The heavens have opened this week and it has made the going at racecourses in the North very testing.
However, I still look forward, weather permitting, to spending tomorrow afternoon at Newcastle for their biggest racing occasion of the year – the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate Festival.
Often dubbed the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’, my horse in the two-mile handicap is the lightly raced Lyric Street, another from Ed Dunlop’s Newmarket yard.
On his most recent appearance, he finished mid-division in the Sportingbet Jorvik Stakes at the Dante Festival.
The first of two famous handicaps in a fortnight backed by John Smith’s, the Northumberland Plate is always a highly competitive affair and can produce surprise results.
Ed does not send horses up here just to sample the air, so I expect a good run from Lyric Street.
Thirty-five minutes before the main event tomorrow, I am hopeful that Mass Rally can run a decent race.
Although he has not opened his account on the turf – his victories have been on the all-weather – he was very unlucky when just pipped at the post less than a fortnight ago at Doncaster.
There is always excitement when the early entries are made for the major races at the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival in August. Perhaps even more so this year because the world’s best thoroughbred, Frankel, could be on his way to Knavesmire for the Juddmonte International Stakes on Wednesday, August 22.
At Mick Easterby’s yard, for which I regularly ride, Hoof It is entered in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, one of four races over the week to feature in the QIPCO British Champions Series.
The stable star runs tomorrow at Newmarket – Frankie Dettori’s booking to ride him could be significant – and the pair in combination or apart are both destined for Headquarters in the Darley July Cup next month.
I had hoped to be in action at Newcastle tonight but the meeting, due to feature the Hoppings Stakes and the Gosforth Park Cup, has been abandoned due to unsafe ground.
Racing at the track yesterday afternoon was cut short after four races following a huge thunderstorm.
The course had earlier passed an inspection after rain had turned conditions to heavy.
Four races were completed but the runners for the fifth race were ordered to return to the parade ring as torrential rain returned. The parade ring among other things was drenched in water, with leaks in the stewards’ room, weighing room and jockeys’ changing room.
An assessment for tomorrow’s card will be made tomorrow.
Clerk of the course James Armstrong said yesterday: “We will take stock of what has been going on.
“We will have to have a look at some point tomorrow as to what we will do on Saturday.
“There are a multitude of things we need to assess.
“We just need to regroup and see what’s going on tomorrow.”
Racing was united in mourning this week after the sad death of jockey Campbell Gillies in a swimming accident on holiday in Greece.
Although he was principally a jump jockey, I knew Campbell as he rode on the Flat quite a few times in recent seasons. He was ever so talented and had a big future ahead of him. It’s so tragic that he should lose his life at such a young age. My thoughts are with his family and friends at a terribly difficult time.
The next racing at York Racecourse is the two-day John Smith’s Cup meeting on Friday and Saturday July 13-14.
Friday’s fare includes the Group 3 tyregiant.com Summer Stakes, while the Saturday highlight is the £150,000 John Smith’s Cup, a race which traces its history back to 1960.
The support of the Tadcaster brewery makes Saturday’s feature event the longest running sponsorship in the world of Flat racing.
Gates are open on both days from 11.15am, with the first race time on each at 2.05pm.
On the day admission ranges from £5 to £24 on Friday and £7 to £35 on Saturday – with discounts for advance purchases. As always, accompanied Under-16s are admitted free of charge to all areas. More information online at www.yorkracecourse.co.uk or by calling the racecourse on 01904 620911.