Another year to remember at Thirsk

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Another excellent season at Thirsk came to a close yesterday as the racecourse staged its 16th fixture of 2019 on Monday, September 16.

The 2019 season saw a total attendance increase of 6.5 per cent on the year before, while the racecourse’s enhanced owners and trainers facilities ensured a healthy average of more than 11 runners per race throughout the season, placing it in the top echelon of tracks across the country.

William Hill Summer Cup day on Saturday, August 3, the most valuable fixture of the year at Thirsk with more than £100,000 in prize money across seven races, attracted a modern day record crowd of 10,500 racegoers.

Thirsk’s feature race of the season, the £40,000 Cliff Stud Thirsk Hunt Cup on Saturday, May 4, was won by Hayadh, trained locally at Cowthorpe by Rebecca Bastiman and ridden by Lewis Edmunds. Paul Sutherland’s Cliff Stud, located just outside Helmsley, was unveiled as the sponsor in March on an initial three-year deal.

Scouting For Girls performed at Thirsk’s first music night on Friday, August 16. The after-racing gig was very well received and the racecourse hopes to announce its headline act for 2020 early in the New Year.

Sophie Brown and the Karl Burke-trained Baron Run captured the second edition of The Creditas Taking Care Of Business Stable Staff Stakes, run in aid of Racing Welfare, on Friday, August 30. Eleven stable staff took part in the charity contest and each runner was led up by a licenced jockey, who were keen to show their appreciation to the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes on a daily basis.

Richard Fahey captured the Harrowells top trainer award at Thirsk in 2019, with 13 winners from 77 runners at a strike rate of 17 per cent. The pick of his winners, Ventura Rebel, made a successful debut at Thirsk’s opening fixture on April 13 before going on to finish second in the G2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Musley Bank-based Fahey said: “Thirsk has been very good to us over the years. It is only 25 minutes away and we like having runners there.

“The new owners and trainer facilities are very good. In fairness, most racecourses are upping their game and when one does it, the others have to.

“It is great to see and can only be a benefit for the sport and industry as a whole.”

Other notable names to successfully grace the turf at Thirsk this year include the prolific King’s Advice. Trained by Mark Johnston and the winning-most horse of 2019 with eight victories, the five-year-old subsequently landed valuable handicaps at Newmarket’s July Festival and Glorious Goodwood.

The Harrowells leading jockey at Thirsk in 2019 was Danny Tudhope, who partnered 10 winners at a strike rate of 20 per cent, while Sean Davis claimed the Harrowells top apprentice award with five successes from 30 rides.

Weighing-room colleague Jack Garrity captured the popular Jockeys ‘Thimbledon’ Swingball Championship in the paddock before racing on Wednesday, July 3.

Thirsk director and former chairman Patrick Hibbert-Foy sadly passed away on Sunday, September 1, after a long and brave fight against cancer. Patrick, who spent many years in racing as a starter, stewards’ secretary and latterly a racecourse steward, made a huge contribution to the racecourse since joining the board in April, 2013. A horse named in his honour and in which Patrick was a part-owner, Idoapologise, produced a poignant moment at Thirsk yesterday when winning the opening Visit Sri Lanka Nursery Handicap under P J McDonald.

Racing returns to Thirsk in 2020 with the opening fixture taking place on Saturday, April 18.

During the close season, Thirsk will continue its very evident programme of recent investment in the facilities, with plans afoot to expand the capacity of the stable yard, re-roof the existing stable blocks and install a permanent ‘big screen’ within the Paddock.

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