WETHERBY is to stage its first Flat fixture next year after being given the green light by the British Horseracing Authority.
The meeting on April 26 replaces a National Hunt card after the BHA made changes to the fixture list so jump jockeys can have a mini-break after the denouement to the 2014-15 season on the previous day.
Though the change is a one-off at this stage, clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson hopes to make the most of the opportunity and believes that the West Yorkshire track can, in time, stage a modest number of Flat meetings each year.
The BHA approval follows a series of trials at Wetherby last month when horses from local stables galloped round the home bend to check its suitability.
“National Hunt racing is our core business and will still be a big element of our business moving forward,” Sanderson told The Yorkshire Post.
“However, we want to try and introduce Flat racing to help grow our business and attract new customers. This is a step in the right direction.”
Because the Wetherby track requires careful maintenance at the end of each NH season, the opportunities to stage Flat fixtures will be limited.
However, Sanderson hopes to justify the venture by staging a competitive seven-race Flat card that captures the imagination of the racing public.
Perhaps the most significant change announced by the BHA yesterday was confirmation that Warwick is to lose its dual-purpose status and become a jumps track.
Meanwhile, John Gosden’s impressive Kingman further enhanced his reputation by winning the Qipco Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in electrifying style.
This four-runner race soon became a tactical affair – the pace was sedate at best – before the Group One winner Toronado kicked clear at the two furlong pole.
Although it appeared to be a potentially winning move, Kingman’s jockey James Doyle did not panic and the response was instantaneous when he asked his champion to accelerate.
In a matter of strides, the complexion of the race was changed and Kingman confirmed his status as the heir to Frankel. The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot is the horse’s long-term target.
“His balance won on this track,” said Gosden. “Having walked it twice you have to remind yourself it’s downhill, it goes uphill, it switches, it cambers away and then runs downhill to the two-and-a-half furlong marker, which is why a lot of horses get unbalanced.”
This view was shared by a delighted Doyle who added: “That’s what separates Kingman from the others – no matter what comes his way, he is so versatile and he has all the attributes to get you out of trouble.
“He has a wonderful turn of foot and it probably did play into his hands. I thought that they would go steady but not for quite as long as that – we passed the two-pole trotting really.
“I’ve never experienced going round the velodrome where they go real slow and then sprint for the last two laps, I suppose that must be as close to it as we can get. The turn of gear he has is really unbelievable.
“I had slight concerns when they quickened up but not for long. He was only getting rolling. We all wondered how it would unfold, but it went as I thought it would. To go to top speed in five strides is pretty exciting. I haven’t been riding that long but I’ve certainly never sat on a horse with the turn of foot he has.”
Doyle was completing a double after landing the Gordon Stakes on Sir Michael Stoute’s Snow Sky, who is likely to reappear in next month’s Neptune Investment Great Voltigeur Stakes at York before a possible tilt at the Ladbrokes St Leger.
Meanwhile, the focus of attention today will be the Artemis Goodwood Cup when Queen’s Estimate – second in the Ascot Gold Cup – returns to action after testing positive for morphine in a case linked to the suspected contamination of horse feed.
One jockey missing today’s action is former champion jockey Paul Hanagan, who faces a spell on the injury sidelines after suffering a hairline fracture to his arm when falling heavily from White Nile at Goodwood on Tuesday.