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Sunday, October 02, 2016

Racing Is Back at Hereford On Thursday

Hereford Racecourse 'reopens' on Thursday. Just like Edgar Street it is part, or should be part, of the fabric of the city.

The Telegraph has published an article by Marcus Armytage about the reopening and also some memories.

In the grand scheme of things the reopening of Hereford Racecourse on Thursday is unlikely to make headline news, but it will lift the hearts of jump racing fans everywhere and particularly those who live in the Welsh Marches.
Few sporting stadiums, once they become run down, ever make a comeback but, after four years in mothballs, Hereford is back on the racing map where it had been since 1771.
It was controversially closed by the ex-chief executive of the Arena Racing Company, which leased it from the local council, as ‘unviable’ along with Folkestone in 2012.
But the new chief executive, Martin Cruddace, brought a more positive attitude and the restoration of racing at Hereford was among the first things he set out to do when he joined ARC last year. A by-product of the decision has been a rise – it could not really get any lower – in the popularity of ARC, which runs 16 British racecourses.
Despite a strong point-to-point community in Kent, there was always the hope during the construction of the Channel Tunnel that there would be a mathematical miscalculation and that the French tunnellers would pop out of the ground in the middle of Folkestone Racecourse. Its demise was not much mourned.
But racing people always had a soft spot for Hereford’s quaintly square right-handed track where Bregawn, Silver Buck, Gaye Brief, Gay Trip, Run And Skip and West Tip all won races and the Scudamore family have plied their trade for four generations beginning with Geoffrey, who, along with other Herefordshire farmers, set up a company to reintroduce racing there again after the war.
His son, the late Michael Scudamore, once rode in a 40-runner chase at the course. Because there was not enough room for all the horses to start line abreast, the starter ordered them into two ranks: “Triers at the front, non-triers at the back,” he commanded (That’s not an invitation for the Telegraph’s investigations team by the way).
One of my abiding memories of Hereford was seeing a jockey – pious is not an adjective often applied to that branch of professional sport – genuflecting as he came out of the paddock on his horse.
However, it proceeded to bolt on its way to the start, galloping across several of the municipal golf course’s carefully manicured greens in the middle, before eventually being withdrawn. I am still not sure whether that was the answer to his prayer or not.
One’s own memories of a racecourse are invariably coloured by how well you did there or, conversely, how well acquainted you were with the nearest hospital. I rode my first proper winner at Hereford aged 17 so, clearly, love the place.
I had already ridden one but having ‘won’ it in the stewards’ room, it felt a bit fraudulent. At Hereford, on Easter Monday 1982, it was a tight three-way finish and I was the meat in the sandwich between Paul Nicholls, champion jump trainer but then conditional jockey, and Mark Caswell, now Cheltenham’s finest rat-catcher.
In a feeble attempt to ride a finish I hit Caswell and Nicholls about the head and back with my whip and completely failed to connect with my very genuine mount’s backside, but he nevertheless stuck his head out to win by a neck.
Last week Cruddace took 25 of ARC’s racecourse executive directors and senior management on a two-day team-bonding exercise. Some of them assumed they would be bussed out to a spa hotel in the country for a group nail-polishing session, so were surprised when they arrived at Hereford and were handed a paint brush.
With a fresh lick of paint, ARC clearly means business. It wants, indeed needs, Hereford to succeed and racing wants it to succeed and will support it.
Now it is really down to the locals to attend and, on the basis that sometimes you don’t know what you have got until it’s gone, one hopes their appetite for racing will have been restored too.

For information about racing at Hereford go to: