It has taken a while but the word is well and truly out that spectators can come back to professional sport in Wales and in recent weeks our attendances at Ffos Las and Chepstow have flourished.
The numbers through the gates in August have been far better than 2019 with Ladies Day at Ffos Las and the Big Bank Holiday Bash at Chepstow both attracting more than 4000 people. Restaurant and hospitality sales have also picked up strongly and all indications show this will continue in the coming months.
It’s been the most bizarre of times for everyone because of Covid and the racing industry is no exception. It was only a few weeks ago that we were holding race meetings behind closed doors and now we are back managing thousands of customers. The transformation has been a challenge for our teams but so far, we’ve been coping admirably.
Tickets for Chepstow’s Unibet Jump Season Opener on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th October are selling fast. We’ve put a lot of work into building this fixture, regarded in the industry as the start of the new autumn/winter season. This year has seen another big injection of prize money to £400,000.
For the first time ever, we’ve got a waiting list for race sponsors. This is unprecedented! Race sponsorship is available at all fixtures for companies or individuals to advertise or to celebrate an event. The fact that it is so popular at this particular meeting demonstrates how its profile has grown.
Jockey David Probert continues in superb form, he rode a treble at Ffos Las last Thursday following his eight winners at the track earlier in the month. He also rode a winner aboard Thunder Lily at Chepstow on Monday. On Thursday, Ffos Las General Manager Simon Rowlands presented David with a framed photo montage of his eight winners. He’s on 75 winners for the season (at the time of writing) and is fourth in the jockeys’ championship.
Sean Bowen has taken the occasional ride on the flat this summer and the latest Welsh jump jockey to follow suit is Connor Brace – he rode three times at Ffos Las week. Connor has had an injury hit 2021 and will be looking forward to the jump season stepping up a gear from October.
Talking of Sean Bowen – he went all the way to Sedgefield for one ride at their opening meeting of the new season last week and rode a winner for his Dad, Peter, aboard Montanna. He was also successful at Cartmel on Monday when Bardenstown Lad won for Irish trainer John McConnell. He’s fourth in the jump jockeys’ championship with 32 winners.
It was announced last week that Sean would no longer be riding as first jockey to trainer Harry Fry – the stable will instead use a range of jockeys led by Jonathan Burke. Fry supplied Sean with his first Grade One winner when If The Cap Fits won the Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2019.
Thursday’s meeting at Ffos Las was particularly memorable for one member of the Chepstow and Ffos Las team. Racing Executive Ellie Williams rode her first winner as an amateur rider in the B.J.Llewellyn Supports Tenovus Cancer Care Wales Handicap (For Female Amateur Jockeys). She was aboard Olympic Honour for her dad, Evan Williams. Congratulations Ellie!