With the weather wreaking havoc for Exeter Racecourse’s fixture list, its all systems go for this Friday’s meeting which features the prestigious Be Wiser Insurance Services Devon National.
The racecourse was pummeled by Storm Ciara and then Storm Dennis, resulting in the loss of three fixtures this year already. General manager Jack Parkinson is hoping crowds turn out to enjoy a hugely competitive card on the last day of the half term.
He said: “It’s been tough this year with the loss of one of our January fixtures, and then our February meeting which we tried to reschedule a week later and then succumbed to another storm.
“We’ve had terrific entries for this Friday’s card, with a really great day in prospect and we’re looking forward to getting going again.”
Among the entries in the Be Wiser Devon National is Dawson City who has won the last two renewals of the race and is trained at Ottery St Mary by Polly Gundry who said: “Its always great to win on Haldon Hill as Exeter is very dear to me. I’ve been involved as a director there since 2010, and it’s also a very fair track with excellent racing.”
Races with the moniker ‘national’ are run the length and breadth of the country and are immensely popular with owners and trainers alike because they are run over long distances, giving horses like Dawson City the chance to win a big prize.
Polly explained: “What Dawson City hasn’t got is a lot of speed, but he has plenty of staying power, so he comes into his own after they’ve run about three and a quarter miles. Nationals are great for horses who love to race, but aren’t very quick!”
The prize for the winner is more than £15,000 and it is no surprise to learn that it is ever popular among trainers, keen to give their chasers that might lack for a bit of speed the chance to win a decent pot of money. At entries stage there were 28 horses entered, testament to its popularity.
Since 1998, the race has taken place just as the early signs of spring begin to emerge and Vince Slattery was on board that first ever winner with Workingforpeanuts coming home a distance in front of his seven rivals. Joe Tizzard has won three Devon Nationals and Sir Anthony McCoy has won it twice, on Samlee for Philip Hobbs in 2000, and Teeming Rain for Jonjo O’Neill in 2009. Nigel Twiston-Davies has saddled the winner twice, with duel Grand National-winning jockey Carl Llewellyn winning on board Spanish Main in 2003, and Paddy Brennan on Ammunition in 2011. The reigning champion jockey Richard Johnson was the victor in 2008 aboard Obaki De Grissay.
Long-priced horses can spring a surprising with The Clyda Rover winning at 22-1 in 2013 and Ammunition the winner at 16-1 in 2011. Local horses often land the spoils too, with Flying Award, trained by Sue Gardner near Exeter, winning in 2014, and Jeremy Scott’s Clash Duff, who is trained on Exmoor, the victor in 2012 ridden by racecourse ambassador Nick Scholfield, and of course Dawson’s City winning in 2018 and 2019.
More details can be found at www.exeter-racecourse.co.uk.