class for the Grade Two Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster on January 26. McCain’s charge ran a blinder at 25/1 as she went down by short-head to Tazbar. Whiteoak then enjoyed a smooth win at Ascot before heading to Cheltenham for the Grade Two David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle in which she rallied gamely to win by a short-head at odds of 20/1.
DONCASTER - THE VIEW FROM THE PROFESSIONALS
Keith Reveley trains at Lingdale near Saltburn, Cleveland
“We had a nice season at Doncaster last year with Tazbar’s victory in the Rossington Main being the obvious highlight. My mother won the Sky Bet Chase twice with Dalkey Sound and Carbisdale, while I was unlucky myself with Ungaro in the same race last season.
“Doncaster has done a great job not only with promoting the established races but also in creating new contests, like the williamhill.co.uk Handicap Chase, which already looks like a good addition to the calendar.
“I think the new grandstand is superb and all of the new facilities are of the highest quality. Hopefully, we can enjoy another good campaign over the jumps at Doncaster this season.”
John Quinn trains at Malton in North Yorkshire
“The ground always seems to be spot on and the prize money on offer always ensures competitive racing. We’ve already entered some decent horses for their first meeting of the season and I would be hopeful of having a few winners at Town Moor this campaign.”
Graham Lee is one of the leading jump jockeys at Doncaster
“It is the same as other good tracks in that you need a horse who is a good jumper to get round - if a horse can jump, then you can have a really good ride round Doncaster.
“It is a very fair track and the facilities for the jockeys are also now top-class. It is a grand course and I hope to have a few winners there once again this season.”
David Williams, Clerk of the Course at Doncaster
“We’ve also put leylandii and spruce on them and dressed them up to above the middle rail as well to make the horses stand off from them a bit.
“The feedback that we received last season was very positive and the new fences seemed slightly less stiff than in previous seasons.”
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