Charity day remembers Reg Griffin

ONE of Yorkshire racing's favourite days out – one which has raised £4.77m for cancer and related charities – will go ahead once again this summer but, for the first time since its inception in 1971, it will not be "Timeform Charity Day".

First staged at Doncaster – when the Queen flew from Balmoral to watch her horse Charlton, trained by Dick Hern and ridden by Joe Mercer, win the day's big race, the William Hill Trophy – the fixture moved to York the following year and has since been one of the major annual attractions on the Knavesmire.

But following the decision by Betfair – who bought Halifax-based Timeform for 17m in November 2006 – not to support the 2009 race the fixture next Saturday will now be called the Macmillan Charity Day.

Betfair were disappointed when their tender to print York's racecards was turned down, York's executive deciding to stay with Weatherbys, and responded by refusing to allow staff to travel to York and help promote the day then by withdrawing their backing altogether.

Jim McGrath, then the chairman of Timeform as well as being a respected member of Channel 4's commentary team, resigned in protest and, working closely with William Derby, the chief executive and clerk of the course at York, has succeeded in retaining the fixture. He is delighted that all the long-standing supporters of the day have stayed on board.

They include John Prenn, the Sobell Foundation, Coral Samuel, Charlie and Dorothy Stevens and Wendy Sainer while Ladbrokes will sponsor a race at the meeting for the first time this year.

"In many ways, it is a crying shame that Timeform is no longer involved given the amount of time, effort and enthusiasm that Reg Griffin, my predecessor as chairman, put into developing this meeting and the amazing amount of money it has raised," said McGrath.

The idea for the meeting arrived in a letter on the desk of Phil Bull, the founder of Timeform, from a charity worker in South Yorkshire and he asked Reg Griffin to take charge. He did so and one of his great successes came in 1988 when he asked the Queen Mother to lend her name to a new race on charity day for lady amateur riders.

The inaugural race for the Queen Mother's Cup was won by Princess Anne, riding Insular, a horse bred by her mother which had won races on the Flat in Her Majesty's colours and under National Hunt Rules for the Queen Mother.

Only days before the race, Insular had been given to trainer Ian Balding.

This year, the main race on the card is the Reg Griffin Memorial Trophy in recognition of the achievements of the man who worked for Timeform for over 57 years and made charity day at York such an integral part of Yorkshire racing. He died last October at the age of 79.

FOR the fourth season in a row, County Durham-based Howard Johnson was the leading trainer in the Yorkshire National Hunt season which incorporates meetings at Doncaster, Catterick and Wetherby.

Johnson accumulated 19 winners – six more than his winning total last year – to win the trainers' championship from Alan King and Donald McCain Jnr who both enjoyed 10 successes on Yorkshire's jumping courses.

Denis O'Regan, who is retained by Johnson, benefited from the yard's good run by taking the jockeys' championship after recording 17 winners in Yorkshire, seven clear of Wayne Hutchinson and Brian Hughes who tied for second place.

Both awards, which are sponsored by Skybet, will be presented at the annual Go Racing in Yorkshire lunch in November.

James Reveley became the fourth winner of the Tom Halliday Memorial Trophy for conditional riders under a system based on points for places obtained and races completed on Yorkshire courses.

Previous winners of the trophy, which is presented in memory of a young Yorkshire-based rider who was killed when riding at Market Rasen in July 2005, are Keith Mercer, Phil Kinsella and Brian Hughes.