Martin Keighley is a man in a hurry, after he exceeded last year's sum total of winners with a double at Worcester yesterday. Mind you, last season was largely one to forget, but with horses like Pinnacle Peak, an accomplished 14l winner of the concluding handicap hurdle, he can be assured there is more to follow.
Worcester's scenic riverside track has a set of fixtures few would envy - largely mid week and of fairly nondescript quality. Nevertheless, it's a fair track popular with trainers if ground conditions are right: there are no quirks to the venue, even if it's in sore need of some investment.
That won't have worried Keighley, notching up a winners in the 2m maiden hurdle with Kazontherazz, and the aforementioned Pinnacle Peak. The former was overdue to get her head in front, since filling the runner-up position here at Worcester in late April.
Also successful at Worcester were two other Gloucestershire trainers. Quartz de Rheu is a Guy Cherel French-bred who came to Jackdaws Castle after a season at Closutton with Willie Mullins. Last winter he ran sparingly, and didn't trouble the judge at that. But it looks as if he finally found his distance and improved his jumping to win the opening handicap chase over 2m7f. He wasn't under undue pressure to win.
Graeme McPherson also got on the scoresheet yesterday with Hattaab, a modest handicap hurdler winning just his second race in 24 starts. The McPherson yard now has 5 winners to its name.
Meanwhile, racecourse executives are looking distinctly perkier this morning after yesterdays's news that crowd restrictions will be lifted on July 19 provided the news is still encouraging 7 days earlier. Whilst a majority of the summer jumps courses don't reach capacity for a majority of their fixtures, the removal of the final barriers allows life to return to some normality, and for some medium term planning and promotion to be put in place. This applies too, to the Point-to-Point scene, once it returns in October.
The encouraging Levy grants for early season fixtures have successfully thinned out the fixture congestion in April, although more could yet be done. Two of the West Mercian area's local fixtures have switched into autumn dates from April/May, spreading the horse population to better overall effect.
Fixture 2021 Cancelled
Look out for 2022 dates later in the summer
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)