Chester postpones plans for jumps racing – and potato growing!

Chester postpones plans for jumps racing – and potato growing!
chester racecourse postpones plan for jumps racing

The historic Roodee racecourse. Photo by Vernon Grant

Mark Johnston will have been relieved at the news that plans to have jumps racing at Chester have been postponed.

He is a flat trainer I have lots of time for and I was amused recently to read him suggest that such a plan must be an early April fools joke.

Richard Thomas, managing director of the popular course, which stages only Flat racing, said the idea was “on the back-burner” but remained a possibility for 2014.

He said: “I think we’ve shown it can be done but we want to talk about it quietly, when it’s not such an emotive issue,” he said. “There’s always some resistance to anything different.

“We want to get to the May meeting and talk to the professionals about it. We might then look at it for next year but we want to make sure that everyone’s comfortable and relaxed with the idea.”

Best he doesn’t speak to Johnston then. In his informative, regular magazine called the ‘Kingsley Klarion’ Mark Johnston reacted to what I agree is a daft idea.

Mark Johnston criticises plan to stage jumps racing at Chester

Mark Johnston. Photo by Vernon Grant

He said: “Surely there cannot be a more unlikely place to run jumpers in Britain, or indeed, the world.

“Apparently they once raced chariots around Chester… and some of the leading National Hunt trainers seemed to like the idea. But, surely, the management at one of the best run tracks in Britain have considered the damage that they would do to their track.

“Chester, being situated in the west of the country, tends more towards soft ground than firm. The last meeting there in 2012 was on heavy ground. It is a narrow track of about one mile in circumference and even the shortest jump race will involve two circuits of the track.

“If they ran a six card jumps card there, they could plant potatoes afterwards!”

Richard Thomas stressed that he was thinking only in terms of a single race at the end of a card, in either May or September.

He said: “A hundred years ago, the May meeting here used to finish with a hurdles race and that would be great, but ground conditions are key.”

“We’ve no interest in running an ordinary, moderate hurdles race, you can get those anywhere. Good prize money and good quality horses, that’s what the May meeting’s all about.”

That’s right Richard. That is what the Chester May festival is all about.


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