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STAR TRAINERS Richard Fahey and David O’Meara will go head-to-head in the two feature races on a high quality card to mark the opening day of Thirsk’s 2017 season on Saturday.

The pair come up against each other in a cracking renewal of the Michael Foster Stakes, a race, which commemorates the long-serving director and former chairman of the North Yorkshire course, and lock horns again in the New “Cherry Tree” Racegoers Package Handicap.

In the Michael Foster Fahey’s Rene Mathis, who was second in the race last year, is up against O’Meara’s group race performer Custom Cut in what promises to be a fascinating clash, although it nearly didn’t happen with Fahey making a last minute decision to run.

“I was a bit worried about the opposition and it was 50-50 an hour before declarations, but when just three were declared and the race reopened, I had another look and decided to give it a go” said Fahey.

The Malton trainer certainly knows what it takes to win as he has an outstanding record in the race with three winners in the past 10 years, while his runners have made the frame in six of the other seven runnings. The one exception was 2010 when Fahey wasn’t represented.

With over 30 winners on the board already this season and a team in form as evidenced by a Beverley double on Wednesday, Fahey has high hopes that Rene Mathis will go one better after chasing home Kevin Ryan’s Kelinni last year.

Although Ryan is represented by Mount Tahan, who was fifth in the Spring Mile at Doncaster last time, the main threat looks to be O’Meara’s Custom Cut, who has been plying his trade in group races. He was beaten a neck when third in the group three Diomed Stakes at Epsom last June and was placed in both the Strensall Stakes at York and the Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown.

“Custom Cut is in good form following his run in the Doncaster Mile last time and I have no worries about dropping him back to seven furlongs” said O’Meara.

It will be the first time Custom Cut has run over a trip shorter than a mile since he was tenth in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp in 2015.

Fahey and O’Meara go head-to-head again in the Cherry Tree with Gabrial’s King and Saved By The Bell, although both may be trumped by Tim Easterby’s Mukhayyam, who Is sure to improve for a recent run at Catterick.

Off the track, there will be live music throughout the day supplied by The White Ties and lots for younger racegoers to enjoy in the Family Enclosure.

Entry to the Premier Enclosure costs £26 (£24 if booked online ahead of the day), while Paddock admission can be obtained for £16 (£15 online). There are also great reductions for group bookings while, as always, adult accompanied children under 18 get in free. For more information go to

Gates open at 11am ahead of the first race at 1.50pm.

Thirsk Racecource Logo


TOP-CLASS action awaits at Thirsk on Saturday (April 22), when the North Yorkshire racecourse stages its opening meeting of the 2017 season with the first of five successive weekend fixtures in a row until May 20.

In the first of 16 meetings at Thirsk this year, a set of high-quality middle distance horses will line up for New Cherry Tree Premier Racegoers Package Handicap over 12 furlongs, a race which highlights one of the great new offers to racegoers this year.

For just £40, the package offers Premier Enclosure parking, entry and badge, the official racecard, a choice of alcoholic, soft or hot drink from the Cherry Tree Bar, which has its own private lawn area, the choice of gourmet food and A £2 Totepool betting voucher.

Yorkshire trainers Brian Ellison and David O’Meara lead the way with three entries each, although in a race which is often dominated by horses at the top of the handicap, Mark Johnston may have the ace in the hole with Final.

The five-year-old will be well forward after a campaign on the all-weather which saw him win at Lingfield in February and Newcastle last month. On his latest start, he clipped heels with another runner at Newcastle and gave jockey PJ McDonald a nasty looking fall.

Sharing top billing on Saturday is the seven-furlong Michael Foster Conditions Stakes, commemorating the long-serving director and former chairman of Thirsk.

A Class 3 event worth over £9,000 to the winner, the race usually attracts quality entries from several of the top Northern and Southern stables with Richard Fahey the outstanding yard. Since 2007, Fahey-trained horses have won three times and finished in the first four every year except 2010.

Racegoers will also be able to follow all the action on the big screen opposite the stands and Paddock.

As well as some thrilling racing on the track, there will be plenty of entertainment off it lots of interesting attraction to keep the younger racegoers occupied in the Family Enclosure.

Entry to the Premier Enclosure costs £26 (£24 if booked online ahead of the day), while Paddock admission can be obtained for £16 (£15 online). There are also great reductions for group bookings. For more information go to

Gates open at 11am ahead of the first race at 1.50pm.

For further information please contact Thirsk racecourse on 01845 522276 or John Sexton on 01539 533005 or 07760 623106

Middleham Open Day to feature special equine guests and displays.

The popular event, returning after a year out is being organised by Racing Welfare on April 17th (Easter Monday) with sponsorship from Arena Racing Company. The event is a full day-out suitable for the whole family with free entrance to children under 16. 

The historic racing centre of Middleham is home to more than 500 horses in training. Visitors to the Middleham Open Day will be able to see the current equine talent at the yards of the twelve trainers who are opening their doors to the public for this special occasion.

As well as racehorses in training, there will be some special equine guests who have retired after top racing careers making appearances. Visitors to Ann Duffield’s Sun Hill Farm will be able to meet two previous Cheltenham Festival winners, Peddlers Cross and Cinders and Ashes. Both trained by Donald McCain, Peddlers Cross was a winner of the 2010 Neptune Investment Management Novice’s Hurdle at the Festival. In the 2010 season he was also a victor in the John Smith’s Mersey Novices Hurdle at Aintree and the Fighting Fifth at Newbury. Cinders and Ashes was a Cheltenham Festival winner in 2012, taking the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle.

At Barry Keniry’s Warwick Lodge pre-training stables visitors will be able to meet two top-class dual purposes horses in Junior and Mad Moose. Junior holds the rare accolade of being a winner at both Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival. Mad Moose, perhaps more famous for his refusal to race than his success on the track, is now a winner in the dressage arena. Despite his enigmatic nature, he was a highly talented performer under both codes including finishing 2nd to Sprinter Sacre in the Clarence House at Ascot.

Patrick Holmes’ Foulrice Park Racing at Little Spigot will be hosting a stand promoting the work of York-based racehorse rehoming charity New Beginnings. They will also have a number of local businesses displaying wares including Equine artist, Brian Halton, jeweller Rosemary Hetherington and The Saddle Room as well as refreshments including local Wensleydale Ice Cream.

Visitors with an interest in equine fitness and rehabilitation will be fascinated by an equine-spa demonstration at Mark Johnston’s Park Farm which houses not only an indoor equine swimming pool, but also a water-walker and a treadmill. Ann Duffield’s Sun Hill Farm will also be showing a demonstration of their Water Treadmill in use.

After yards close their doors for the morning, the fun will move across to Low Moor in the afternoon with a schooling demonstration with local National Hunt horses being followed by an inter-yard stable staff competition. The competition promises plenty of thrills and spills with activities include showjumping, gymkhana games, a gallop run (on two legs) and a tug-of-war.

As the organisers of the event, Racing Welfare will be the main beneficiary charity of the Open Day, with a proportion of the funds raised also going to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance charity.  Funds raised during this event will be used to work alongside the Jessica Bethell Charitable Foundation to help develop a facility for young racing staff starting their careers in Middleham.

Tickets are currently on sale for the event at and represent excellent value for a family day out with adult tickets priced at £10 and children under-16 going free. Tickets will also be available to purchase on the day itself.