The Racing UK Season Opener Raceday kicks off the new jumps campaign at Warwick on Tuesday, with the first of the six races getting underway at 2.20pm, writes David Hucker.
Highlight of the afternoon is the Class 3 Asset Finance Brokers Handicap Chase over a trip just short of three-and-a- quarter miles, which was won last year by Dursey Sound, who was completing a double at the meeting for trainer Jonjo O’Neill.
Dursey Sound was ridden by Richard Johnson, who finally became champion jockey, notching 235 winners for the season, a figure bettered only by the legendary AP McCoy.
Johnson again tops this year’s table, although he was headed briefly by Sam Twiston-Davies who, with the backing of ten-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls, might push him all the way this time.
Nicholls had a good-sized team of jumpers to run through the summer but, despite his encouraging start, he trails in the championship table which is decided on prize money, not winners trained.
Setting the pace is David Pipe, who has landed seven winners at the course in the last five years at a 15 per cent strike rate.
The course, which will again host 17 days of racing through to May, has been allocated one of the four new Listed chases for mares announced by the British Horseracing Authority during the summer.
Designed to complement the three existing Listed races run at Carlisle, Doncaster and Huntingdon, the Warwick contest will be for novices over two-and-a-half miles and take place at the meeting on Thursday December 8.
The second meeting of the new season comes up quickly with the Down Under Raceday on Thursday 29 which, in addition to the racing, will feature Australian-inspired entertainment, including music, a quiz and a didgeridoo workshop.
The theme is the idea of general manager, Andre Klein, who spent 16 years working in the racing industry in New Zealand and Australia before taking over at Warwick Racecourse late last year.
“We are really excited the new season is upon us,” said Klein.
“A lot of hard work has gone into making improvements on and off the track over the summer and I can only see us going from strength to strength this season.”
This will be Klein’s first full season in charge and he is pleased with the way the course is developing.
“The inaugural Warwick May Racing Carnival was a fantastic way to finish the old season strongly and, after following this up hosting some really well attended events off the track in the last few months, our efforts have all been geared to next Tuesday and the strong racing programme ahead of us.”