Talking Horses: Newbury faces ‘boycott’ while heat hits meetings

Newbury racecourse expects at least 20,000 racegoers to attend its Weatherbys Super Sprint card on Saturday, despite an apparent boycott of the final contest by trainers and owners, which has seen the schedule reduced to just six races.

Thirteen horses from 10 stables were entered for the Stonegate Homes Fillies’ Novice Stakes, for three-year-olds and up over 10 furlongs and with a £3,510 first prize, earlier in the week but none were declared to run on Thursday morning. While there has been no formal confirmation that the contest fell victim to an organised boycott, the Racing Post has suggested the move was orchestrated by “a prominent Newmarket handler” to protest at what was seen as a disappointing prize fund of £6,500.

The attendance for Super Sprint day is normally Newbury’s biggest of the year, outstripping both the Group One Lockinge Stakes card in May and the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase (previously known as the Hennessy Gold Cup) in November. The fans arrive both for the racing and a live concert after the card is complete, with Craig David booked to perform this year.

“We emailed all our customers yesterday as the impact [of losing the seventh race] meant that we had to bring the concert forward by half an hour,” Harriet Collins, Newbury’s marketing and sponsorship director, said on Friday. “We’re pleased that we’ve not had anyone emailing back [to complain]. There is still around £400,000 in prize money on offer and as with any of our concert days, anyone who leaves after the last and before the concert starts will get a £15 discount voucher for a future race meeting.”

Racegoers will need to bring their sunblock on Saturday, when temperatures are expected to peak at around 28C in late afternoon, but the prospect of even hotter weather early next week has prompted the British Horseracing Authority to call off five meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

The five meetings – at Beverley and Windsor on Monday and Chelmsford, Southwell and Wolverhampton the following day – are all at tracks either within or close to the area covered by a red “extreme heat” warning, issued by the Met Office on Friday morning.

“The BHA’s No 1 priority in the staging of any meeting is the wellbeing of all involved, human and equine,” said Richard Wayman, the Authority’s chief operating officer. “Following the issuing of the first ever extreme heat warning by the Met Office, we are taking sensible precautions and have made a decision as soon as possible in order to provide certainty for those impacted.”

Saturday’s TV tips
Richard Hannon will saddle five of the 21 runners as he attempts to win the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newburyfor the fifth time in nine seasons, but his stable does not have a standout contender in a field where the market leaders have some very solid form in the book.

Miami Girl is Hannon’s best hope on the ratings but she was nearly two lengths behind Maria Branwell (3.30) when the two fillies were fifth and third, respectively, in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot.

David O’Meara’s filly also won the National Stakes at Sandown in May, finishing a neck in front of Crispy Cat, who franked the form with a big run in the Norfolk at the Royal meeting. What is certain to be a fierce pace will suit her running style and she is a worthy favourite at around 5-2.

Newbury 1.50: Grocer Jack was a 700,000gns recruit to the William Haggas yard over the winter and makes his British debut here after runs in France and Saudi Arabia that would put him right in the mix.

Market Rasen 2.06: Ask Paddington has found a new lease of life since joining Rebecca Menzies last autumn and has an obvious chance to complete a four-timer.

Newbury 2.21: A strong-finishing second in a well-run race at Salisbury last time suggests that Diamond Bay will appreciate this step back up to two miles.

Market Rasen 2.41: The horse that Cirque Royal beat easily at Kelso in May was a comfortable winner himself next time up and an opening mark of 123 looks generous.

Newbury 2.56: Diligent Harry catches the eye at around 9-1. Clive Cox’s four-year-old still has just nine runs in the book but has been competitive at this level several times in the past – including when second in this 12 months ago – and goes really well on fast ground.

Market Rasen 3.14: This handicap chase is one of the highlights of the summer jumping campaign and the latest renewal is suitably competitive, but La Domaniale, making only her fourth start over fences, has obvious scope for improvement and an obvious chance on the form of her easy win at Uttoxeter last time.

The Curragh 3.45: The unexpected scratching of odds-on favourite Emily Upjohn due to “travel complications” on Friday leaves this looking like an easy task for Magical Lagoon, the Ribblesdale winner at Royal Ascot last month.