Hexham Review – 4th October 2013
Since catching glimpses of Hexham in the 90s on Sky its a course I have always wanted to visit. I finally got the opportunity on 4th October 2013 and it was well worth waiting for.
I arrived via a steep climb on minor roads from the town to be greeted with a welcome over the entrance to “The most scenic racecourse in Britain”. There was a certain irony as the course was at that time shrouded in a mist that although perfectly raceable hid some of the beauty that was to become apparent as the afternoon wore on.
A series of assorted but well maintained buildings on a steep bank above the course make for spectacular, and apart from a furlong or so approaching the straight) a perfect view of national hunt racing in all its glory.
The pre-race saddling boxes double up as a sheltered viewing area adjacent to the small parade ring shoehorned into the complex of restaurants, bars and weighing room that surround it.
Even the chute from the parade ring to the course is something of a challenge for horse and lad as its slopes sharply down to the course.
The turf looked in excellent condition following the break since May put the persistent rain quickly changed the going from good to good to soft. Thankfully for such a changeable day it was remarkably mild for such an elevated and exposed position, the chill only really becoming an issue for the last couple of races.
The action was fast and furious and despite the chase course being some distance away the viewing area enabled racegoers to feel close to the action.
One feature of nearly all the races was how the uphill run from the second last frequently changed the whole complexion of the race meaning that most runners seemed at some point to be in contention turning for home.
Lucinda Russell accompanied by former champion jockey Peter Scudamore was never far from the action with her runners. After Rudemeister had one won the first a little cosily on his debut for the stable the former bumper winner Revocation stormed through to win the fifth race on the famous Lord Roseberry colours. It could have been an even better day for the Kinross trainer as Simonsig’s half-brother Smarthur was touched off by a nose by Donald McCain’s BillFromTheBar. Meanwhile The Friary was only a length away 3rd in the last despite some careful jumping following a recent fall, whilst Badger Foot spreadeagled at the second last when every chance. The race was one by a battling Pyjama Game providing a first and last race double for Wilson Renwick.
There were several eyecatchers in Revocations race with the furious pace allowing Spin Cast to pick them all off by the winner from the second last, whilst Kodicil ran a pleasing hurdles debut and looked as though another half mile wouldnt inconvenience.
Arguably the most impressive winner was Riskier trained by John Wade and ridden by Brian Hughes. He led his 3 rivals a merry dance with his jumping and proved 2 miles is just as favourable as 2 and half miles with a pillar to post win.
Moufatango trained by Nick Richards toyed with the opposition in the seller but probably beat little of note.
Kim Bailey had never had a winner at Hexham presumably having had few runners given the distance from his Cheltenham stable. Nevertheless Up For An Oscar swooped late and a little cosily to win the 2 miles 4 furlong handicap hurdle in which Decoy showed much greater determination than of late for a gutsy second.
Hexham racecourse provides wonderful setting for National Hunt racing and at £10 entrance and just £2 for a racecard is excellent value for money. It took me 6 hours to get their and back (partly due to A! closure on way home) but it was worth every minute and I am sure I will return again very soon. I would say it is a must visit racecourse for all fans of the sport.