SKY BET CHRISTMAS MEETING TAKES CENTRE STAGE AT WETHERBY
Mark Rimell set to run stable star Oneway in the £50,000 skybet.com Castleford Chase on Bank Holiday Tuesday, December 27
Wetherby plays host to the two-day Sky Bet Christmas Meeting on Boxing Day, Monday, December 26 and the following day, Bank Holiday Tuesday, December 27, with high-class racing programmed for both days. This will be the fourth year that Harrogate-based Sky Bet has generously supported these two days, which boast prize money of £174,000 for 2005. For the fifth time in the last six years, the West Yorkshire course was recently voted the 'Best Small Racecourse in the North' by The Racegoers Club.
The Boxing Day highlight is the £50,000 Grade Three skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (1.25pm), run over three miles and a furlong and race number 20 in the British Horseracing Board's Order of Merit series. The 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Truckers Tavern landed this event last year while the roll of honour boasts the likes of Cheltenham Gold Cup heroes Forgive ‘n Forget and The Thinker.
Bank Holiday Tuesday's main event is the £50,000 skybet.com Castleford Chase (2.00pm) over two miles and race 24 in the BHB's Order of Merit. The Grade Two event went to Mister McGoldrick in 2004 for local Bingley trainer Sue Smith while other winners include horses of the calibre of Tingle Creek, Badsworth Boy, Pearlyman, Waterloo Boy and Viking Flagship.
Oneway was successful in November, 2004, at Wetherby in the Rocom Handicap Chase and made huge strides throughout last season, winning five races and concluding his campaign by finishing fourth to Moscow Flyer in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
Trainer Mark Rimell is planning to bring his stable star back to Wetherby on December 27 for the skybet.com Castleford Chase following the eight-year-old's pleasing seasonal reappearance at Sandown, where he finished third in the Tingle Creek Chase.
The Oxfordshire handler revealed: "Oneway is very much on course for the skybet.com Castleford Chase - it's always been the plan to go to Wetherby and I'm delighted with the horse. Touching wood and all being well, that's his target.
"The Tingle Creek was his first run of the season and I expect him to improve for the run. He ran a hell of race at Sandown, and Graham Lee thought it was a question of how far he would win by at one stage, but the soft ground just found out his fitness. I was particularly pleased that he ran on to the line, and finished in front of the Haldon Gold Cup winner without having a run under his belt.
"He's a course and distance winner round Wetherby and we're very hopeful of taking them all on again. In an ideal world, I'd prefer a good to soft surface, although Oneway goes on all ground.
"The two-mile division seems to have opened up this year, with a couple of horses out injured and Moscow Flyer being a year older, and come the Cheltenham Festival in March, we've every right to take our chance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase".
Both days at Wetherby offer a six-race programme, kicking off at 12.50pm. Admission prices are Premier Enclosure £25, Paddock Enclosure £14, Course £5, Cars to Course (including 4 adults) £17 and OAPs to Course £2.50. Accompanied children under 16 are admitted free to all enclosures and car parking is also free.
Racegoers for the Premier Enclosure on Boxing Day are strongly advised to book their tickets in advance. Advance tickets sales are running some 10% up on 2004 levels and it is possible that availability on the gate for the Premier Enclosure will be limited on Boxing Day (there will be plenty of of availability in the Paddock and Course enclosures). In addition, any racegoers wishing to purchase "Pick of the Paddock" tickets (£18) must book in advance. Advance tickets can be purchased by telephoning the racecourse on 01937 582035 or online at britishhorseracing.com.
Gates will be open at 10.00am and racegoers are advised to arrive in good time for what are always two of the busiest days of the year at Wetherby. As an extra incentive to arrive promptly, free mulled wine and mince pies will be available from 10.00am onwards in the Paddock Enclosure (while stocks last!).
James Sanderson, Chief Executive at Wetherby, commented: "Wetherby Racecourse is all set for two of our busiest days of the season.
"The two feature contests continue to attract some of the best horses around and we look forward to another two days of high-quality action.
"On a practical level, I would advise racegoers to arrive as early as possible. With mince pies and mulled wine on offer from 10.00am onwards, there is every incentive to do so!"
Dale Tempest, PR Director at Sky Bet, added: "Sky Bet is delighted to continue its association with the Christmas Meeting at Wetherby.
"This meeting is gaining in stature every year and its popularity is also increasing, with another a record attendance looking likely."