Wetherby harbours grand ambitions to join racecourse elite

WETHERBY Racecourse's fixture list could be set for a prize money boost following the official opening of its new £3.5m grandstand.

American Craftsman wins the first race of the new season of racing at Wetherby Racecourse, in the shadow of the new Millennium West Stand.
 (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
American Craftsman wins the first race of the new season of racing at Wetherby Racecourse, in the shadow of the new Millennium West Stand. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Chief executive Jonjo Sanderson says he hopes further funding can be found to enhance the profile of racedays at the West Yorkshire track.

He was speaking after the venue’s new £3.5m Millennium West Stand – a state-of-the-art facility for owners and trainers – was opened by Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority.

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Rust described Wetherby as a “grade one racecourse” and that the investment was emblematic of a wider “spirit of optimism” in racing.

American Craftsman parades round the paddock before the first race of the new season of racing at Wetherby Racecourse, in the shadow of the new Millennium West Stand. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“We have some borrowing to manage going forward for the next couple of years,” Sanderson told The Yorkshire Post. “Ideally we would like to move up the prize money list. It is certainly one of the priorities of the board to put a bit more into prize money.”

He hopes some of the additional £8m secured by racing next year from the bookmakers will filter down and accepted there was scope to enhance some meetings like the Castleford Chase on December 27 and Towton Novices Chase in early February.

However, Sanderson also said there was a need to look at the lesser midweek meetings in winter – and the new Flat fixtures. “We’ll look at the whole programme rather than identifying two specific days,” he added.

Yesterday’s feature Bobby Renton Chase went to Ballotin who was ridden by amateur jockey David Maxwell, a one-time owner of the Royal York Hotel. He bought the horse to go hunter chasing, but now the 39-year-old harbours dreams of riding his horse at the Cheltenham Festival.

American Craftsman parades round the paddock before the first race of the new season of racing at Wetherby Racecourse, in the shadow of the new Millennium West Stand. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

The property dealer, who has 14 winners to his name, needs one more to become eligible for the Grand National. “It’s massive for me to win a race like this,” said Maxwell. “It’s the most fun you could have with your clothes on!”

Earlier, American Craftsman made a winning hurdling debut for Leyburn trainer Jedd O’Keeffe and jockey Joe Colliver to open the 2017-18 season.

O’Keeffe, who has enjoyed a career-best summer on the Flat, said: “The first time he schooled him he jumped brilliantly, but I thought he might just lack experience today.”

Ryedale trainer John Quinn’s Master Of Irony won the last under champion jockey Richard Johnson, who was completing a double, with Brian Ellison’s Seamour third.