OFFICIALS AT Beverley say they are “raring to go” after confirming that prize money will increase by five per cent this year.
They made the announcement to coincide with the start of the 2019 Flat season on the town’s picturesque Westwood this afternoon.
The investment will enhance the status and value of two of the East Yorkshire’s racecourses more prestigious races as Beverley continues to receive national recognition for its continuing transformation under chief executive Sally Iggulden.
Specifically, money will go into the Beverley Bullet – a sprint won for the past two seasons by the now retired Take Cover – and the Hilary Needler Trophy, a significant trial for two-year-old fillies looking to compete at Royal Ascot.
Course chairman Charles Maxsted expects the cash boost will ensure the quality of horses running at the track remains a constant.
He said: “We are very much full of optimism for the new season.
“Last year we were fortunate enough to witness an increase in attendances and also see some very good winners of our big races, not least the brilliant Take Cover in the Beverley Bullet.
“It was also most pleasing to see us recognised at the RCA (Racecourse Association Awards) for outstanding initiative with our deaf-friendly raceday.
“We have done a certain amount of new work in the close season, most pertinently with new fencing down the course and important developments in the stabling area.
“But just as importantly is the fact we have been able to slightly raise prize-money.
“This is significant as it should mean we continue to see good horses and good races.
“We are raring to go.”
Today’s eight-race card begins at 2.15pm, with the going described as good to firm, good in places – with light watering taking place to maintain safe ground.
The meeting, which was ironically abandoned 12 months ago due to waterlogging, is due to feature Ryedale trainer Mark Walford’s course specialist Bit Of A Quirke who has already won five times over Beverley’s mile-and-a-quarter trip.
The gelded son of Monsieur Bond is, interestingly, trying a mile and a half in the Westwood Handicap in which he faces 11 rivals and will be partnered by regular ally Andrew Mullen.
Sheriff Hutton-based Walford said: “He ran really well at Pontefract a week ago and did nothing there to suggest that he wasn’t capable of winning over a mile and a half.
“He perhaps flattened out late on, but I’d be more inclined to think that was due to the fact that he hadn’t had a run for a while rather than him not getting the trip.
“That day we were hoping he’d run well, but now he’s a bit fitter we’re expecting him to run well at a track he loves.”
Meanwhile former footballer Mick Channon hopes the application of cheekpieces will help Mister Whitaker to return to winning ways at Cheltenham under Jonathan Burke.
Victorious at last year’s National Hunt Festival when ridden by North Yorkshire-based Brian Hughes, the horse is an intriguing contender in the feature Silver Trophy.
The race sees Dan Skelton saddle Rene’s Girl, second at Aintree’s Grand National meeting, as he chases his 200th winner of the campaign.