One of the richest races in the calendar at Chepstow is the Grade One Coral Finale Hurdle run on the same day in December as the Welsh Grand National. It is aimed at the best three-year-olds in training, many of whom their owners hope will develop into stars of the jumping game in their older years.
For example, in 2016 the race went to the Philip Hobbs trained Defi Du Seuil, who a few months later won the Triumph Hurdle, the championship race for four-year-olds, at the Cheltenham Festival. He then scored five times over fences including the JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. So far, he’s won his owner JP McManus more than £600,000 in prize money.
The connections of the 2019 Finale Hurdle winner Allmankind will be hoping their pride and joy will follow in similar hoof prints to Defi Du Seuil. On Monday, the five-year-old, trained by Dan Skelton won the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick and now heads for the Arkle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival. We wish him the best of luck.
The weather once again intervened when the freezing conditions put paid to our fixture at Ffos Las last Thursday. This time around it was a straightforward decision because of the severity of the conditions and we pulled stumps on Wednesday morning. We were one of many meetings called off last week because of the Arctic weather.
It was obviously very frustrating for Clerk of the Course Dai Jones and his team of ground staff who had spent hours putting down frost covers and moving rails to try and get the meeting on. It can be a thankless task at times.
The next meeting at Ffos Las isn’t until April 1st but we have a fixture at Chepstow next Thursday 25th February which includes a qualifier for the Grade 3 Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Pertemps Final is, like all the races at the festival, incredibly competitive and in 2019 it was very nearly won by the Carmarthenshire trained Tobefair from the yard of Paul and Debra Hamer. He was sent off at odds of 40-1 so the punters didn’t think victory was likely but the horse nearly proved his doubters wrong and lost by just a neck to the Gordon Elliott trained favourite Sire Du Berlais.
Next month we are expecting some clarity on when spectators might be allowed to return to the track. There is a meeting with Welsh Government and other elite sports in Wales in early March to discuss the situation.
Based on earlier conversations with government officials, there is no doubt that, once approved, the first meetings with spectators will be restricted to relatively small numbers – likely to be between 250 and 500. This will allow our systems and procedures for managing the venue safely to be tested thoroughly before larger volumes of people are admitted.
Moving forward, one of the projects we will be working on across both Chepstow and Ffos Las is looking at how we can assist Welsh trainers find more racehorse owners. The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on the levels of horses in training across the UK with some training yards reporting a reduction in numbers. As an industry we must all work together to keep the show on the road.
In Wales we are fortunate to have some excellent racehorse trainers and we’ll be doing our bit to promote them via our marketing channels in the coming months.