Track Talk With Phil Bell - 28th January


28 January 2021

The winter weather remains a huge challenge for us.

Following the frost dramas for the Coral Welsh Grand National meeting earlier this month, last Wednesday it was touch and go for our race meeting following torrential rain but we went ahead despite standing water in a few places. The jockeys all came back saying they were happy with the conditions for both horse and rider so we made the right call not to abandon.

It was a good afternoon for trainer Venetia Williams who excels with horses that love heavy ground and another one of her mud lovers Kapga De Lily won for the second time this season at Chepstow when she took the mares’ handicap chase under jockey Hugh Nugent.

At the weekend Venetia’s new stable star Royale Pagaille won effortlessly in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock and is now being talked about as a live prospect for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It’s just a year since the seven-year-old made his British debut for the yard at Chepstow and came second in a two runner race. His owner Rich Ricci has virtually all his horses with Irish trainer Willie Mullins so it was great to see his colours win for Venetia’s yard which is based near Hereford.

Over the years there have been plenty of amusing racehorse names. For example, Passing Wind, Maythehorsebewithyou and Wear The Fox Hat. A personal favourite of mine is one of last Wednesday’s winners Nightboattoclyro, which will resonate with fans of the band Madness. The owner Kevin Glastonbury lives in the Welsh village of Clyro and I’m guessing is a fan of Suggs and the boys. His horse has now won twice at Chepstow with the 2019 Welsh Grand National winning jockey Jack Tudor in the saddle on both occasions.

We next race on Friday 5th February so we’re hoping this week’s snow disappears before then.

We weren’t so lucky with the weather at Ffos Las on Friday when we lost our third successive fixture, this time to due to extensive waterlogging. We had an incredible 111mm of rain in the five days prior to the day. 

I was pleased to see that a £17.7m funding package, to help spectator sports severely impacted by the pandemic, has been announced by the Welsh Government. It has been designed to provide immediate financial support for spectator sports through the remainder of the winter period.

The three racecourses in Wales will share £1.2m. Support is also going to rugby union, football, cricket and ice hockey. Rugby league, netball and horseracing are also in line to benefit.  

As readers will be aware, our revenue streams from ticket sales, hospitality, catering, sponsorship and non-racings events such as conferences, wedding receptions and outdoor activities have been severely impacted so this support is hugely welcomed.

At this stage, it’s difficult to guess when spectators might return to racecourses. There is another meeting between elite sports in Wales and the Welsh Government in early March. The Cheltenham Festival takes place the same month and it is hard to imagine anyone other than the participants and possibly the owners in attendance.

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