It may seem hard to believe after a long-wet winter and an equally wet early spring that at the beginning of our season two meetings were abandoned due to firm ground back in October and November. In fact, for the period of our season October – March five inches more precipitation fell on the track during the season than the same period in 2016/2017.
The season belatedly got under way on 29 November with the inaugural ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Race Day, where £10,000 was raised. The easiest winner was Cougar Kid, who would win here again in January.
Our popular Christmas Jumper Race Day featured one of the expensive purchases of the late Alan and Ann Potts. Vision Des Flos had been bought for £270,000, but the 1/4 favourite struggled to put the race to bed and was run out of it by Paisley Park, who was ultimately the top-rated horse to have won at Hereford this season. It was significant that the former Daily Telegraph racing journalist Tony Stafford was present. He manages the horses of solicitor Raymond Tooth, who has owned several good ones over the years including the Champion Hurdler Punjabi. His horse Apres Le Deluge won the bumper nicely at odds of 7/1.
The weather got in the way again when our first January meeting was called off due to frost, but we were back in action on the 16th with an eight race programme. Katy Price, Tom Lacey and Tom Symonds flew the flag for Herefordshire trainers but the horse with the greatest potential was Brewin’upastorm. This £250,000 purchase out of Irish point-to-points won the bumper.
Two weeks later we had a couple of Class 3 races. The novice chase went to Kerry Lee’s Town Parks, who was winning for the second time in a row, while Another Venture did the same when taking the three mile chase in the style of a useful prospect.
We then had a break until Ladies Day on 10 March when Sean Bowen was the star of the show, riding four winners for four different trainers at odds of 699/1. Colt Lightning (winning here for the second time), Misty Mai, Lord Bryan and Beau Bay were the horses that made his day memorable. One race that he didn’t win was the three mile handicap hurdle, in which Henry Daly’s Flashjack completed his own four-timer.
The planned end of the season came on Irish Day, 27 March. Sam Twiston-Davies rode his 100th winner of the season on Broughtons Admiral. Richard Johnson rode Westend Story, a chaser in the making, to an impressive success in a novice hurdle and it was he who claimed the Verzon House award for the leading jockey. The leading trainer award for the season was shared jointly between Kerry Lee, for the second year running, and Warren Greatrex.
However, just as we had started packing things away until Jump racing resumes in the autumn we bid for and won an additional fixture on 10 April which was released by the BHA with just four days notice given so many abandonments had taken place around that time due to waterlogging.
Herefordshire trainer Venetia Williams capitalised on this by training three winners to add to four she had had elsewhere the day before, bringing some cheer to an otherwise disappointing season for her stable. Charlie Deutsch rode all three – One Style, Huff And Puff and Geordie B. Venetia and Charlie both ended the season with five Hereford winners, but unfortunately for them the prize for the leading trainer and jockey had ended two weeks previously!
Herefordshire trainers accounted for 24% of the races we ran (12/50) and we hope they do even better in our 2018/19 season, which begins on Tuesday 16 October with the popular Cider & Sausage Raceday.