Worcester left ‘a joke’ after dry ground causes 33 non-runners
Worcester racecourse was subjected to stinging criticism yesterday after the embarrassment of a day’s racing blighted by non-runners. The racing surface proved to be drier and quicker than expected, leading to 33 non-runners, almost as many as the 41 horses who actually turned up, with two races being reduced to just two runners apiece.
“Really disappointing” and “shoddy” were words used by one racegoer, who added: “We should be betting on who will be left for the last race.”
There were also strong words Peter Scudamore, an eight-times champion jockey who was born just up the road in Herefordshire and was returning to the track for the first time in years. “I don’t know the politics behind the running of the track but, in a modern society, I can’t see what the attraction is for someone to go there on a day like that,” Scudamore said. “I found it depressing.
“It’s like going to see a play and the theatre’s not ready and the actors don’t turn up. Maybe the public are quite happy to stand there and be kicked in the balls. I thought it was bloody quick ground. Maybe I’m just used to northern ground.”
Scudamore, who now lives near Perth with his partner, the trainer Lucinda Russell, added: “There’s no justification for that many non-runners. It almost becomes a joke. Everything’s a non-runner, there’s no interest in being there. What was acceptable in my time and my father’s time is not acceptable now.”
Worcester’s going was described in the morning papers as “good”, became “good to firm in places” yesterday morning and was “good to firm” all round after the first race. That prompted 23 going-related withdrawals after the racing had begun, a level of absenteeism that attracted the interest of the British Horseracing Authority.
Alan King sent three horses to the track but withdrew two after his first runner, who generally likes a sound surface, raced as though the ground was too dry even for her. “It’s very disappointing,” King said, “although that’s not the biggest problem I have with Worcester. The facilities for owners and trainers are just awful, the worst of any course I go to. In this day and age, it’s not acceptable and something needs to be done.”
But there was some support for Worcester, including from the champion jockey Richard Johnson, who rode two winners. “They’ve done a great job, the track’s in good condition. It’s just the weather the last few days; the track’s dried out and it’s fast.” Johnson reckoned the problem was largely to do with trainers being reluctant to risk “winter horses” with six months of action ahead of them. Had the same conditions arisen two months ago, there would have been plenty of summerground horses to take part, he suggested.